DHS announces Privacy Advisory Committee, includes USACM member

The Department of Homeland Security has finally announced the membership of its expert advisory committee for privacy issues. The good news for USACM is that Professor Lance Hoffman from George Washington University is one of the 20 appointees and is also a USACM member. Dr. Hoffman helped bring the Computers, Privacy, and Freedom conference under ACM’s conference umbrella. Continue reading “DHS announces Privacy Advisory Committee, includes USACM member”

Still more on the ChoicePoint case

“The recently disclosed privacy breach at the data collection giant ChoicePoint, in which con artists gained access to the Social Security numbers, addresses and other personal data of nearly 145,000 people, has exposed the shortcomings of the laws governing the data-mining industry and consumer privacy.

[…] But whatever the specific legal fallout of the ChoicePoint breach, the bigger effect may be its exposure of the patchwork of sometimes conflicting state and federal rules that govern consumer privacy and commercial data vendors. In recent days, state and federal regulators and lawmakers have started calling for an updating of those rules, which never envisioned the current power of data gatherers to amass and distribute vast digital dossiers on ordinary citizens. Continue reading “Still more on the ChoicePoint case”

ChoicePoint theft may usher in regulation

“A major break-in at one of the nation’s largest information brokers could usher in regulation for companies that have trafficked in data unfettered for years, computer-security experts and privacy advocates say.

New York, Texas and Georgia are among states pressing for laws that mirror California’s breach law, which requires companies to notify residents if their personal information is compromised. The law, the only such one in the nation, forced ChoicePoint (CPS), an Alpharetta, Ga., data vendor, to disclose this week that personal data on about 145,000 people may have been stolen.

” If this is not an eye-opening threat to privacy, nothing is,” says Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., who is readying legislation that would expand the powers of the Federal Trade Commission to oversee data brokers as it does companies that handle medical and financial records.

Last month, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., reintroduced a national version of the California law. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, on Tuesday called for congressional hearings on the matter […]”


ChoicePoint sued over identity theft

“A California woman has sued ChoicePoint Inc. for fraud and negligence after criminals gained access to a database of personal records compiled by the company.

The suit, which seeks class-action status, was filed in Los Angeles Superior Court last Friday and claims that for at least five months the company failed to adequately protect people’s financial records and confidential information […]”

SOURCE: Reuters

New-look passports

“[…] At America’s insistence, passports are about to get their biggest overhaul since they were introduced. They are to be fitted with computer chips that have been loaded with digital photographs of the bearer (so that the process of comparing the face on the passport with the face on the person can be automated), digitised fingerprints and even scans of the bearer’s irises, which are as unique to people as their fingerprints.

A sensible precaution in a dangerous world, perhaps. But there is cause for concern. For one thing, the data on these chips will be readable remotely, without the bearer knowing. And—again at America’s insistence—those data will not be encrypted, so anybody with a suitable reader, be they official, commercial, criminal or terrorist, will be able to check a passport holder’s details. To make matters worse, biometric technology—as systems capable of recognising fingerprints, irises and faces are known—is still less than reliable, and so when it is supposed to work, at airports for example, it may not. Finally, its introduction has been terribly rushed, risking further mishaps. The United States want the thing to start running by October, at least in those countries for whose nationals it does not demand visas […]”

SOURCE: The Economist

ChoicePoint fraud case likely to generate activity in Congress

“One of the nation’s largest commercial information services said yesterday that thousands of Washington area residents were among those whose personal and financial details were sold to fraud artists apparently behind a nationwide identity theft scheme.

As many as 4,500 residents in the District, Maryland and Virginia were among up to 145,000 people whose names, addresses, Social Security numbers and, in some cases, credit files were electronically shipped by ChoicePoint Inc. of Alpharetta, Ga., to people posing as business officials in the Los Angeles area.

Investigators said they think the number of victims will continue to rise as officials learn more about the scheme. At least one lawmaker on Capitol Hill has called for stiffer regulation of commercial data services. This week, others are expected to push for hearings about the information industry […]”

SOURCE: Washington Post

Note: See our earlier posts regarding this case, here and here.

NYT editorial: Tackling Election Reform

“After a second consecutive presidential election marred by significant flaws in the mechanics of voting, it’s time for Congress to take a hard look at fixing the system. Two Senate bills aim to do that. A Republican-sponsored bill is narrowly tailored around making electronic voting more reliable. A more ambitious bill, sponsored by the Democrats, would take on a broad array of problems, from long lines at the polls to odious maneuvers aimed at keeping people from voting. Both bills would greatly improve the functioning of American democracy.

The Republican bill, introduced by Senator John Ensign of Nevada, would focus on the most critical weakness in the system by requiring that electronic voting machines produce voter-verifiable paper records of the votes cast. The paper records would take precedence when there were inconsistencies. Continue reading “NYT editorial: Tackling Election Reform”

Congress organizes (mostly): IT policy implications

By mid-February in any normal year a new Congress is completely organized. This is not a normal year as numerous changes in the Senate and organizational fights between the House of Representatives and Senate have delayed the process. Congress has finally (although not completely) organized itself enough to provide a picture of how it will deal with information technology (IT) and computing policy issues.

The major story is what changed in the Senate – arguably elevating IT policy – contrasted against the relative status quo in the House. Several key Senate chairmanships changed hands, which, in turn, led to two new IT related subcommittees. The opposite was true in the House, where key chairmen from the 108th Congress hold roughly the same power in the 109th. Below is a more detailed discussion of how these changes will impact issues relevant to USACM’s interests. Continue reading “Congress organizes (mostly): IT policy implications”

Plan for patenting software stalls in Europe’s parliament

“In a rare move, the European Parliament demanded Thursday that a controversial proposal for a law on software patents be scrapped and that the debate begin anew.

The proposed law is intended to harmonize the patent rules of the 25 countries in the European Union. Current laws do not permit software patents, but some have been registered in recent years […]”


Plan for patenting software stalls in Europe's parliament

“In a rare move, the European Parliament demanded Thursday that a controversial proposal for a law on software patents be scrapped and that the debate begin anew.

The proposed law is intended to harmonize the patent rules of the 25 countries in the European Union. Current laws do not permit software patents, but some have been registered in recent years […]”