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Category Archives: Privacy

Privacy and Court Records: Online Access and the Loss of Practical Obscurity

Ardia, David S., Privacy and Court Records: Online Access and the Loss of Practical Obscurity (August 4, 2017). University of Illinois Law Review, Vol. 2017, No. 5, 2017. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3013704

“Court records present a conundrum for privacy advocates. Public access to the courts has long been a fundamental tenant of American democracy, helping to ensure that our system of justice functions fairly and that citizens can observe the actions of their government. Yet court records contain an astonishing amount of private and sensitive information, ranging from social security numbers to the names of sexual assault victims. Until recently, the privacy harms that attended the public disclosure of court records were generally regarded as insignificant because court files were difficult to search and access. But this “practical obscurity” is rapidly disappearing as the courts move from the paper-based world of the twentieth century to an interconnected, electronic world where physical and temporal barriers to information are eroding. These changes are prompting courts — and increasingly, legislatures — to reconsider public access to court records. Although this reexamination can be beneficial, a number of courts are abandoning the careful balancing of interests that has traditionally guided judges in access disputes and instead are excluding whole categories of information, documents, and cases from public access. This approach, while superficially appealing, is contrary to established First Amendment principles that require case-specific analysis before access can be restricted and is putting at risk the public’s ability to observe the functioning of the courts and justice system. This article pushes back against the categorical exclusion of information in court records. In doing so, it makes three core claims. First, the First Amendment provides a qualified right of public access to all court records that are material to a court’s exercise of its adjudicatory power. Second, before a court can restrict public access, it must engage in a case-specific evaluation of the privacy and public access interests at stake. Third, per se categorical restrictions on public access are not permissible. These conclusions do not leave the courts powerless to protect privacy, as some scholars assert. We must discard the notion that the protection of privacy is exclusively the job of judges and court staff. Instead, we need to shift the responsibility for protecting privacy to lawyers and litigants, who should not be permitted to include highly sensitive information in court files if it is not relevant to the case. Of course, we cannot eliminate all private and sensitive information from court records, but as long as courts continue to provide physical access to their records, the First Amendment does not preclude court administrators from managing electronic access in order to retain some of the beneficial aspects of practical obscurity. By minimizing the inclusion of unnecessary personal information in court files and by limiting the extent of electronic access to certain types of highly sensitive information, we can protect privacy while at the same time ensuring transparency and public accountability.”

NIST – Security and Privacy Controls for Information Systems and Organizations

Security and Privacy Controls for Information Systems and Organizations, August 2017. Draft NIST Special Publication 800-53 Revision 5. This publication provides a catalog of security and privacy controls for federal information systems and organizations to protect organizational operations and assets, individuals, other organizations, and the Nation from a diverse set of threats including hostile attacks,… Continue Reading

GAO reports continuing security controls for protecting confidentiality of taxpayer data

Information Security: Control Deficiencies Continue to Limit IRS’s Effectiveness in Protecting Sensitive Financial and Taxpayer Data, GAO-17-395: Published: Jul 26, 2017. Publicly Released: Jul 26, 2017. “The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) made progress in addressing previously reported control deficiencies; however, continuing and newly identified control deficiencies limited the effectiveness of security controls for protecting the… Continue Reading

International Privacy Experts Adopt Statements on E-Learning, Intelligence Gathering

EPIC – “The International Working Group on Data Protection in Telecommunications has adopted new recommendations to improve privacy and security standards for e-learning platforms and government intelligence gathering. The Berlin-based Working Group includes Data Protection Authorities and experts who work together to address emerging privacy challenges. The Working Paper on “E-Learning Platforms” highlights privacy risks… Continue Reading

Just because – Lexis posted George Harrison’s Immigration File Online

Documents (90 pages) via the DOJ, created by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) documenting activities of “British musician” George Harrison (yes, and his colleague Richard Starkey – known as Ringo Starr]) dating from the early 1970s. Continue Reading

Bank of America, Samsung pilot iris-scan logins

American Banker – “This month, Bank of America will begin piloting technology from Samsung that lets customers log in to mobile banking by taking a picture of their eye. The pilot is part of a broader effort to gauge customers’ affinity for various forms of biometric authentication, says Michelle Moore, head of digital banking at… Continue Reading

Introducing a new way to share YouTube videos

YouTube Blog: “…Starting today, you can share videos with your friends and family directly on YouTube. Not only can you share and receive videos in the app, you can also chat about them right on YouTube, reply with another video, invite others to the conversation, and more. We think it’ll make sharing easier, faster and… Continue Reading

GAO Report on increasing deployment of DOD biometrics and forensics

DOD Biometrics and Forensics: Progress Made in Establishing Long-term Deployable Capabilities, but Further Actions Are Needed, GAO-17-580: Published: Aug 7, 2017. Publicly Released: Aug 7, 2017. “The Department of Defense (DOD) has validated its requirements for long-term deployable biometric capabilities (such as fingerprint collection devices) and forensic capabilities (such as expeditionary laboratories). Biometric capabilities are… Continue Reading

FTC – Stopping Unsolicited Mail, Phone Calls, and Email

“Tired of having your mailbox crammed with unsolicited mail, including preapproved credit card applications? Fed up with getting telemarketing calls just as you’re sitting down to dinner? Fuming that your email inbox is chock-full of unsolicited advertising? The good news is that you can cut down on the number of unsolicited mailings, calls, and emails… Continue Reading

Your Social Security Number is a major target of ID theft – government has yet to implement an alternative

Social Security Numbers: OMB Actions Needed to Strengthen Federal Efforts to Limit Identity Theft Risks by Reducing Collection, Use, and Display, GAO-17-553: Published: Jul 25, 2017. Publicly Released: Jul 27, 2017. “Governmentwide initiatives aimed at eliminating the unnecessary collection, use, and display of Social Security Numbers (SSN) have been underway in response to recommendations that… Continue Reading

FTC Escalates Fight against Illegal Robocalls Using Consumer Complaints to Aid Industry Call-Blocking Solutions

FTC news release: “Every day American consumers report tens of thousands of illegal robocalls to the Federal Trade Commission, and now the FTC is helping put that information to work boosting industry efforts to stop unwanted calls before they reach consumers. Under a new initiative announced by the FTC, when consumers report Do Not Call… Continue Reading

EPIC Files FTC Complaint to Stop Google from Tracking In-Store Purchases

“EPIC has filed a complaint with the FTC asking the Commission to investigate Google’s tracking of in-store purchases. According to EPIC, Google collects billions of credit and debit card transactions and then links that personal data to the activities of Internet users. Google claims that it protects online privacy but refuses to reveal details of… Continue Reading