Annual Data Privacy Day to Focus on Safeguarding Data

Last year was certainly a turning point in the history of online privacy and cyber security. Between ransomware attacks, the Equifax breach and the Federal Communication Commission’s vote to repeal net neutrality regulations—just to name a few high-profile incidents in the United States—businesses and citizens have more reasons than ever to safeguard their information.

To address this important issue, the annual Data Privacy Day (DPD) will be held Jan. 28, with online and in-person events leading up to it now that celebrate individual users’ rights to privacy and aim to prevent cyber theft and risk. DPD has been led by the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) in the U.S. since 2011 and “highlights our ever-more connected lives and the critical roles consumers and businesses play in protecting personal information and online privacy,” said NCSA Executive Director Michael Kaiser.

DPD was created to commemorate the 1981 signing of Convention 108 by the Council of Europe and is observed by more than 47 countries. It was the first legally binding international treaty dealing with privacy and data protection and officially recognized privacy as a human right. NCSA also co-hosts National Cybersecurity Awareness Month and the Department of Homeland Security’s Stop.Think.Connect. campaign, which aims to increase the public’s understanding of cyber threats.

“Our personal information and our habits and interests fuel the next generation of technological advancement, like the Internet of Things, which will connect devices in our homes, schools and workplaces,” Kaiser said. “Consumers must learn how best to protect their information and businesses must ensure that they are transparent about the ways they handle and protect personal information.”
On Jan. 25, LinkedIn will live-stream an event from its San Francisco office exploring the theme of “Respecting Privacy, Safeguarding Data and Enabling Trust.” The broadcast will feature TED-style talks and panel discussions with experts focusing on the pressing issues that affect businesses and consumers. Additional DPD happenings include Twitter chats and networking gatherings to maintain a dialogue about the importance of privacy rights.
The relevance does not end on Jan. 29, noted Richard Purcell, DPD advisory board member and chief executive officer of Corporate Privacy Group. He has witnessed the event’s evolution and its impact on risk management and privacy professionals.

“The community of privacy professionals is not made up of private people. They want to share information,” noted Purcell, who was named Microsoft’s first corporate privacy officer in 2000. “They initiate a dialogue that the officers bring back to their companies. I have seen how it has stimulated events inside corporations and universities that were inspired by Data Privacy Day networking discussions. The professional development aspects of the day are profound.”
Newly released information from NCSA demonstrates how privacy is impacted in both personal and professional environments—from healthcare and retail to social media, home devices and parenting. Some statistics include:

  • In 2016, 2.2 billion data records were compromised and vulnerabilities were uncovered in internet of things products from leading brands.
  • 41% of Americans have been personally subjected to harassing behavior online and nearly one in five (18%) has been subjected to particularly severe forms of harassment online, such as physical threats, harassment over a sustained period, sexual harassment or stalking.
  • Nearly one-third of consumers do not know that many of the “free” online services they use are paid for via targeted advertising made possible by the tracking and collecting of their personal data.
  • About 78% of respondents to a recent survey of healthcare professionals said they have had either a malware and/or ransomware attack in the last 12 months.

Calif. Mudslides Leave 15 Dead

Heavy rains in southern California have caused mudslides in some areas, killing at least 15 people and trapping hundreds. The deluge of mud now covering homes, businesses and freeways are the result of heavy rains washing away ground laid bare by the Thomas Fire—the state’s largest wildfire to-date—which burned more than 280,000 acres in December.
Many of those who had returned home after the wildfires have been evacuated for mudslides. The New York Times wrote:

As the mud rushed into lower-lying neighborhoods in Montecito, a wealthy hillside community where many celebrities have homes, the power went out and gas lines were severed, said Thomas Tighe, a resident. Officials said Tuesday night that it could be several days before gas service would be restored. They also said power failures were affecting more than 6,000 homes and businesses in the area, adding that many parts of Montecito were without drinkable water.

Driving rain started at about 3:00 a.m. on Jan. 9. By Tuesday, more than 5.5 inches of rain had fallen in parts of Ventura County, the National Weather Service said.  A mandatory evacuation order for about 7,000 residents was issued by Santa Barbara County officials, but many would not leave. As a result, people were trapped in homes and cars and on rooftops by fast-moving rivers of thick mud carrying trees and debris.
CNN reported that dozens of people have been rescued in Santa Barbara County, including a 14-year-old girl trapped beneath a house, and that parts of US 101 in Santa Barbara and Montecito have been closed.

