A group of privacy scholars, lawyers and corporate officials are launching an advocacy group today designed to help shape standards around how companies collect, store and use consumer data for business and advertising.
Internet companies have come under fire for tracking consumers’ online habits in order to tailor ads relevant to their interests. Lawmakers have held several hearings this year to examine online privacy protections.
Imagine a virtual health clinic: Your lung doctor and heart specialist can pull up your online medical profile and chat, via instant messenger, about your medications. You schedule checkups online, create a wellness journal or even rate your general practitioner.
WellNet Healthcare, a Bethesda health management company, is launching the beta version of this social network, Point to Point Healthcare, this month. Since 1994, WellNet has built its business collecting detailed data on employees’ medical and pharmacy activity so that companies can better evaluate their corporate health plans.
WellNet’s clients nationwide — including Washington-area firms such as Peterson Cos., Dewberry, and Kiplinger Washington Editors — will be among the first to test-drive the new system. It lets employees create a personal network uniting their insurance claims manager with multiple doctors and pharmacies to better coordinate treatments. An online concierge helps workers find new specialists, and a message system reminds them to pick up prescriptions.
Several Internet and broadband companies have acknowledged using targeted-advertising technology without explicitly informing customers, according to letters released yesterday by the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
And Google, the leading online advertiser, stated that it has begun using Internet tracking technology that enables it to more precisely follow Web-surfing behavior across affiliated sites.
The revelations came in response to a bipartisan inquiry of how more than 30 Internet companies might have gathered data to target customers. Some privacy advocates and lawmakers said the disclosures help build a case for an overarching online-privacy law.
Sometime late last year, an employee of a McLean investment firm decided to trade some music, or maybe a movie, with like-minded users of the online file-sharing network LimeWire while using a company computer. In doing so, he inadvertently opened the private files of his firm, Wagner Resource Group, to the public.
That exposed the names, dates of birth and Social Security numbers of about 2,000 of the firm’s clients, including a number of high-powered lawyers and Supreme Court Justice Stephen G. Breyer.
The breach was not discovered for nearly six months. A reader of washingtonpost.com’s Security Fix <http://blog.washingtonpost.com/securityfix/> blog found the information while searching LimeWire in June.
Services such as LimeWire, which are known as peer-to-peer networks, link computers directly, allowing users to swap digital movies, music and files with other users without the need of a central Web site to manage the exchange.