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For Immediate Release

Media Contacts:

David Paulson, 410-576-6357
dpaulson@oag.state.md.us

Alan Brody, 410-576-6956
abrody@oag.state.md.us

Attorney General Gansler Forms Internet Privacy Unit
Data Privacy Day heightens focus on online safety efforts


Baltimore, MD ( Jan. 28, 2013) - Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler today announced the formation of a new unit within his office focused on protecting the privacy of online users. The announcement coincides with today's celebration of Data Privacy Day, a global campaign to make consumers more aware of their digital footprint - personal information and sensitive records that are collected, shared and stored online.

"Internet privacy is one of the most essential consumer protection issues of the 21st century," said Attorney General Gansler. "I created this new unit to ensure that Marylanders who use the Internet every day have someone on their side, watching out for illicit online activities and working with key stakeholders to improve gaps in privacy policies."

As current president of the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG), Attorney General Gansler is spearheading a national initiative entitled "Privacy in the Digital Age." A three-day conference this spring will be the centerpiece of that yearlong examination.

Attorney General Gansler's Internet Privacy Unit is an interdivisional unit that includes Chief Deputy Attorney General Katherine Winfree, Senior Advisor Antigone Davis, Consumer Protection Division Chief William D. Gruhn, Consumer Protection Division Deputy Chief Philip Ziperman and Assistant Attorney General Steve Ruckman, who is serving as director of the Unit.

The Unit will monitor companies to ensure they are in compliance with state and federal consumer protection laws, including the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), which, in most cases, restricts companies from collecting personal information of children under 13 years old. The Unit will also examine weaknesses in online privacy policies and work alongside major industry stakeholders and privacy advocates to provide outreach and education to businesses and consumers to broaden awareness about privacy rights so they are more equipped to manage online privacy challenges. Additionally, the Unit will pursue enforcement actions where appropriate to ensure consumers' privacy is protected.

The emergence and evolution of the Digital Age has created new and significant privacy risks for both consumers and businesses. Attorney General Gansler's initiative is focused on exploring the best ways to manage those risks - from geo-location tracking to cyberbullying, from data collection to data breaches - bringing the energy and legal weight of NAAG to investigate, educate, and take steps necessary to ensure that the Internet's major players protect online privacy and provide meaningful options for privacy control. Last year, Attorney General Gansler led a charge by 36 state attorneys general to demand accountability from Google when it unilaterally changed its privacy policy.

"The free flow of information in the Digital Age has made it easier for private records to fall into the wrong hands," said Attorney General Gansler. "As we continue to combat those challenges, consumers should be vigilant with their online activities to ensure their privacy is not compromised."

As part of Data Privacy Day events taking place worldwide today, Attorney General Gansler will deliver a speech about his NAAG presidential initiative at the Microsoft Innovation and Policy Center in Washington, D.C.
For more information on Data Privacy Day, click http://www.staysafeonline.org/data-privacy-day/
For several tips on how online consumers can help secure their personal information, click http://www.oag.state.md.us/Press/2012/013012.html

   

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