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FTC Urges Companies To Adopt Best Practices To Address Consumer Privacy and Security Risks

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The staff of the Federal Trade Commission recommend a series of concrete steps that businesses can take to enhance and protect consumers’ privacy and security, as Americans start to reap the benefits from a growing world of Internet-connected devices.

The Internet of Things is already impacting the daily lives of millions of Americans through the adoption of health and fitness monitors, home security devices, connected cars and household appliances, among other applications. Such devices offer the potential for improved health-monitoring, safer highways, and more efficient home energy use, among other potential benefits. However, the FTC report also notes that connected devices raise numerous privacy and security concerns that could undermine consumer confidence.

One of the main topics addressed at the workshop was security. The report includes the following recommendations for companies developing Internet of Things devices:

  • build security into devices at the outset, rather than as an afterthought in the design process;
  • train employees about the importance of security, and ensure that security is managed at an appropriate level in the organization;
  • ensure that when outside service providers are hired, that those providers are capable of maintaining reasonable security, and provide reasonable oversight of the providers;
  • when a security risk is identified, consider a “defense-in-depth” strategy whereby multiple layers of security may be used to defend against a particular risk;
  • consider measures to keep unauthorized users from accessing a consumer’s device, data, or personal information stored on the network;
  • monitor connected devices throughout their expected life cycle, and where feasible, provide security patches to cover known risks.

Commission staff also recommend that companies consider limiting the collection of consumer data, and retaining that information only for a set period of time, and not indefinitely. The report notes that data minimization addresses two key privacy risks: first, the risk that a company with a large store of consumer data will become a more enticing target for data thieves or hackers, and second, that consumer data will be used in ways contrary to consumers’ expectations. FTC staff also recommends that companies notify consumers and give them choices about how their information will be used, particularly when the data collection is beyond consumers’ reasonable expectations.

Veterans Exposed To Identity Theft

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Veterans Advantage, the Nation’s leading private-sector benefits program dedicated to “Giving Back to All Who Serve,” says that U.S. military veterans, active duty and their families are the highest group at risk for identity theft during the  holiday season.

According to a Federal Trade Commission consumer study released in 2013, the percentage of identity theft complaints from the military demographic is more than double that of the general public. Veterans Advantage has uncovered three contributing factors that the organization believes have led to this disturbingly higher incidence of reported military identity theft:

1. Veterans are often required to provide highly sensitive personal information such as DD214’s or Social Security numbers in commercial environments where there is no universal standard or legally binding protocol for handling and safeguarding a veteran’s personal information.

2. Veterans use their government ID’s in retail establishments for military discounts and employees responsible for verifying military service with these documents may generate a non-secure paper trail and the information becomes vulnerable to loss or theft.

3. Veterans are vulnerable to offers of ‘free discounts for vets.” Recently, there has been a proliferation of Internet startups that offer companies online military identification verification, so they may directly advertise military discounts for veterans. Most are, in reality, “data grabs.” Veterans are also easy prey for companies that are big data consolidators whose operations are thinly disguised as military-friendly advertisers of “free veteran discounts.”
Veterans Advantage suggests a company would need to put in place extra workplace measures to protect the highly sensitive information collected from government issued identification, such as a DD214, to ensure that every cashier, employee, and computer data programmer has been trained in their role to protect their customer’s veteran data and then regularly audit those procedures to ensure that they are in compliance.

With Possibility of American Government Shutdown, Library of Congress and FTC Will Go Offline

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It’s not known why some sites in Washington, DC, are going offline and others will stay online. Nor is it clear how shutting down a government website would save any significant amount of money.

“In the event of a temporary shutdown of the federal government, beginning Tuesday, October 1, all Library of Congress buildings will close to the public and researchers,” the Library of Congress wrote on its website on Friday. “All public events will be cancelled and websites will be inaccessible.”

The Federal Trade Commission (PDF) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (PDF) have told their employees to consult their respective websites for information about when the shutdown would be lifted. However, Peter Kaplan, a spokesperson for the FTC, told Ars that his agency’s site would be largely shut down except for a splash page.

 

Data Brokers

 

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Each time we use the web a data trail is lefted behind. Data companies are collecting your info. The FTC sent out warning letters to these companies.  Primary data brokers gather your data straight from the sources: courthouses, police departments, consumer rewards card programs, trademark offices, and more.

Their customers are secondary data brokers. This includes companies like eVerify and Intelius,Spokeo, BeenVerified, and PeekYou,

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