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Briefs (right)

Increased Data Theft Spurs Hunt
For Security Measures

By Tom Zeller Jr.

It has been a bad year for data security.

The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, a consumer advocacy group in San Diego, has counted 80 data breaches since February, involving the personal information of more than 50 million people. The sensitive data — names, Social Security and credit card numbers, dates of birth, home addresses, and the like — have either been lost by or stolen from companies and institutions that compile such data.

In February, ChoicePoint, the big data broker, raised public awareness of the problem when it announced that thieves had fraudulently obtained information on 145,000 consumers. In August, even the U.S. Air Force reported a data breach — a hacker may have gained access to a military management database and personal information on 33,000 officers.

In response, more than a dozen bills have been introduced in Congress this year.

Companies that compile, trade, and store consumer data, while largely resigned to the idea that new legislation will hold them to a higher standard for security, want to minimize the impact of any new law, maximize their discretion when it comes to notifying consumers of breaches and limit their liability when they do spring leaks.

A bill introduced by Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., for instance, simply requires businesses to improve security on the data they carry and to notify consumers only if there is a “significant risk of identity theft.”

Gut Gain Found Not to Be
A Result of HIV Drugs

By David Tuller


The new class of drugs called protease inhibitors revolutionized the care of HIV patients in 1996.

But many people who took the drugs began to lose fat tissue in their cheeks, arms, legs and buttocks. Many also developed a paunch — nicknamed “Crix belly” after Crixivan, one protease inhibitor — and they gained weight in their upper trunks.

The weight loss and weight gain, known respectively as peripheral lipoatrophy and central lipohypertrophy, were generally treated as a single phenomenon involving the redistribution of body fat.

Some patients refused the new drugs because they worried that this syndrome, called lipodystrophy, would mark them as having HIV or AIDS.

But growing a big belly is not part of any such syndrome, according to a new study of HIV-infected men. The study, published recently in The Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, found that any weight gain in people who took the drugs was associated with age, not with HIV or protease inhibitors.