Dont Trust Companies to
Protect Your Data"> ChoicePoint doesnt take responsibility for aggregating and propagating filthy data. ChoicePoint says its the data sourcesRMVs, court, etc.that are responsible for the data. If its from the government, it must be good stuff, the thinking goes. Do you trust the government to have the right information on you?Do you trust the government to protect your data from thieves?If you answered yes to either question, youre naive. Back when the Real ID Act was on the brink of passing, I chatted with Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center in Washington. He pointed out that the problem is not that database information cant be encryptedits that the government has proven untrustworthy in doing so. Look at the metric of the FISMAthe Federal Information Security Management Act. Its legislation that mandates that government agencies be graded on their ability to protect data. The Department of Homeland Security has gotten four Fs in a row. If theyre not securing data, do we really want to trust state RMVs? Your information is already in these databases. Do you want it in one or two databases, or 50? Do you want every potentially crummy, unencrypted piece of data to be linked to every other potentially crummy, unencrypted piece of data? I know Im mixing the topics: weve got dirty data, and weve got unencrypted, unprotected data. But both problems wind up with the same result: people getting thrown into jail for other peoples crimes. People getting stopped at the airport because they have Arabic names that look like terrorists. Innocent people being unfairly persecuted. Whats the answer? I wouldnt advise looking to technology to solve the problem. I would go back to the wise stance of paranoia and being a fierce watchdog over who gets your information and what they plan to do with it. To read David Courseys "Anti-Phishing 101" column with tips on protecting personal data, click here. My favorite spot for how-tos in protecting the spread of personal information is Junkbusters. There, youll be told how to get companies to stop renting or sharing your name; how to get off lists sold by companies that profit off your information,that means youll be corresponding withoh, joy!ChoicePoint, et al.; how to browse the Web without leaving a trail of personal information behind you in the form of cookies; and more. Is it easy? Oh, no. Believe me, Ive been through Junkbusters 12-step program for recovering personal data leakers. One little change in address, and presto! Youre back on the list of data leakage. But it is satisfying, deeply satisfying, to get your personal information as expunged as possible from as many of these dirty data buckets as possible, and I highly recommend it. I really like the idea that I hamper the profits of those who broker my personal information with no remuneration to myself, and who do so with casual disregard for propagating garbage. Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest database news, reviews and analysis. Lisa Vaas is Ziff Davis Internets news editor in charge of operations. She is also the editor of eWEEK.coms Database and Business Intelligence topic center. She has been with eWEEK and eWEEK.com since 1995, most recently covering enterprise applications and database technology. She can be reached at email@example.com.