Yet in recent days, privacy issues have impacted school buses, casinos and garbage bins. This may seem odd when most privacy news stories these days deal with Facebook and other websites. But the world of privacy is increasingly affecting just about every segment of society. Read more>>
Some online banks, e-commerce merchants and Internet-based market research firms are turning to a new technology called device fingerprinting (or machine ID as it’s often called) for online verification and fraud detection. Unlike cookies, however, which can be blocked, filtered and deleted, device fingerprinting is invisible to consumers. For website owners that use the technology, adequate disclosures, consent and safeguards are required, at minimum, to comply with privacy laws.
In fact, device fingerprinting works so well that many businesses that use it might not even be aware that they’re doing so. Is your organization using the technology? If so, it’s vital that your organization’s use of device fingerprinting complies with applicable privacy laws.
To learn more about device fingerprinting click here to view a presentation that I recently delivered alongside Steven Johnston (Senior Security and Technology Advisor, Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada) and David Stark (CIPP, Vice President, Compliance and Privacy Officer, GFK Group) to the International Association of Privacy Professionals in Baltimore, Maryland. As you’ll see, the presentation includes an overview of device fingerprinting, identifies relevant privacy law issues (my contribution to the presentation), the OPC’s perspective and provides practical examples.
Thanks to the IAPP for the opportunity to present and compliments to Steven Johnston and David Stark for excellent remarks.
PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PWC) has just released its Global State of Information Security Survey, which says that corporate spending on data security will increase sharply in the coming years. ComputerWeekly.com reports that more than half of respondents to the PWC survey say that their companies plan to spend more on technological defences against security breaches, an increase of 14% from last year. The survey also reveals that the impact of security breaches is growing. According to ComputerWeekly.com ”the number of companies reporting financial losses from data breaches increased 6% in the past year to 20%, up from only 8% in 2008. Intellectual property theft has increased to effect 15% of companies reporting data breaches, up from just 5% in 2008. An increase in the number of sophisticated attacks aimed at stealing information from specific companies is also driving increased security spending according to the Financial Times.”
The PWC survey demonstrates that spending is shifting to monitoring of company networks, at a time when more employees are bringing their own PDA’s and computers into the workplace. But as PWC states, businesses should be making employees the first line of defence against data leaks.
The PWC survey and commentary serves as a reminder of the need to focus resources for data security (and privacy law compliance) strategically. This means investing in technological safeguards but it should mean investing in privacy training for your staff. It’s an important point because so many of the privacy breaches these days result from mistakes, or human error, by one’s own employees. I’d suggest that you compare your organization’s line item for network monitoring with your line item (if it exists) for privacy training. Are your privacy risk mitigation efforts as strategic as they could be?
Have you ever wondered if an electronic document like an e-mail or a scanned image can be used instead of a paper document to meet a legal requirement? How about using an electronic signature as opposed to a written signature?
Unfortunately, the provincial government’s dithering over the past decade will not help you answer these important questions.
Manitoba’s e-commerce legislation, called The Electronic Commerce and Information Act, was passed in the Manitoba Legislature in 2000. It was then billed as a cutting edge law that would help Manitobans to prosper in the online world.
But what if some individual witnesses don’t have privacy concerns and actually want their testimony broadcast to the world?
In her remarks, Stoddart discussed the challenge of technology, globalized data flows and social change. While reflecting on her years as Canada’s “village elder” in the privacy community, Stoddart commented:
“When I took over as Privacy Commissioner, Facebook didn’t exist. Neither did Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, Google Street View, Foursquare, iPods and all the many novel ways in which people now routinely connect with the rest of the world. And it’s not just technology that’s different; it’s other drivers of change as well. Like real-time globalization, for instance, and the instantaneous worldwide flow of data. It’s the way people embrace and respond to technology. Their expectations of what the technology can do for them, and at what cost. Is it desirable, for example, to buy greater convenience at the cost of less privacy? In light of these colossal changes over the past decade alone, it would be foolish to try to predict what the next decade will hold. But what we can say for certain is that the regulatory framework we have in place now for the protection of privacy and personal information is already being sorely tested.”
Read the Privacy Commissioner’s full remarks here.
