A little more privacy, please

Posted by: Rob Hof on February 17, 2005

I didn’t know much more about ChoicePoint than you until today, but I sure do now. That’s the company that has dossiers on just about all of us, which it sells to companies and government agencies. Now, we learn that crooks have managed to get access to personal data on at least 30,000 Californians, and possibly many others across the country. And the only reason we know about the California problem is because it’s the sole state that requires notification of people whose data has been compromised. That needs to change. …

The problem is not that the data is being compiled. There are some legitimate uses, such as prospective employee background checks. But certainly, there should be better safeguards so that people doing nothing more than posing as legitimate business customers can't steal data such as Social Security numbers and credit reports. Until there are more pervasive laws holding companies such as ChoicePoint responsible for letting us know when there's a problem, however, it's up to us to take steps to safeguard ourselves in what limited way we can. Here's one primer, and there's a wealth of information and links at the Electronic Privacy Information Center. But let's hope that lawmakers take action if the private companies can't be trusted keep their doors locked.

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