There is no doubt that advancements in technology should continue to be explored and applied. However, we need to define and apply sound privacy policies and best practices to protect personal information.
The benefits of DNA/Genetic Testing
The field of medicine has made many advances in disease treatment using genetic testing. It’s widely accepted that prevention is one of the key factors in disease treatment. Genetic testing can identify predictive risk factors for over 100 diseases.
- Criminal Forensics
Recently, police believe they may have identified a suspected serial killer, responsible for no less than 13 murders.
The National Registry of Exonerations reports that 420 DNA exonerations have occurred since 1989.
There are several ancestry websites that have DNA testing kits you can submit to find out where your ancestors came from and determine your genetic makeup.
How is this information being protected? For the fields of medicine, there are HIPAA protocols that protect patient privacy and release of information. However, in criminal forensics and education, the rules and applications begin to blur. In the police case above, an ancestry DNA profile was used to match the DNA. How did the police get access to this information?
Ancestry DNA provides its policies regarding collecting and storing DNA results. But what laws are in place to protect the release and/or verification of this information?
Getting help from a Public Official
When you request information or assistance from a public official from an online portal, they ask you for information about yourself. When you request help from Senator Marco Rubio, you must provide Personally Identifiable Information. No offense to him. This online form and request seem pretty standard.
I couldn’t find anything on the Senator’s website about how this information is stored or how he protects it. I hope we won’t be seeing another issue like the one reported about then DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
I’ve written about this in previous blogs – at what point does transparency in government put people at risk? I completely agree with this article from the Denver Post that “transparency is for government and privacy is for people”.
When you are online, Geolocation uses our devices, computers, cell phones and tablets to determine user’s physical locations. Some uses for geolocation:
- Cell phone cameras are great. Anywhere you go, you can snap a picture of a landscape, a great sale and an endless supply of photos of “you” being “you”.
- Businesses can use Geolocation for targeted marketing, fraud prevention and company vehicle location tracking to monitor work flows and protect inventory.
- Parents, and law enforcement, can use geolocation applications to track children’s locations
So what’s wrong with geolocation? There’s always someone looking for vulnerabilities to take advantage of. Geolocation can target those vulnerabilities.
- Posting pictures online via social media identifies where you are. So now when you post those vacation pictures, burglars know you aren’t home.
- Once you post a picture on social media, anyone can (and will) re-post, re-tweet, forward and comment on those pictures – most of the time without your knowledge.
- Had a problem with an ex-boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/wife/co-worker, etc.? They can use geolocation to find out where you are.
- Ghosting on Google maps – “The difference between actual business information and deceptive map points can be hard to spot if you are using a smartphone, or not fully zoomed in.“ Ghosters use deceptive location practices to trick customers into thinking they are calling local businesses, but they are really calling scammers.
There is NO way to 100% secure all your personal information in a sharing world.
There are things you can do to protect your personal information.
- invest in a VPN (and use it) – later in the series we will talk about VPN’s located in and outside the United States and why that’s important. Keep in mind you might have to do some additional tweaking of your VPN and/or device settings.
- Post your vacation pictures when you get home (see invest in a VPN (and use it) above)
- Does every moment in your life need to be recorded, documented and published? Most employers are looking at social media sites for current and future employees.
- “Look twice” before calling a business found on Google maps. It’s easy to do a quick check to match locations and phone numbers.
Today’s favorite: https://www.unglobalcompact.org/take-action