Digital Information Rights Need Tech-Savvy Courts
Opinion: The courts need to recognize that in the information age, virtual privacy and physical privacy don't have the same boundaries.For at least seven months last year, a hacker had access to T-Mobiles customer network. He is known to have accessed information belonging to 400 customersnames, Social Security numbers, voice mail messages, SMS messages, photosand probably had the ability to access data belonging to any of T-Mobiles 16.3 million U.S. customers. But in its fervor to report on the security of cell phones, and T-Mobile in particular, the media missed the most important point of the story: The security of much of our data is not under our control. This is new. A dozen years ago, if someone wanted to look through your mail, they would have had to break into your house. Now they can just break into your ISP. Ten years ago, your voice mail was on an answering machine in your house; now its on a computer owned by a telephone company. Your financial data is on Web sites protected only by passwords. The list of books you browse, and the books you buy, is stored in the computers of some online bookseller. Your affinity card allows your supermarket to know what food you like. Data that used to be under your direct control is now controlled by others.
We have no choice but to trust these companies with our privacy, even though the companies have little incentive to protect that privacy. T-Mobile suffered some bad press for its lousy security, nothing more. Itll spend some money improving its security, but itll be security designed to protect its reputation from bad PR, not security designed to protect the privacy of its customers.