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Privacy News - 2001.12.18

Privacy News from around the web

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< Yesterday's News Headlines

Anti-Terror Bill Pushed Into Law
Canadian Press via Toronto Star

"The Liberal government used its majority to curtail debate today in the Senate and push its landmark anti-terrorist legislation into law. Bill C-36, granting wide new powers of arrest, detention and surveillance, as well as authority to freeze and confiscate financial assets of suspected terrorists, passed by a handy 45-21 margin. Within the hour it had received royal assent from Gov. Gen. Adrienne Clarkson at a ceremony in the ornate Senate chamber.

Information Warfare: A Booming Business
Steve Jurvetson - ZDNet

"The business reaction to the new climate of distributed and networked security threats creates a variety of business opportunities and market shifts. Some are immediate and reactive. Others are deliberate and protective. And some may have long-term effects on the fabric of society. Ultimately, a distributed threat may require a distributed response, leading to the development of a societal immune system. Much of this will take time. The immediate business reaction to Sept. 11 was powerful and widespread--a dramatic shift to online communications. The initial shift to online meetings and the decline of air travel was a reflexive reaction in a period of fear. But it conditioned many people to consider the alternatives."

Australian Agencies Get OK To Read Private E-Mail
David Frith - Computer Daily News via Newsbytes

"Just four days before sweeping new privacy laws are due to come into operation, the Australian government today agreed to give the nation's security agencies new powers to access citizens' e-mail messages. The controversial move was part of a series of "anti-terrorism" measures endorsed by Federal Cabinet at a meeting in Sydney. The measures will also allow the shadowy Australian Security and Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) to detain people with information about terrorism for up to 48 hours without legal representation."

New Law Guards Personal Privacy
Sophie Douez - The Age (Australia)

"Companies and organisations will no longer be able to sell or pass on clients' personal details to other organisations without direct consent under tough new privacy laws set to come into force this week. From Friday, privatesector companies with a turnover of $3million a year or more will have to specify to clients exactly why they require personal details and in what capacity they will be used. The new laws also apply to private health providers and the public will now be able to demand that doctors release their medical records to them."

Who Stands On Guard For Us Against the U.S.?
James Travers - Toronto Star (Canada)

"If Washington gets its way, our government will share information on Canadians that is protected by law here. This country is fighting and apparently losing a rearguard action against an insidious invasion by a friend.No territory is at risk, but personal privacy will almost certainly be lost as Canada and the U.S. add detail to last week's broad border agreement. If Washington gets its way — and when did it not? — the federal government will be sharing personal information about Canadians that is protected by law here.Routinely and with few safeguards, officials will be providing data that range from benign to dangerously intrusive. The benign end of the scale includes information travellers expect to reveal: name, passport number, point of entry and mode of transportation. It's at the other end that things get interesting and worrisome enough to even raise concern among Liberal backbenchers."

Recording Your Life
Tony Kontzer - InformationWeek

"Accenture's personal-awareness assistant could one day let you effortlessly record key conversations or tie into back-end systems. Imagine a wearable device that never lets you forget a name, remotely ties into back-end systems, or makes you seem like a human encyclopedia during business meetings. Researchers at Accenture Technology Labs are refining a prototype of such a device. The personal-awareness assistant, or PAA, constantly records user interactions to create what's essentially a searchable database of memories and other important information. For instance, the device could whisper in your ear to remind you of the name of a business acquaintance you met two weeks ago. It could respond to a simple voice command and tell you whether the part your customer needs is in stock, or it could turn a colleague's instant message into an audible answer to an important question during a client meeting. It will even use global positioning system technology to detect that you're driving past a grocery story and tell you that you may want to stop and pick up a chocolate cake for that holiday party. The prototype, as it stands, is powered by a 400-MHz Pentium chip, 1-Gbyte hard drive, and 256 Mbytes of RAM and uses off-the shelf applications. Accenture research associates Owen Richter and Dana Le say their work centers on how to incorporate the collection of available technology into a business setting and possibly land an integration job with one of the consulting firms' huge clients, or even spin the technology off into its own business."

