Daily updates on privacy stories in the news.

May 2005 Archives

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Boston Unleashes Robot to Spy on Parked Cars

Boston has unleashed a high-tech Robocop to snoop on motorists, spying on parked cars to sniff out ticket scofflaws and raising warnings from privacy activists. The AutoFind License Plate Recognition system uses a special camera attached to a city vehicle to read license plates of parked cars and feeds the information into a constantly updated database to nab scofflaws - and orders their cars booted.

Mobile parking spy on patrol: Snoop prompts privacy rant. Boston Herald, May 28, 2005.

Australian Labor Party: Medical File Sharing Violates Privacy Rights

A deal allowing doctors to sell Australian patients' medical records to a marketing firm linked to the pharmaceutical industry raises serious privacy concerns, Labor says. Under the deal GPs are paid in gift vouchers or cash to hand over patients' details. About 200 doctors are believed to have signed the agreement.

Medical file-selling 'breaches privacy', Sydney Morning Herald, May 25, 2005.

Data of More Than 670,000 Customers of Four Banks At Risk

More than 670,000 customers of four banks are being notified that their financial records might have been illegally sold to a person posing as a collection agency. The affected banks are Wachovia Corp., Bank of America Corp., Commerce Bancorp and PNC Financial Services Group Inc.

Wachovia, Bank of America Report Records Theft, CIO Today, May 24, 2005.

UK To Set Privacy Rules for Medical E-Records

The UK government is said to be attempting to tackle the apparent lack of confidence about the electronic storage of patient records with a new electronic database. According to reports, the new system, known as the NHS Care Records Service, will enable patients to control access to their medical records by blocking off an attempt to share the information.

UK government unveils privacy measures for medical e-records Computer Business Review, May 24, 2005.

Australians' Overseas Calls, E-mails Tracked by U.S.

Australians who make phone calls or send emails overseas may be named in US intelligence reports without their knowledge or that of the Australian Government, the nation's intelligence watchdog has admitted. The practice of Australians being named in US intelligence reports has come to light in the fallout over the nomination of John Bolton as US ambassador-designate to the UN.

Privacy fears as US eavesdrops on calls and emails, The Australian, May 23, 2005.

U.S. Department of Homeland Security Seeks More Data on Europeans

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff announced
this week that the United States would seek additional information from
European leaders about European air passengers heading to the United
States. The United States and Europe currently have in place an
agreement that permits the transfer of European passenger data. Many
European political leaders believe this violates European privacy laws.

More European Air Data Sought by Security Chief, New York Times, May 20, 2005.

Homeland Security Money Funds Camera Surveillance Systems

Millions of federal grant dollars allocated for municipalities to use for terrorism prevention and response are being spent to expand camera surveillance systems, buy data-mining programs for small-town police departments and create facial-recognition technology. But privacy advocates say the technology is no deterrent to terrorism and can be used to violate civil liberties.

Counterterror grants fund city cameras, data mining, Washington Times, May 19, 2005.

Employees Don't Have Privacy Rights for Work Computers

Your computer at work is almost certainly an open book to your boss, with every keystroke you type and Web page you view easily recorded and quietly checked, with or without your permission or knowledge, computer security experts say. Whether you accept or hate the reality of workplace electronic surveillance, it is legal and is the norm virtually everywhere that workers log onto a computer.

You've got no privacy on your work computer, Idaho Statesman, May 17, 2005.

Apple's Software Upgrade Has Serious Security Flaw

A new feature of Apple's latest upgrade to OS X, nicknamed Tiger, is Dashboard, a handy kit of simple mini-programs that let you easily perform a host of valuable little tasks. Tiger comes with a dozen or so of these ''widgets," as Apple calls them. Apple made it easy for programmers to whip up widgets to sell or give away. But, serious damage could be done if someone wrote a malignant widget that automatically installed itself and attacked its host.

Apple gives identity thieves a way in, Boston Globe, May 16, 2005.

Canadian Bank Hands Client Details of Other Customers' Accounts

The Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce admitted that it mistakenly handed over the personal-account details of more than 100 individuals to a bank customer. The information included names or partial names, account numbers and monthly balance on the other individuals' accounts over nearly two years.

Bank springs another privacy leak, Ottawa Citizen, May 14, 2005.

California Senate Passes Consumer Privacy Bills

The California Senate sent the Assembly a bill that would put into state law the current federal ban on unsolicited faxed advertisements commonly known as junk faxes. The Senate also approved a bill that would bar businesses from denying a consumer a product or service because the consumer refused to reveal personal information or allow the information to be disclosed by the business.

Privacy Bills Passes Senate, Associated Press, May 10, 2005.

Woman Sues Circuit City After Store Sold Computer Filled With Her Private Data

Last June a woman went to Circuit City in Boulder to buy a new computer. She asked to have the files from her old computer saved to a disk. Store employees copied her personal files onto a floor model computer then onto a disk, and later sold the computer, still containing her files, to another customer. The woman said Circuit City responded to her complaint by stating it was her fault for expecting the store to protect her privacy.

Store's Floor Model Computer Loaded With Woman's Personal Info, DenverChannel.com, May 7, 2005.

Cisco's New RFID Server Tracks Employees Via Clothing Tags

Cisco has come under fire from privacy groups as it prepares to launch a wireless RFID server that can track people and equipment using existing Wi-Fi networks. The server is designed to track RFID tags down to a few metres and display the location on a central map. Companies can track equipment and, more controversially, personnel.

Cisco slammed for RFID staff tracker, Vnunet.com, May 4, 2005.

Time Warner Loses Data on 600,000 Current, Ex-workers

Time Warner Inc. said Monday that data on 600,000 people stored on computer backup tapes was lost by an outside storage company and that the Secret Service is now investigating. A company spokeswoman said that the tapes contained names and Social Security information on current and former Time Warner employees and some of their dependents and beneficiaries dating back to 1986.

Time Warner employee data missing, CNN, May 3, 2005.

D.C. Police Gather Data on Those Who Don't Violate Laws

Washington, D.C., police have a practice of recording information at traffic safety checkpoints on violators and law-abiding motorists alike -- and sometimes their passengers. This has garnered little attention since police began entering such data into a computer in 2002. Few, if any, of the more than 100 people pulled over almost nightly at the five or six checkpoints in high-crime areas realize that their names and whereabouts will end up in a database.

Safety Stops Draw Doubts, Washington Post, May 2, 2005.

Homeland Security Chief May Create Nonprofit to Gather Private Data

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff floated an idea to start a nonprofit group that would collect information on private citizens, flag suspicious activity, and send names of suspicious people to his department. Chertoff said having a nonprofit collect names rather than the government "would alleviate some of the concerns people have."

DHS chief floats idea for collecting private citizens' information, GovExec.com, April 29, 2005.