Some Interesting New Privacy Risks

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By Anahita Poonegar

Amongst all the news out there, there were several recent items highlighting new, potentially unique data privacy risks.

Your friends could affect your credit score: You know that guy in college who was a really funny guy? Yes, he was a bit of a flake and wouldn’t always return the money you loaned him for beers, but you could always count on him for a laugh and, although now you don’t see him very often, even today you enjoy his Facebook posts.

Now it appears if you interact too much with him and his friends, your friendship could be a cause for your loan application being rejected. According to a CNN article, there are startups which offer technology to lenders to analyze your social graph data as one factor in determining your credit worthiness. One of these, a company called Lenddo, apparently can analyze which of your friends and acquaintances are bad credit risks and how often you interact with them. The more of both and the worse it reflects on you and your chances of getting that loan.

By now, most denizens of social media sites are most likely resigned to getting targeted ads based on their social graph; after all this is how they can continue to use the services for free. Yet, how many really understand that their choice of friends can be exposed to a lender when they apply for a loan or the potential consequences? Would you consider this to be a violation of your data privacy?

Data Privacy: Personal information stored where you wouldn’t expect it. One of the cornerstones of advancements in our technological age is how quickly large amounts of data storage have become very cheap. This allows a wide variety of devices to use significant amounts of data storage which didn’t in the past. For example, did you know that many copiers use hard disks?

Well, apparently a health care plan provider didn’t. When they returned some leased copiers, they neglected to wipe the hard drives, therefore exposing the confidential health records of their customers. This was determined to be a violation of the US HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996) law and the company agreed to a settlement of over $1.2 million for this data privacy breach.

As the amount of personal data being collected continues to increase, technology development also ensures that the number of devices which can store significant amounts of this data increases as well. These two trends mean that these sorts of inadvertent releases of personal data are likely to continue.

Data Privacy: It’s the way you walk. Most everyone is aware that in many cities and buildings, the municipal authorities and building owners operate video surveillance networks, mainly for security purposes. With the advances in video recognition technology, naturally there has been a movement to use video recognition to identify faces of people who may pose a security threat. Now, a Spanish university claims to have developed a technique which uses video recognition to identify people using their profile and walking patterns ( One immediate thought is this could increase the accuracy of identification when a person’s face is obscured in the video.

In case you haven’t seen this, one wonders what this technology would do with John Cleese in this classic Monty Python skit?.