Revelations by AOL Boss Raise Fears Over Privacy

By Natasha Singer
NYTimes.com, February 10, 2014

Tim Armstrong, the chief executive of AOL, apologized last weekend for publicly revealing sensitive health care details about two employees to explain why the online media giant had decided to cut benefits. He even reinstated the benefits after a backlash.

Tim Armstrong, the chief executive of AOL, apologized last weekend for publicly revealing sensitive health care details about two employees to explain why the online media giant had decided to cut benefits. He even reinstated the benefits after a backlash.

But patient and work force experts say the gaffe could have a lasting impact on how comfortable — or discomfited — Americans feel about bosses’ data-mining their personal lives.

Mr. Armstrong made a seemingly offhand reference to “two AOL-ers that had distressed babies that were born that we paid a million dollars each to make sure those babies were O.K.” The comments, made in a conference call with employees, brought an immediate outcry, raising questions over corporate access to and handling of employees’ personal medical data.

“This example shows how easy it is for employers to find out if employees have a rare medical condition,” said Dr. Deborah C. Peel, founder of Patient Privacy Rights, a nonprofit group in Austin, Tex. She urged regulators to investigate Mr. Armstrong’s disclosure about the babies, saying “he completely outed these two families.”

To view the full article, please visit Revelations by AOL Boss Raise Fears Over Privacy

 

Re: Your Online Attention, Bought in an Instant

Natasha Singer unearths more about the instantaneous selling of intimately detailed profiles about Americans in her article in The New York Times: Your Online Attention, Bought in an Instant

Best case: We get more ‘targeted’ ads. We supposedly want personalized ads so badly that we willingly give up deeply intimate portraits about who we are to the hidden data mining industry forever. Really? When did we ever have ANY meaningful choice about who collects and sells our most intimate personal information? See Duhigg’s NYTimes story.

Worst case: Hidden, technology enabled discrimination prevents us from getting jobs and destroys our reputations before anyone will meet with us. Companies like Rubicon literally know more about us than our partners, our mothers or fathers, our best friends, our children or our psychoanalysts. This information is used to harm us—-read Prof Sweeney’s paper on how ads like “YOUR NAME, arrested?” pop up next to the names of African-Americans but NOT next to Anglo-sounding names. What happens when future employers see ads like that when searching for information about you online? Read her paper here.

HELP FIX THIS PRIVACY DISASTER
HELP BUILD a map that tracks all hidden users and sellers of our sensitive health information.
DONATE to the Harvard/Patient Privacy Rights’ research project at: https://org2.democracyinaction.org/o/6402/donate_page/donate-to-thedatamap

European citizens have far stronger protections for their sensitive health and personal data than US citizens.
Learn why and learn about solutions to strengthen US data protections. Register for free to attend the 3rd International Summit on the Future of Health Privacy June 5-6 in DC: www.healthprivacysummit.org