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New Report on Privacy and Crowdsourced Missing Persons Registries

From:              Fordham Law School and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars

Contact:         Peter Pochna, Rubenstein Associates, 212-843-8007, ppochna@rubenstein.com

FORDHAM LAW AND THE WOODROW WILSON CENTER RELEASE REPORT ON PRIVACY ISSUES RAISED BY MISSING PERSONS DATABASES

NEW YORK, NY AND WASHINGTON, DC (April XX, 2013) – The Fordham Center on Law and Information Policy (CLIP) at Fordham Law School and the Commons Lab of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars today issued a report titled “Privacy and Missing Persons after Natural Disasters,” prepared as part of a joint project. The report is available for free download at:

http://www.scribd.com/collections/3840667/Commons-Lab-Science-and-Technology-Innovation-Program-STIP and http://ssrn.com/abstract=2229610

The report offers a roadmap to the legal and policy issues surrounding privacy and missing persons following natural disasters. It provides strategies that humanitarian organizations, private sector organizations, volunteers and policy makers can pursue to help those affected by major natural disasters. For example, the report recommends that the United States government exercise existing legal authority to support appropriate sharing of personal information about missing persons following natural disasters. More broadly, the report recommends that those developing technologies to share information about missing persons implement design principles that carefully balance privacy consistent with existing legal obligations. The report also calls on privacy policy makers, legislators, and regulators to take steps to clarify how privacy rules apply to missing persons activities in identified key areas so that missing persons activities can proceed without the threat of legal liability.

“With this project, Fordham CLIP is trying to help the people and organizations assisting in the location of missing persons recognize and deal with critical privacy issues by providing a range of options to address the legal and policy concerns,” said Joel R. Reidenberg, the academic director of Fordham CLIP and a co-author of the report.  Robert Gellman, a privacy expert and co-author of the report, added, “Missing persons services are essential following natural disasters, but they can raise questions about how privacy laws apply to emergency humanitarian responses. The report suggests ways to resolve those questions.”

The project is part of an international effort led by the Missing Persons Community of Interest (MPCI) that is seeking to harmonize a wide array of databases and technologies to enhance searches for missing persons following natural disasters. MPCI, which emerged in response to the 2010 Haitian earthquake, includes participants from local disaster management, international humanitarian relief organizations, private sector technology companies, non-profits, and digital volunteer communities.

Tim Schwartz, the chair of MPCI, said the report “gives us for the first time a thorough analysis of how missing persons technologies impact individual privacy and provides us with a valuable framework that will help us refine these critical and complex systems.” Lea Shanley, director of the Commons Lab at the Wilson Center, added, “Response organizations and volunteer groups must work to find an appropriate balance between protecting privacy and safety, and facilitating critical information sharing about affected populations and missing persons during and after disasters. This research will inform the development of privacy guidelines and best practices.”

The report examined privacy issues created by missing persons activities following several recent natural disasters, such as the earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand in February 2011 and Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans in August 2005.  The report identified New Zealand as a leader in addressing the privacy issues that follow natural disasters and in prompting the world’s data protection authorities to pay more attention to those issues. The report discusses the New Zealand response and shows what other data protection authorities can do to provide clarity in applying privacy rules to missing persons activities.

Joining Reidenberg on the team that created the report are Gellman, a privacy and information policy consultant who previously served as chief counsel to the U.S. House of Representative Government Operations Committee and served as a member of the National Committee on Vital and Health Statistics at the U.S. Health and Human Services Department, Jamela Debelak, CLIP’s executive director, and CLIP student researchers Adam Elewa and Nancy Liu.

The project was supported by the Wilson Center and a gift made by Fordham University alumnus and trustee Ed Stroz and his digital risk management company, Stroz Friedberg.

The Commons Lab of the Wilson Center’s Science and Technology Innovation Program seeks to advance research and independent policy analysis on emerging technologies that facilitate collaborative, science-based and citizen-driven decision-making, with an emphasis on their social, legal, and ethical implications. The initiative does not advocate for or against specific technological platforms, rather works to ensure that these technologies are developed and used in a way that maximizes benefits while reducing risks and unintended consequences. Our work often focuses on novel governance options at the “edges” where the crowd and social media operate—between formal organizations and emergent networks, and between proprietary and open models of data ownership and access.

The Fordham Center on Law and Information Policy (CLIP) was founded to make significant contributions to the development of law and policy for the information economy and to teach the next generation of leaders. CLIP brings together scholars, the bar, the business community, technology experts, the policy community, students, and the public to address and assess policies and solutions for cutting-edge issues that affect the evolution of the information economy.