Privacy and the Wearable Computer
Christina Wood - PCWorld

"Surveillance is a hot topic these days. A few months ago, I wrote about face recognition software in a cultural environment where our fear of lost privacy was greater than our fear of criminals in public places. Things have changed since then. The surveillance powers of government have been increased to new levels, and no one knows where the surveillance will stop. Steve Mann, an author, a cyborg, and the acknowledged inventor of the wearable computer, thinks he has a better way to handle surveillance: Let everyone in on it. Mann's latest book, coauthored with Hal Niedzviecki, Cyborg: Digital Destiny and Human Possibility in the Age of the Wearable Computer (Doubleday Canada, 2001), details his ideas, including how wearable computing comes into play."

Government Internet Snooping: Out of Control?
Jay Lyman - Newsfactor

"Despite an unwillingness to criticize the government and its Magic Lantern plans, most antivirus experts assert that no computer worm is a good worm. While no one wants to stand in the way of the U.S. government and its use of technology to tackle terrorism, privacy advocates and security experts continue to express the same low-tech concerns -- that oversight of government snooping is inadequate and that the United States has proven it cannot keep the information it collects safe. Law enforcement officials have received even broader powers thanks to recent antiterrorism legislation, such as the PATRIOT Act and cyber-terrorism laws, which allows wider application of electronic surveillance with less obtrusive warrant requirements."

Visa's New Online Security Blanket
Alex Salkever - BusinessWeek

"This holiday season, at least one credit-card giant wants to play the Grinch to online fraudsters. In early December, Visa, a purchase-processing cooperative comprising 21,000 member banks, went live with "Verified by Visa." This new program aims to give credit-card holders extra security by requiring an additional password for online transactions. When a customer clicks on the final "buy" button, a secure browser window pops up asking for the new code, which the customer registers with the bank that issued the card. Only if the customer enters the correct pass code will the bank green-light the purchase. The Verified by Visa system won't replace the existing process for entering your card number and typing in the billing address. But by requiring consumers to provide a password that is not actually printed on the card, banks and merchants have a better chance of making sure the person making the transaction is the rightful user of the card. In that way, the program mirrors automated teller machine (ATM) transactions."

Australia Pushes for E-Mail Interception
Rachel Lebihan - ZDNet Australia

"New counter-terrorism measures pushed by a government "run out of control" will see more Australian agencies able to intercept e-mails for routine investigations, according to civil liberties group Electronic Frontiers of Australia (EFA). In a review of Australia’s ability to meet the challenges of “the new terrorist environment,” a raft of proposals, including amendments to the Telecommunications (Interception) Amendment Act 1979, were put forward at a Cabinet meeting today, according to the Department for the Attorney General."

Marketers May Face Student-Data Curbs
Robert O'Harrow Jr. - Washington Post

"Congress is on the verge of giving parents the right to say no when marketers want to gather personal information about students in schools. Businesses for years have collected data about students and their families, often without parents' knowledge. A company in New Jersey asked students to fill out detailed questionnaires about what they like on television. A technology marketer traded computers and Internet access in exchange for the right to track what students did online. One list broker has compiled information about millions of students, from kindergarten on. Students have offered suggestions to Internet companies, and they've taste-tested cereals in exchange for fees to schools."

While Shopping Online, Keep Security in Mind
Sandra Block - USA Today

"When it comes to holiday shopping, there are two types of people. The first shops all year, carefully selecting items that suit their loved ones' interests and tastes. They enjoy going to the mall. The second can often be found in 24-hour gas stations on Christmas Eve, asking the attendant if he'll gift-wrap a bottle of STP. If you belong to the second group, Internet sites are eager to help with last-minute specials. At Amazon.com, you can order selected items as late as Dec. 22 for delivery by Christmas Eve. The Lands' End Web site offers Christmas delivery on items ordered by Dec. 20."

