How Is Your Personal Data Protected Online? The Law

With the rise in online activities such as social networking, shopping and banking, we now share vast amounts of information on the internet, personal and non-personal, but it should ultimately be down to each individual as to how much information they may want to disclose and what it is used for.

Why Your Information is Wanted
Data is a valuable commodity with many online business including the giants such as Google, Facebook and Amazon effectively trading on its value to power their advertising revenues and marketing strategies. These companies use profiling information to target their audiences more specifically for each product and service they are promoting. The more accurate the profile is the better they can judge whether the individual is likely to convert, i.e., respond to the advert and buy the product. How much information you disclose to these companies is ultimately down to personal choice and it may be that you are willing give more away in return for more personalised services. The common pitfall for online users when signing up for services they want, is to be tempted or encouraged into giving a little extra away without really realising it.

However, personal information is also used for more nefarious means by people in the criminal world, creating stolen or fake identities under which they commit crimes, most commonly fraud. If you’re not careful you can leave a trail of personal information on the internet which can be obtained and aggregated by anyone without any need to break the law. Many cyber criminals, though, also resort to illegal tactics such as phishing (emails which misguide you and encourage you to visit a fake site and supply personal information), pharming (where people try to redirect you to fake sites while surfing the net) and malware (viruses which can steal information stored on computers or log activity such as the keystrokes for passwords)

Data Protection Act
It is easy to see that attempts to steal your information would be classed as illegal but there are also laws that govern the appropriate use of data that you have willingly supplied online.

In the UK we are protected by the Data Protection Act. This act applies to all information whether paper based or electronic and at the heart of it is the stipulation that organisations can only use the personal information they have gathered for the explicit purpose for which you supplied it (this doesn’t apply to non-personal/non-identifiable information). To that end there are further specific principles such as the requirement that data is not held longer than is required for its purpose and that it is kept secure and accurate.

Organisations can however ask for permission to use your information for other purposes when you first supply it. You’ll often find that when you provide your name and email as part of a purchase process for example there is a checkbox asking if the same data can be used for marketing purposes too. The key is to be aware of what you are agreeing to – unfortunately that may mean reading the small print.

Privacy and Electronic Communications
You are also protected by the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations which cover the information that organisations use for marketing, data about online behaviour and data on user preferences. The regulations compliment the data protection act, providing more detailed guidance for online marketing, ensuring that your information, whether explicitly obtained or gleaned from online activity, cannot be retained, traded and used for any purpose that you are not benefiting from or have not agreed to. This applies even when the data can’t be used to identify you (e.g., a company just has your telephone number which they want to use for marketing purposes).

A recent update to the regulation in May 2011 tightened up the rules on cookies in particular. Cookies are the temporary files that a site can leave on your computer to help ‘remember’ you when you next visit the site. There are many different types of cookie ranging from those which contain no other information other than you have (or your computer has) been on the site before, to those that remember particular preferences. The majority will not contain any identifiable sensitive personal information. However, because they have often be deployed without much awareness from the end user, the new directive requires that you are initially asked to explicitly agree (to opt in) to each site that wants to use them when you first visit the site. You must also be provided with a sufficient level of information as to what the cookie will do and what information it holds before you do so.

There are of course those who will break the law either with the intention of committing further crimes such as identity theft and fraud or just to improve their business prospects. Part 2 of this article will look at what technology can help us stay secure.

Real Estate and Property in Thailand – Legal Information For Prospective Property Buyers

Thailand is one of the most exotic and beautiful locations in the world. For this reason, it is one of the top tourist destinations and continues to draw new arrivals each year. Many of those coming to Thailand eventually decide to remain in the country as expatriates. When seeking to relocate to any country, the issue of home ownership becomes a paramount concern. Hopefully this piece will shed light upon some of the many facets of Thai Property Law.

Obtaining Real Estate or Property in Thailand

In order to stay in Thailand for the long term many people opt to buy Thai Real Estate. Owning a home in Thailand can be a bit of a risky enterprise since Thailand has many laws that preclude foreign ownership of land. However, there are some ways in which a non-Thai can own or control Thai property.

Thailand Condos

Condos in Thailand are a popular choice for many expats. Under Thai law a foreigner is allowed to own a Thai Condominium provided the Condo meets certain requirements laid out in the Thailand Condominium Act.

Thai Real Estate Lease

A long term lease of Thai Real Estate is another attractive option to many prospective foreign Property owners in Thailand. However, there is some misunderstanding regarding Thai leases. Many people believe that Thai leases are automatically renewable and they can last for over 30 years, this is simply not the case.

Thailand Usufruct

A usufruct of Thai property is another possibility. This is much like a life estate under the common law system in that a usufruct can grant a person the right to the use of land for life. There are many formalities that must be kept in mind when drafting a usufruct which is why it is advisable to have a lawyer prepare a usufruct.

