I like to think I'm protective of my sensitive personal info. I rip bills and credit card offers into confetti before throwing them out, I never give out my Social Security number, and I can spot a phishing scheme with the best of them. But I've recently come to realize that the safeguarding of my most intimate personal details is completely out of my hands.
This rather foregone epiphany dawned on me recently after I received a letter in the mail from a former employer offering me a year of free credit protection. The gift of an incredibly generous HR department? No. This was my consolation prize for having my Social Security number and street address stolen when some thieves made off with company computers.
Being exposed to the threat of identity theft through the carelessness of a former employer got me thinking: Who else out there has the goods on me, and what say do I have in all of this? The answer, of course, is that my personal information is being collected, stored and used in more places than I care to think about. As for my rights to that info -- well, I have none.
This needs to change.
I don't think I'm blowing anyone's mind when I say that information about all of us is being gathered, aggregated, and analyzed with nearly every step we take, both online and off. I'm not paranoid -- this is a fact of life. Whether it's at the supermarket, passing through a tollbooth, using our cell phones, or checking our email, notes are being taken down about our locations, our habits, our preferences, and our relationships to people, places, and things. That's the price we pay for modern conveniences, and I've accepted the tradeoff. I could fly under the radar by always paying cash, never using a cell phone, staying off the Internet, and having my bills sent to a P.O. box, but I can't be bothered.
In many cases the information being gathered on me makes my life easier -- Amazon.com being the very best example of this. I love my Wish List, I find the recommendations to be fairly accurate (most of the time), and I like that little sidebar that reminds me of the things I've recently viewed.
I'm sure it's the same over at Google, where my extensive history of Web searches -- no matter how freaky -- is directly linked to my name and other information, thanks to my Gmail account. What if I decide one day that I'm done with Google -- can I take that information with me? Can I have my emails deleted from the Google system? Of course not.
Yep, Countrywide Mortgage just informed me that a now-former employee of theirs stoled my identity. They were nice enough to offer free credit monitoring for two years. Oh, and they offered me all sorts of great advice about how NOT to be a victim of identity theft. But they did overlook one important bit of advice- never deal with Countrywide Mortgage.
One failure that exists is to think that any SSN produced is automatically trustworthy.
It is like trusting that a person with a key has legal right to access without verifying the real identity of the person.
A SSN is just a key that can help when trying to verify a persons identity. It should never be used in itself as authentication.
This is where most businesses fails - thinking that a series of numbers and letter by themselves is good enough to verify a persons identity.
Excellent article! I agree on all points. We should have the right in this day and age to have our data removed upon request if we terminate a relationship with a business. I doubt this will ever happen though. Much like you, I choose to not worry about my private information being shared.
You articulated this point very well: "Whether it's at the supermarket, passing through a tollbooth, using our cell phones, or checking our email, notes are being taken down about our locations, our habits, our preferences, and our relationships to people, places, and things." (Quote by article author, Tom Conlon.)
Because they take the information without our consent or permission, use it in many humiliating and harmful ways to our continued detriment, I refer to this practice as "data rape". Fortunately, with credit freeze laws in place we can stop the pain as far as our credit reports are concerned, but nothing is stopping anyone else from aggregating data about us. Hopefully that will change soon.
look for site that have been verified with encryption techniques, like ssl 2.0,ssl 3.0, comodo,etc... before you type in anything even remotely personal
While we all wish big companies could keep a handle on our information, we must remember that these companies are made up of regular people just like you and me. As identity theft becomes more of an issue, credit monitors will play an increasing role in assuring your personal information is kept safe. Regards, www.creditloan.com
the problem with the opt out form is you end up giving them info without knowing for certain they have any info you may just be giving them info or connecting fragments of info for them i have done this before with spam and only managed to double my spam man was i stupid back then