01/23/2012 GPS tracking | United States v. Jones — The US Supreme Court unanimously ruled that police must get a warrant before using GPS devices to track criminal suspects. This case was narrow and dealt specifically with a GPS device physically attached to a suspect’s vehicle. The concurring opinion of Justice Sotomayor points out that the subtler issues of digital era tracking were not dealt with in this case, for example, cell phone tracking, web site tracking, etc. She wrote: “More fundamentally, it may be necessary to reconsider the premise that an individual has no reasonable expectation of privacy in information voluntarily disclosed to third parties. E.g., Smith, 442 U. S., at 742; United States v. Miller, 425 U. S. 435, 443 (1976).” She continued: “This approach is ill suited to the digital age, in which people reveal a great deal of information about themselves to third parties in the course of carrying out mundane tasks.”
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.
Resource | case file — Amazon.com filed a lawsuit in April to fight the North Carolina Department of Revenue’s request for detailed information on Amazon.com customers. The North Carolina tax department requested Amazon.com to hand over “all information for all sales to customers with a North Carolina shipping address” between 2003 to 2010. In the decision, Seattle, Washington U.S. District Court Judge Marsha J. Pechman wrote, “Citizens are entitled to receive information and ideas through books, films, and other expressive materials anonymously.” She also stated that “The fear of government tracking and censoring one\’s reading, listening, and viewing choices chills the exercise of First Amendment rights.” This is an important decision for privacy rights, and online privacy in particular.
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.
Health privacy and HIPAA — The World Privacy Forum filed comments with the US Department of Health and Human Services today in response to its Request for Information about possible changes to the HIPAA health privacy rule. WPF strongly supported patients’ current right to request a history of disclosures of their medical files, and requested an expansion of this right. WPF noted in its comments to HHS that “An individual cannot fully protect his/her privacy interest in a health record (and most other records) unless he/she has a right of access to the record, the right to propose a correction, and the right to see who has used the record and to whom it has been disclosed. Each of these elements is essential.”