I attended the 2010 Deloitte Technology, Media & Telecommunications Predictions seminar today with my colleagues Adam Herstein and Bruce King. The seminar was designed to highlight the top trends expected to impact businesses this year. Of particular interest to me was the Technology Predictions 2010, in which speaker Duncan Stewart listed seven predictions, including one that cloud computing is “likely to grow much faster than most other technology verticals…”. Deloitte further predicted that “we also expect to see [cloud computing] grow the fastest in the consumer and smaller medium enterprises (SME) market, rather than in the large enterprise and government markets”.
As I previously posted last July, cloud computing is certainly on the rise. The privacy issues are profound and, as a result, we’re spending more time these days working on cloud computing related agreements. In any event, I’d encourage you to review the Technology Predictions 2010 as it provides some great insight that might help your business.
A summer incident involving sensitive personal information on stolen laptops has brought the issue of data protection once again into the crosshairs of Frank Work, the Alberta Information and Privacy Commissioner.
In a press release, the Commissioner expressed shock and disappointment with the fact that the stolen laptops, which contained the personal health information of more 300,000 individuals, were not encrypted. “This is shocking for me…I don’t know what we have to do to drive this message home” said the Commissioner. “The standard in Alberta for storing personal or health information on portable devices is encryption. I can’t accept anything less.” The Alberta incident is strikingly similar to an incident that occurred in Ontario back in 2007. The Ontario incident also involved the theft of a non-encrypted laptop containing personal health information. A review of the incident by Ann Cavoukian, Ontario’s Information and Privacy Commissioner, produced an order for information of this type to be encrypted.
These incidents demonstrate how easily sensitive data can be compromised when stored on laptops. Encryption is a relatively easy way to improve the security of such information. But, where do you start? There are numerous encryption options available. Choices range from free open source encryption software like TrueCrypt to full information security consultations from companies that offer comprehensive data protection services like Seccuris. Regardless of which course you choose, one fact remains the same, encrypting laptops significantly improves security and that’s just smart business.
The sound of ringing telephones has caused migraines for millions ever since Alexander Graham Bell placed the first call to Mr. Watson in 1876. But thanks to some newly released technology, that’s about to change. Got a headache? There is, to borrow a phrase from a successful ad campaign, an app for that. Bellaire, Texas med-web company BetterQOL is rolling out iHeadache, an iPhone application that purports to “classify” and assist with diagnosing a user’s headache. iHeadache is one of many cutting edge applications available for use with smartphones. Don’t expect this trend to stop any time soon: thanks to programs like Apple’s iPhone Developer (only $99 for the standard edition), it’s becoming even easier for technology-savvy businesses to create their own apps.
Still not convinced? Consider this list of impressive apps for today’s traveler: Pocket Express, an app that acts as a mobile concierge; Stanza, an app that allows a user to load magazines and books to their smartphone; and GoodFood, which helps a user pick and locate a restaurant based on an array of dining preferences. It’s a good time to be a smartphone user, but perhaps even a better time to be an entrepreneur. Smartphones are increasingly offering businesses a direct window into the hearts, minds and, yes, wallets of potential customers.
But it’s not all good news, privacy advocates remind us. Many smartphone apps guzzle fuel like your Dad’s ’70 GTO, except they’re eating personal user information instead of gasoline. For example, your app may record your location, gender and birth year before it spits out the location of that perfect sale you’ve been looking for. A sizeable amount of personal information is in play, but, fortunately, Ontario’s Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner (“IPC”) has been ahead of the curve with its call for “Privacy by Design“. Initially unveiled over 10 years ago, the concept of Privacy by Design combines privacy and security measures at the design specification stage of a project. Instead of waiting until privacy problems pop up to deal with them, Privacy by Design contemplates a proactive approach toward potential privacy issues. This methodology uses Privacy Enhancing Technology such as encryption to provide both maximum security and privacy protection. It is, as the IPC bills it, a “win-win” situation. Other examples of Privacy by Design include anonymous billing systems and depersonalization software.
It’s an exciting time to be a technologically-inclined entrepreneur, but the privacy consequences of smartphone apps cannot (and should not) be ignored. Any business that is considering creating or otherwise implementing an app should consider the privacy implications of doing so, preferably at the early stages of project development.