Attorney General George Jepsen Wednesday announced the creation of a task force to investigate Internet privacy and data breaches while educating the public and businesses about data protection, an issue he said his office deals with on a monthly basis.
“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.”
“This is the bold new era of the Jepsen incumbency,” he joked about his first task force.
Jepsen highlighted some success his office already had with the “giants of the industry,” like Facebook and Google. Jepsen contacted officials at Facebook after Rep. Kim Rose, D-Milford, found someone created an impostor profile for her.
He stressed that Facebook acted with “alacrity” and seemed responsive to privacy concerns. Jepsen declined to comment on investigations involving Google, saying Connecticut continues to lead the 42-state investigation of Google’s data collection.
Jepsen’s predecessor, now-U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, launched an investigation last year into Google’s “Street View” project and its collection of data such as email addresses and passwords as the Google cars mapped streets.
“The need for this initiative is well demonstrated,” Jepsen said.
The Privacy Task Force is composed of four attorneys from Jepsen’s staff. Matthew Fitzsimmons of the consumer protection unit will lead the task force, which also includes Lorrie Adeyemi of the finance unit, Stephen Courtney of the health care fraud and whistleblower unit, and Michael Martone, executive policy advisor and counsel.
In addition to high-profile cases with companies like Facebook and Google, Jepsen said his office dealt with almost a dozen other cases since he took office eight months ago, involving the loss of medical and insurance records or personal customer information and the unauthorized collection of personally identifiable information.
“They’re striking in their variety,” he said.
“People are doing mobile banking and shopping on their phones and their laptops and there is just so much personal information out there,” Fitzsimmons said. “A lot of these breaches are somewhat inevitable and impact almost everybody. Now we’re starting to see complaints of larger breaches.”
Jepsen stressed that Internet privacy constitutes new territory for many, making it important that his task force meet with members of the business community to discuss their responsibility in protecting sensitive data and taking action when breaches occur.
“I think it’s more an issue that this is unknown territory and a rapidly evolving and changing technological environment,” he said. “I don’t think anyone five years ago or ten years could have imagined how things have moved as quickly and as far in all these areas, whether it’s financial services or health care or general consumer issues.”
He said the task force will first hold meetings with leaders of the financial, insurance, medical, educational and technology industries.