Chairman Rockefeller and Members of the Committee, thank you for the opportunity to testify today about data brokers, an industry that is often hidden from public view, and the impact of data brokers on consumers’ lives.
WPF executive director Pam Dixon testified at a joint subcommittee hearing focused on privacy and the collection and use of online and offline consumer information. Dixon’s testimony focused on the new “modern permanent record” and how it is used and created. Dixon said “The merging of offline and online data is creating highly personalized, granular profiles of consumers that affect consumers’ opportunities in the marketplace and in their lives. Consumers are largely unaware of these profiles and their consequences, and they have insufficient legal rights to change things even if they did know.” The testimony explored concrete examples of problematic consumer profiling activities.
Health privacy — The World Privacy Forum filed comments today about how medical records and other health information is intersecting with online advertising and online activities. The WPF comments were filed with the Department of Health and Human Services in response to its request for comments on personal health records, privacy, and social media.
Online privacy — The FTC sent a letter to Google today expressing concern about the company’s privacy practices, but at the same time, the FTC informed Google that it was dropping its investigation of the Street View WiFi case. The FTC wrote: “FTC staff has concerns about the internal policies and procedures that gave rise to this data collection. … the company did not discover that it had been collecting payload data until it responded to a request for information from a data protection authority.” The FTC told Google it should develop and implement procedures to properly collect, dispose of, and maintain information.
Health privacy and HIPAA — The World Privacy Forum filed two sets of detailed regulatory comments on recently proposed changes to HIPAA. The first comments focused on proposed changes to HIPAA in the area of marketing patient information. The proposed changes would be harmful to patient privacy, and are contrary to the law. WPF was joined in the marketing comments by the Center for Digital Democracy, Consumer Action, Consumer Federation of America, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Privacy Activism, Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, and Privacy Times. The second set of comments WPF filed included the comments on marketing as well as on additional provisions that would be problematic if enacted.