Public Policy

WPF Resource Page: State Security Freeze Laws and General Information

A credit freeze (sometimes called a security freeze) lets you stop the disclosure of your credit report by a credit bureau. Currently, the three credit bureaus are allowing all consumers nationwide to set a security freeze for a fee. Some states have specific security freeze laws; a list of states with security freeze laws may be found below. However, even if you live in a state without a security freeze law, you can still set a security freeze.

WPF asks Treasury to get consumers’ consent before checking their credit reports

Financial privacy – Privacy Act — The World Privacy Forum filed comments today urging the U.S. Treasury Department to obtain consumers’ consent before checking their credit reports. Consumers who participate in the government’s Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) — an Obama administration program created to help consumers renegotiate their mortgages so they can keep their homes — must allow the Federal Government to check their credit reports without first obtaining consent. This procedure sets a negative precedent, and is at odds with consumer expectations of privacy. The Treasury gave itself this power in an obscure set of “Routine Uses” in a Privacy Act notice published along with the proposed system of records for the program. The World Privacy Forum has objected to this, and has filed detailed comments with the Treasury about the lack of consumer consent. The public comment period on this program is open until September 4, 2009.

Public Comments: August 2009 – WPF asks Treasury to get consumers’ consent before checking their credit reports

The World Privacy Forum filed comments today urging the U.S. Treasury Department to obtain consumers’ consent before checking their credit reports. Consumers who participate in the government’s Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) — an Obama administration program created to help consumers renegotiate their mortgages so they can keep their homes — must allow the Federal Government to check their credit reports without first obtaining consent. This procedure sets a negative precedent, and is at odds with consumer expectations of privacy. The Treasury gave itself this power in an obscure set of “Routine Uses” in a Privacy Act notice published along with the proposed system of records for the program. The World Privacy Forum has objected to this, and has filed detailed comments with the Treasury about the lack of consumer consent. The public comment period on this program is open until September 4, 2009.

FTC issues final rule on health data breaches

Health data breach rulemaking — The Federal Trade Commission has issued its final Health Breach Notification Rule for vendors of Personal Health Records and related entities, as required under ARRA, The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The initial proposed Health Breach Notification Rule was generally thoughtful and thorough. The World Privacy Forum submitted extensive comments on the proposed rule both supporting parts of it and making some suggestions for changes. The FTC incorporated several specific WPF suggestions into the final rule. In particular, the FTC incorporated the applicability of the rule to foreign entities with U.S. customers (Final Rule p. 17), and the applicability of the rule to search engines appearing on Personal Health Record web sites (Final Rule p. 34). The new rule will be published in the Federal Register shortly; until then, it is available at the FTC web site. Also available is a form that entities covered under this rule can use to report data breaches to the FTC. The Health Breach Notification Rule will be effective 30 days after publication in the Federal Register, and full compliance with the rule will be required beginning 180 days after publication.

Public Comments: August 2009 – WPF files comments on government use of web tracking technologies

The World Privacy Forum filed comments with the Office of Management and Budget regarding its proposal to begin to allow the use of tracking cookies on government web sites. The proposal was published in the Federal Register, and outlined a three-tiered plan for how web tracking technologies might be used. The Forum’s comments focused on methods of opt-out, data retention, secondary use, user authentication, new tracking technologies such as Flash cookies, and the need for new opt-out mechanisms. The Forum also urged the federal government to not allow third party tracking of consumers’ use of government web sites, and to guard against any discrimination against consumers who do not want to be tracked.