Mudslides are not uncommon in the area, especially following wildfires, and they can be deadly. In January 2005, a landslide struck La Conchita in Ventura County, killing 10 people.

Flu-Related Deaths on the Rise

Frigid weather across the United States and low effectiveness of this year’s flu vaccine have been blamed for a jump in the number of flu cases being reported across the country. Epidemiologists in 36 states so far have reported widespread influenza activity to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Of those states, 21 reported a high number of cases.

Worldwide, the estimated number of fatalities caused by seasonal influenza-related respiratory illnesses is also higher than expected, according to the CDC. The agency released a new study in December 2017 with statistics indicating that between 291,000 and 646,000 people die from influenza every year, an increase from the previous estimate of 250,000 to 500,000. The estimates were drawn from a collaborative multinational survey conducted by the CDC and its global health partners.

“These findings remind us of the seriousness of flu and that flu prevention should really be a global priority,” said Joe Bresee, M.D., associate director for global health in CDC’s Influenza Division and a study co-author.

The study, which appeared in The Lancet, excluded data related to pandemics, indicated that poorer nations and older adults are especially at risk. It explained:

People age 75 years and older and people living in sub-Saharan African countries experienced the highest rates of flu-associated respiratory deaths. Eastern Mediterranean and Southeast Asian countries had slightly lower but still high rates of flu-associated respiratory deaths.

One cause for the rise could be that few developing countries have seasonal flu vaccination programs or the capacity to produce and distribute seasonal or pandemic vaccines.

The information was released following the CDC’s National Influenza Vaccination Week, which was held in early December 2017. That also marked what is typically considered the start of the season which continues through February in the U.S., although activity can last as late as May. Flu activity is expected to increase this month, the CDC warned back in December, and the freezing conditions from last week’s “bomb cyclone” may contribute to fully realizing that prediction.

People at high risk include:

  • Pregnant women.
  • Children younger than 5 years old, but especially children younger than 2 years old.
  • People 65 years of age and older.
  • People of any age who have certain medical conditions, such as asthma, diabetes, and heart disease.

The Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) suggests that employers use this critical time to promote policies and procedures to protect their employees from communicable diseases like influenza, and reinforce that the risks may be greater for certain workers. According to SHRM:

Employers must be open to discuss employee concerns and listen to their ideas and suggestions for ways to help them stay healthy. Employers can encourage employees who are at high risk to talk with their health care provider to determine what, if any, additional measures they should consider to keep themselves healthy and safe at work. Employers should strongly consider doctor’s accommodation requests for high-risk workers.

The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) web site has a fact sheet and guidelines for companies to follow with regard to the flu and pandemics. Additionally, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has a page with tips for employers hoping to curb seasonal flu outbreaks in their workplaces and among employees. NIOSH’s suggestions include:

P&C Composite Rate Up 2% in Fourth Quarter

Rate adjustments for property and casualty insurance in the United States for fourth quarter 2017 were plus 2% compared to plus 1% in the third quarter of 2017, with automobile and transportation seeing the largest increases, MarketScout reported.

Richard Kerr, MarketScout CEO commented that insurers were prepared for their losses. “Underwriters are rarely surprised by aggregate losses because they have so many pricing and modeling tools. Most insurers are assessing rate increases at a moderate pace. Automobile and transportation accounts incurred the largest rate increases at plus 5% over prior year pricing.”

In the reinsurance sector, William Hawkins, director of European insurance research at KBW made a similar observation of P&C Jan. 1, 2018 renewal pricing, stating in a podcast that, “the big four European reinsurers will have achieved 2% rate increases this [renewal] season.” He added that “the message from Monte Carlo, that the 2H 2017 natural catastrophes should draw a line under rate cuts across the board, has been delivered. But we think the upside for property catastrophe has been capped by the ongoing plentiful supply of capital.”

By coverage classification, MarketScount noted that all coverages except D&O, professional liability and auto had rate increases from the third quarter of 2017 to fourth quarter 2017. Property increased the most, from plus 1% to plus 3%.
On average, underwriters assessed rate increases for all industry groups except transportation and public entities. “Keep in mind, rates are calculated on a composite basis and represent exposures from businesses across the U.S. Insureds in catastrophe exposed areas incurred higher rates/premiums,” Kerr said.
MarketScout also noted that large accounts were seeing increases averaging 1%, while others saw 2% increases.