Thai Company Formation for Property Ownership

Another method of “owning” property in Thailand is having a Thai company own the property and have a disproportionate number of voting shares allotted to the non-Thai property “owner,” this method allows a non-Thai to keep control of the property while still adhering to Thai law.

For interesting insights regarding Thai Real Estate and Property Legal issues please see: http://hubpages.com/hub/Buying-Property-or-Real-Estate-in-Thailand

The legal system of Thailand is complex body of regulations and rules. As with any legal structure used to own real estate, it is wise and recommended that a competent lawyer draft all documents and conduct due diligence research in order to make sure ones interests are fully protected.

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The New Identity Theft Law – Will it Work?

Identity theft is now a pandemic, and a scourge for its victims. Is the federal government finally ready to fight back? The Identity Theft and Restitution Act of 2008 was signed into law by President Bush. The new law is supposed to make it easier for the government to convict those charged with pursuing computerized identity theft. Supporters tout this legislation as allowing federal prosecutors to be more aggressive in cracking down on identity theft cyber crime. But will it work to protect millions of future victims? The new law provides for the following:

1. Discarding the requirement that damage to a victim’s computer exceed $5,000 over a one year period before charges can be asserted for unauthorized access to a computer.

2. Eliminating the interstate jurisdictional requirement, thus allowing prosecution of those who steal personal information from a computer, even when the victim’s computer is located in the same state as the thief’s computer.

3. Allowing victims of identity theft to seek restitution for an amount equal to the value of the time reasonably spent to fix their problems.

4. Adding the charge of a conspiracy to commit cyber crimes. (The prior law only allowed for charges related to the actual crime, and made no provisions for conspiracy to commit the underlying charge.)

5. Adding the remedies of civil and criminal forfeiture to better allow federal prosecutors to combat cyber crime. Individuals found guilty of violating the act can be forced to forfeit both property used in commission of the cyber crime, as well as property obtained from any proceeds gained from the cyber crime.

6. Making it a felony to electronically damage ten or more computers no matter the value of the damage caused.

7. Making it a crime to threaten to steal or release information from an individual’s computer. (Prior law only permitted the prosecution of those who seek to extort companies or government agencies by explicitly threatening to shut down or damage a computer.)

It is intended that the new law will allow federal prosecutors to be much more aggressive in prosecuting identity theft criminals. Elimination of both the $5,000 damage requirement and the interstate jurisdictional requirement should make it easier for prosecutors to bring charges. But will it really help? The federal government has tried to keep up with identity theft for years with few results. If the feds are truly interested in stamping out the pandemic, it is with the enforcement of the laws, and not just new laws, that will turn the tide. Still, there are encouraging signs that a wide ranging effort is being made. The IRS is helping out by allowing in this next year all but the last four digits of taxpayer ID numbers to be blocked out on 1099’s, W-2s, and other informational returns. There is privacy in that move.

Legal Information in a Background Check

Background Checks. Although the word may seem scary, this is not something to be feared. In fact, it’s a normal part of life, and at some point everybody will have a background check done on them. There are a multitude of reasons why a background check could be done reasons varying from a new job, before moving into a new apartment or condominium and more. And although you have no control what appears on the background check report (your history is your past, and there’s very little you can do to change the past), you do have the right to protect your privacy by knowing what is legal and what is not legal information on a background check report.

A background check usually contains a lot of different information. Most of the information is compliant with the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) but sometimes you may find information that seems either out of place or unnecessary. There are people that legally can have all the information, for example, any jobs involving the government, FBI or police. In those cases, the government is allowed to know all information because it is in regards to national safety. In all other cases where the government is not involved, access to that information is denied. An important step to ensuring your privacy is by asking what information is requested on the background check. If the employer or renter (or whomever) gives an unclear answer or disregards the question all together, have them write down exactly what information they are looking for. That way, if something on the background check shows up that was not originally communicated; you are able to take the appropriate steps to clear things up.

Every company has different policies on what information they need. The general standard check can include any or all of the following; felony and misdemeanor arrest and conviction charges, education and professional license verifications, employment checks, social security verifications, sexual offender checks, motor vehicle reports, federal criminal checks, reference checks, civil litigation, OIG database, federal bankruptcy and many others. There is also an industry standard to how long this information can be used for hire. The FCRA also states that a company can go back seven years for hire. Any older information is declared illegal and must be discarded.

If by some off chance you do end up finding information there are steps you can take. The best step is to have a conversation with the other party, and for the most part, any problem that you may have can be solved easily. Furthermore, if the problem still hasn’t been solved, try consulting a lawyer. If the information provided is old and past the seven year scope, there is legal action that can be taken.

When a company or person requires a background check it is important to know your rights regarding your privacy. If you suspect that there is illegal information on your background check report, there actions you can take so that you are protected.