Attorney George Jepsen said Wednesday that he never thought Internet privacy would rank so high up on his agenda until he took over the office in January.
“Internet and data privacy have been among the biggest issues effecting the board public interest during my first eight months in office,” Jepsen said Wednesday at a press conference to announce the formation of a Privacy Task Force.
“If you asked me a year ago where Internet privacy considerations rank in my office in terms of significant cases, I would have put it a lot further down than it has been,” he said. “It seems like every month since I’ve taken office there’s been some accident or issue that we’ve had to respond to.”
Since taking office Jepsen has engaged the giants of the industry such as Google and Facebook in conversations about how to better protect consumer interests. In May Jepsen’s office filed a complaint against Google and Apple regarding their cellphone location collection systems and in July Facebook changed its policies regarding its “opt out” process for its facial recognition software that helps identify users in photos.
Jepsen applauded Facebook for the steps its taken and said they seem genuinely are responsive to privacy concerns.
“Their credibility is crucial to their future success,” Jepsen said.
In January, Jepsen’s office also reached an agreement with Google over “Street View” and the passwords and emails it collects from unsecured wireless networks as it maps streets.
“Connecticut continues to lead the 42 state investigation of Google’s data collection,” Jepsen said of the case he took over from his predecessor U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal. He declined to comment on any recent developments in the case.
Some sites already have taken steps to secure themselves and their users. Google’s email service now defaults all users to a secure connection. Facebook says they are working toward making the feature mandatory, but will require users to opt-in for the more secure service for the time being.
But Google and Facebook aren’t the only companies the task force will be watching closely. Data breaches and losses of consumer information such as Social Security numbers by health care providers and financial service companies is another area of concern for task force members.
“As everybody is certainly aware the growth of the Internet and e-commerce it just means more personal information going out there online,” Assistant Attorney General Matthew Fitzsimmons who will head the task force, said. “People are doing mobile banking and shopping on their phones and on their laptops. There’s just so much personal information out there that some of these breaches are almost inevitable and impact almost everybody.”
Assistant Attorney General Lorrie Adeyemi of the Finance Unit; Assistant Attorney General Stephen Courtney, of the Health Care Fraud and Whistleblower Unit; and Executive Policy Advisor and Counsel Michael Martone will join Fitzsimmons on the task force.
It will also help to educate the public and business community about their responsibilities, which include protecting personally sensitive data and promptly notifying affected individuals of breaches.
The task force is Jepsen’s first.
“This is the bold new era of the Jepsen incumbency,” he quipped.