Friday, August 29, 2008

"Because the computer said so."

In the last couple of posts I made reference to the Data-Based You graphic on this blog. This wasn't my invention but rather a friend and colleague, Mr. john Gardner, a trial lawyer and author from South Carolina. John has an uncanny ability to grasp the big picture often when a lot of us are struggling with the information in front of us.

In the Data-Based You John shows by way of a simple graphic that the world sees all of us as a series of reports and scores. No matter how we dress, change our hair color, try to distinguish ourselves in any number of ways, we are judged, thats' right judged by our data when we deal with the world at large.

  • Want a loan? Credit history.
  • Rent an apartment? Credit score.
  • Get on an airplane? TSA checks your drivers' license against federal watchlists and for warrants.
  • Open a new bank account or purchase a car? Credit reports, SSA, IRS. Your records are compared to those and other databases for inconsistancies.
  • Get some health insurance? MIB, doctor health records.
  • Home, income loss, medical, or auto insurance claims? C.L.U.E. MIB, etc.
  • Want a new job? How about the credit bureaus, your credit score, social networking sites, college records, criminal records, and more. You say you don't have a criminal record? Prove it.

    That's just a sketch. The reality is that no matter what we do our records are checked to verify and to validate what we say and claim to be. We all rely on the record keepers to not let the information they have fall into the wrong hands. Let someone get hold of your info and commit crimes. They give your identifying info to the police and your records are altered. If you think it is easy to correct that, I hope you're sitting down. Often it takes 5 to 10 years to correct criminal record mistakes, sometimes never. What does the victim do in the meantime? Getting or maintaining a good job is not going to be easy. There are literally thousands of cases where wrongful criminal activity is tied to completely innocent people who were victims of identity theft. When the computer says you're guilty try explaining that to authorities. You can't limit a discussion on identity theft to illegal credit card use and credit reports. When personal records are altered by identity theft it can actually require an act of Congress to correct them. Refer to the bottom of this blog page for the Data-Based You graphic.

    The Data-Based You shows us a window into how we are percieved, real or not.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

More data breaches so far than in all '07

Wednesday, August 27, 2008 (SF Chronicle)
article by; Brian Krebs, Washington Post

In a previous post titled "Where does all that stolen information come from?" I wrote that data breaches are on the rise. In spite of the federal regulations and state laws enacted over the last 5 years data breach is on a steep rise. And it should be no surprize that the reported cases of identity theft in all its many forms is also increasing.

According to the article, More data breaches so far than in all '07 "The Identity Theft Resource Center of San Diego found that 449 U.S. businesses, government agencies and universities have reported a loss or theft of consumer data this year. Last year, the center tallied 446 breaches involving 127 million consumer records. About 90 million of those records were attributed to a single retail chain, TJX, which operates T.J. Maxx, Marshalls and HomeGoods stores.

It is unclear how accurate a gauge these numbers are "Officials said they do not know whether there have been more breaches this year or there is better reporting of the incidents.

What is not in dispute is the inescapable fact that the frequency of these events has been increasing for the past several years.

Again, back to the article "So far this year, at least 22 million consumer records have been the
target of data breaches, according to the report. But resource center founder Linda Foley cautioned that the true number of records affected is probably far higher, noting that in 41 percent of the cases, the number of consumer records affected was not disclosed. What's more, Foley said, many businesses are not reporting data breaches or are not aware of them.
In addition, she said, a single breach report often involves data belonging to multiple businesses."

In order for me to make my case for lowering data value it is important to establish certain facts.
So far we have established that;

  • Every statistic and bit of information about us is in databases.
  • Wherever data is held there is a significant risk of loss or theft that can and often does result in identity theft.
  • There are over 10 million domestic victims of identity theft per year.
  • Identity theft complaints that relate to our credit card and banking accounts comprise only about 30% of all identity theft cases. The other 70% involves our Social Security, drivers license, medical, criminal, and other records.
  • In everything we do from seeking employment, loans, insurance, renting or buying a home, our very freedom, etc., our database information plays a huge role in determining the outcome. Often we are seen by others as a sum of our reports and records.
  • The incidents of data theft are increasing steadily each year, with no end in sight.