Privacy Act Lawsuit Bombshell
Fleur Anderson - News Interactive (Australia)

"Many businesses are expected to be sued next year as a result of new privacy laws which will come into effect this Friday, according to industry experts. Up to 95 per cent of Australian businesses are believed to be unprepared for the introduction of the Privacy Act amendments which regulate the collection, use and storage of personal information. And Retailers Association of Queensland executive director Patrick McKendry warned thousands of Queensland retailers could be caught in the net."

Recruiters Devise Privacy Code
Karen Dearne - Australian IT

"Recruiters have formulated an industry privacy code to avoid problems that may arise under the new private sector legislation. The draft code, prepared by the Information Technology Contract and Recruitment Association, would go to Federal Privacy Commissioner Malcolm Crompton for approval as soon as possible, ITCRA executive director Norman Lacy said. The association has also distributed a Company Privacy Policy template to help members meet their new obligations to job candidates, contractors and client companies."

Report Attacks Monitoring
Simon Hayes - Australian IT

"Employers who covertly monitor staff emails could be in for a rude shock, with NSW authorities considering legislative changes aimed at restricting the practice. The NSW Law Reform Commission has released a report on workplace surveillance that calls for much tighter rules. LRC chairman Justice Michael Adams said new technologies allowing monitoring of email and web usage and tracking via biometric devices raised challenges to an area of law largely governed by the Listening Devices Act of 1984."

The Big Gun at Justice
Art Buchwald - Washington Post

"I know I should understand everything about homeland security, but occasionally even I get confused. For example, I read in the papers that the FBI is mad at the attorney general because John Ashcroft won't let them look at the gun purchase records of the people they are holding for possible terrorist activities. The apparent reason is that the attorney general is a proud member of the National Rifle Association and he is nervous about anything that would endanger the right to bear arms. Even in war, a man's gun is sacred."

Computer Experts Probe Sept. 11 Deals
Reuters - via ZDNet

"German computer experts are working round the clock to unlock the truth behind an unexplained surge in financial transactions made just before two hijacked planes crashed into New York's World Trade Center on September 11. Were criminals responsible for the sharp rise in credit card transactions that moved through Or was it coincidence that unusually large sums of money, perhaps more than $100 million, were rushed through the computers as the disaster unfolded?"

Independence, Except From Gadgets
Jean Lawrence - The Washington Post

"Your elderly mom is baking bread and has just kneaded in her secret ingredient when the doorbell rings. She stops, looks up and heads to the front door to see who's there. When she returns to the kitchen, she can't remember: Did she knead the bread a second time or not? Not to worry. In the Aware Home, which is being created by the Broadband Institute and College of Computing at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, Mom can simply hit a button on a wall panel video screen and see herself preparing dinner before the bell rang. Yup, bread kneaded."

Marketers May Face Student-Data Curbs

"Congress is on the verge of giving parents the right to say no when marketers want to gather personal information about students in schools. Businesses for years have collected data about students and their families, often without parents' knowledge. A company in New Jersey asked students to fill out detailed questionnaires about what they like on television. A technology marketer traded computers and Internet access in exchange for the right to track what students did online. One list broker has compiled information about millions of students, from kindergarten on. Students have offered suggestions to Internet companies, and they've taste-tested cereals in exchange for fees to schools."

Diverse Consumer Coalition Launches Privacy Education Site
Brian Krebs - Newsbytes.com

As the holiday shopping season shifts into high gear, a diverse coalition of consumer rights groups is launching a Web site designed to educate Net users about ways to control their personal information online. The new Web site, www.consumerprivacyguide.org, offers tips for understanding the fundamentals of online privacy - such as how to read a privacy policy - as well as advice on using more sophisticated privacy tools, including anonymous remailers and encryption."

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