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Massachusetts Supreme Court Rules ZIP Codes Are Definitely “Personal Identification Information”

by Erin Aures, Privacy Law Blog, April 1, 2013

In a recent ruling arising from certain certified questions in Tyler v. Michaels Stores, Inc., Civ. No. 11-10920-WGY D. Mass. Jan. 6, 2012, the Massachusetts Supreme Court interpreted “personal identification information” under Mass. Gen. Laws, ch. 93, § 105a Section 105a to include a consumer’s ZIP code and determined that collecting such personal information is a violation of state privacy law for which the consumer can sue see slip opinion. By way of background, the plaintiff, Tyler, alleged she was making a credit card purchase at Michaels an arts and crafts retailer when a cashier asked her for her ZIP code. Tyler provided her ZIP code. Tyler alleged her ZIP code was later used by Michaels to find Tyler’s mailing address and telephone numbers and send her unwanted and unsolicited marketing materials. …

For full text of the analysis, visit Massachusetts Supreme Court Rules ZIP Codes Are Definitely “Personal Identification Information” | Privacy Law Blog.

 

Google Admits Street View Project Violated Privacy

By David Streitfeld, NYT Technology, March 12, 2013

Google on Tuesday acknowledged to state officials that it had violated people’s privacy during its Street View mapping project when it casually scooped up passwords, e-mail and other personal information from unsuspecting computer users. In agreeing to settle a case brought by 38 states involving the project, the search company for the first time is required to aggressively police its own employees on privacy issues and to explicitly tell the public how to fend off privacy violations like this one.

For full text of the article, visit Google Admits Street View Project Violated Privacy – NYTimes.com.

 

Ohio Court: Geodata Intertwined with Proprietary Software Falls Outside Open Records Law

Supreme Court Rules County Engineer’s Response Met Requirements of Public Records Act

by Dennis Whalen, CNO, March 7, 2013

The Supreme Court of Ohio today denied a writ of mandamus sought by Portsmouth real estate appraiser Robert Gambill to compel the production of certain public records by Scioto County Engineer Craig Opperman.In a 6-1 per curiam opinion, the court held that Opperman met the requirements of the Ohio Public Records Act by offering to provide Gambill with a copy of the county’s electronic database containing deed information and aerial photos of all property in the county if Gambill paid the estimated $2,000 cost of separating that data from proprietary mapmaking software protected by U.S. patent laws that is “inextricably intertwined” with the data on the engineer’s computer.

For full text of the article, visit Supreme Court Rules County Engineer’s Response Met Requirements of Public Records Act.

Related Articles:

See also High Court Rules in Favor of County (Portsmouth Daily Times), Ohio Court: Geodata Intertwined with Copyright-protected Software Falls Outside Open Records Law (Directions Magazine).

Similar Cases:

Sierra Club loses on appeal in case for access to Orange County database (Directions Magazine 2011)

The WireData Case and Implications for Geospatial Data (WI State Cartographer’s Office 2008)

ASFPM Releases Report on Cost of Flood Mapping for the Nation

Flood Mapping for the Nation: A Cost Analysis for the Nation’s Flood Map Inventory

Tuesday, March 05, 2013 The Association of State Floodplain Managers (ASFPM) urges national investment in a comprehensive, updated flood map inventory for every community in the US. This will drive down costs and suffering from flooding on our nation and its citizens, as well as providing the best tool for managing flood risk and building sustainable communities.

For full text and to download a copy of the report, visit The Association of State Floodplain Managers | ASFPM.

A Drone Flew Within 200 Feet Of A Commercial Jet. How Legal Was It?

by Kelsey Atherton, Pop Sci, March 6, 2013

Yesterday morning, an Alitalia pilot reported seeing a remote-controlled aircraft near New York’s JFK airport, where he was landing. The drone was flying about 4 to 5 miles west of the airport at an altitude of about 1,750 feet, and it came within just 200 feet of the Alitalia plane, the pilot said. … But was it legal?

…Law is slow to catch up to new technology, so drones are not currently regulated in U.S. air space. The FAA is in the process of picking drone-testing sites, which will be used to help develop domestic drone rules. Until then, unmanned aircraft are governed by model airplane rules, and model airplane rules are pretty lax….

For full text of this article, please visit A Drone Flew Within 200 Feet Of A Commercial Jet. How Legal Was It? | Popular Science.

 

Is Your User Content Online Legally Yours?

by David Pogue, Scientific American, March 5, 2013

Instagram, the phone app that lets you take pictures, apply artsy filters and then share them, is huge. …Then, late last year, Instagram did something massively stupid: it changed its terms of use, the document of rules for using the service. The new terms included this gem: “You agree that a business or other entity may pay us to display your username, likeness, photos … without any compensation to you.The backlash was swift and vicious. …People quit Instagram en masse. Lawyers filed a class-action suit….

For full text of this article, please visit Scientific American Is Your User Content Online Legally Yours?: Scientific American.

 

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