Consumer Confidential: Facebook and Health Net hacks drive home the need for a national privacy law

David Lazarus, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Business News

How many data breaches will it take before our leaders accept the need for a national privacy law?

More than half a billion Facebook users, including 32 million in the United States, found out over the weekend that their personal information was accessed by hackers.

Names, birth dates, locations, phone numbers, email addresses and other information were posted on a website used by cyberthieves. The data appeared to be several years old.

Whereas disclosure of that information may pose relatively little risk to people's privacy, the same can't be said for a separate, more recent data breach involving the insurance company Health Net.

In that case, people's names, addresses, birth dates, insurance numbers and confidential medical records were hacked.

No less alarming, Health Net waited two months before notifying policyholders of the incident. Two months!


The company says the servers of a third-party vendor, Accellion, were hacked between Jan. 7 and Jan. 25. Notices to policyholders were dated March 24.

"We have no reason to believe that your information was used incorrectly," the company told customers. All this means, however, is that Health Net has no idea if anyone has been defrauded or harmed as a result of the breach.

The company is providing policyholders with a year of free credit monitoring and identity theft protection.

"Your personal information is important to us," Health Net declared. "We regret any issue this may have caused you." No one at the company responded to my request for further information.


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