September 18

The Privacy Meltdown Continues – Take action NOW!

On July 20th, I described the Privacy Meltdown we are all experiencing, and proposed some solutions.  (See http://securitycatalyst.com/2006/07/20/the-privacy-meltdown/)  It would appear that the situation continues to worsen while people throw up their hands and/or blame the U.S. Government.  (See Martin McKeay’s post “McNealy May Have Been Right” at: http://www.computerworld.com/blogs/node/3435). Neither solves the problem. 

Bloggers and others continue to whine about the problem.  They seem to state that the U.S. Government is both the problem and the solution.  Let’s examine both sides more closely.

First, the problem: Many people are paranoid that the government is watching them and invading their privacy.  Let me clue you in to something: if you are a regular U.S. citizen going about your regular day — THE U.S. GOVERNMENT DOESN’T CARE ABOUT YOU! 

Of course they care in that they are trying to protect you.  But they don’t care about your activities as long as you don’t follow the threat patterns of a terrorist.  The U.S. Government as a whole has information about you, but as the 9-11 commission pointed out, government agencies don’t talk to each other.  Even if they did, based on your experience, how do we make sense of all that information?  If we can’t do it, neither can they.  Also, your information is somewhat safe in that it’s not consolidated.  (It’s not safe in that Governments in the U.S. [local, state, & federal] usually lack appropriate security controls; but that’s another post for another day…)  It’s safe in that the U.S. Government won’t use it against you unless you’re breaking the law or acting like a terrorist.  Plus, they need some information about you to determine if you are or are not a risk.  It’s all part of the privacy/security balancing act.  (Check it out on Conservative Cat at http://www.conservativecat.com/mt/archives/2005/12/tell_ben_frankl.html)

I’m not suggesting that the government cannot and should not be doing a better job — the more we focus on the government as the problem, the more we are missing the bigger issue.  Read on.. 

The bigger issue is data aggregators, insurance companies, and other large corporations who quietly violate your privacy every day. Those entities have a lot more to gain from your personal information than the U.S. Government – and we give them a lot less scrutiny! They are the ones with the huge databases full of your information that may or may not be properly protected. When was the last time you asked your insurance company, bank, or data aggregator if they kept your information safe and secure?  Do they even let you see it?  Many of them cannot and will not  answer specific questions about it. Seriously.  Ask the question to them and see what the response is, if they even respond at all.

As I spelled out above and in my earlier post, we are in the midst of a Privacy Meltdown.  It’s no ones fault.  This is the by-product of the Information Age; an age never envisioned by the framers of our constitution.

When the fathers of our great country documented our fundamental rights, they never included a “Right to Privacy.”  That right doesn’t specifically exist in our constitution.  That’s why we have all of the laws today regarding different elements of privacy.  In fact, we have too many point solutions addressing facets of privacy protection.  They all need to go away and be replaced with a constitutional amendment stating our fundamental right to privacy.  If you violate that right, you pay a penalty.  That will never happen.  The large corporations, insurance companies, and data aggregators won’t allow it.  They profit too much from gathering your personal information and violating your privacy.

The solution: WE NEED TO TAKE A STAND AGAINST THOSE BUSINESSES WHO AGGREGATE OUR PERSONAL INFORMATION FOR THEIR OWN GAIN.  WE NEED TO HOLD THEM ACCOUNTABLE FOR THEIR ACTIONS WHEN THEY LOSE OUR DATA.  WE NEED TO SAY NO (or at least ask why) WHEN THEY ASK FOR PERSONAL INFORMATION.

Look at the suggestions from the earlier post.  Let me know if you agree or disagree with these ideas.  Provide feedback.

There’s only one way we’ll solve this problem: By working together, we all become stronger.   


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