Slashdot is powered by your submissions, so send in your scoop

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Check out the new SourceForge HTML5 internet speed test! No Flash necessary and runs on all devices. ×

The Death of Privacy 304

Debra D'Agostino writes, "Why don't companies care about privacy? Because there's not enough money to be made from securing sensitive customer information, says Jeff Rothfeder in an article posted recently at CIO Insight. Furthermore, there's not enough money to be lost in privacy breaches for companies to care. 'Most companies claim that privacy is a priority — chiefly because they believe consumers are more willing to do repeat business with them if personal information is carefully handled,' he writes. 'But in reality, many companies are woefully inept at protecting privacy.'"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

The Death of Privacy

Comments Filter:
  • by PakProtector ( 115173 ) <cevkivNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Thursday September 07, 2006 @11:14AM (#16059448) Journal

    as if millions of voices suddenly cried out 'DUH!' and were suddenly modded down.

  • by voice_of_all_reason ( 926702 ) on Thursday September 07, 2006 @11:15AM (#16059455)
    Our economic system is based on the idea of "profit at all costs." I mean, isn't this what we wanted and fought the cold war for?
    • by HateBreeder ( 656491 ) on Thursday September 07, 2006 @11:24AM (#16059526)
      "at all costs" ... within the boundaries of the law.

      Coming from a country where most of the major infrastructure (electricity, telephone, water... etc) is owned by the goverment,
      I can tell you one thing for certain - Capitalism is an increadible proccess optimizer. A competitive market's benifits overcome it's limitations by several orders of a magnitude.

      If that's what you fought the cold war for ... then it was worth every effort.
      • by rolfwind ( 528248 ) on Thursday September 07, 2006 @11:47AM (#16059697)
        Privacy shouldn't be such a concern with most businesses one deals with (exceptions such as the doctor and ATT should but don't always apply) because you would have the option of telling them nothing and therefore they couldn't sell it (it always astounds me how much info people give out @ radio shack's checkout - i tell them to fuck off unless they want to lose a sale) except that they demand and verify information based on numbers (SSN primarily) that were never designed for such a purposes to do certain transactions.

        The EU has much better privacy laws in this regard and it is correct to impose this if I as a consumer have no choice in what info I have to give out to even get service.

        It disturbs me on how much damage that can be done to someone simply by knowing their SSN and a few pieces of publicly verifiable data.
        • it always astounds me how much info people give out @ radio shack's checkout - i tell them to fuck off unless they want to lose a sale

          Yeap, Rad Shack is so inquisitive. When I buy something there, which isn't often, and they start asking all those questions I just say they don't need it. I won't join or get a membership in any of the video rental places like Blockbuster because they want to do a credit check. They don't need that, all they need is to know you can pay.

          Falcon
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Frymaster ( 171343 )
            When I buy something there, which isn't often, and they start asking all those questions I just say they don't need it.

            at a local retailer, the policy is that there is a reduced price for people who pony up all the personal info. usually it's about 2% or less. and the staff are pushy about it!

            my response is to pull a $1.25 (or whatever the discount they're offering me is) and ask the cashier if s/he will give me their home phone number and address for the money in my hand. when they reply 'no' i say 'we

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by Thansal ( 999464 )
          In deffense of RS (god I hate having to do this), SSN is only asked for times when a credit check is required (opening a store credit card or starting a cellphone contract).

          At a standard sale the most you will be asked for is zip (and only if the associate is a good one and doesn't just clear the screen like most do).

          Returns/service plans(yes, I know, garbage)/instalations/etc do require name/addy, and the only one where there is a question about giving it out is for returns, and for that? you will find mor
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        Except that there is really no competition in infrastructure, government or privately-owned. There can only be one set of roads, one power network, one telephone network. I would rather entrust these to a government with citizens in which to answer than a corporation with shareholders.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by 1u3hr ( 530656 )
        A competitive market's benifits overcome it's limitations by several orders of a magnitude.

        Except for things like health care, education, police, fire protection, transport infrastructure. Leave them up to a "competitive market" and you get a healthy, educated aristocracy living in fear of a mass of peons. Uncontrolled capitalism is worse than inefficient socialism.

        • He's telling you different from personal experience. You have the personal experience with an ineffective socialist system? PS. We don't have uncontrolled capitalism.
          • by 1u3hr ( 530656 )
            We don't have uncontrolled capitalism.

            Did I say we did? But some (as the post I was replying to) seem to advocate going that way.

      • by symbolic ( 11752 ) on Thursday September 07, 2006 @12:04PM (#16059890)
        Capitalism is an increadible proccess optimizer. A competitive market's benifits overcome it's limitations by several orders of a magnitude.

        This is true only when competition allowed to occur. The standard m.o. seems to be that existng monopolies do whatever they can to raise the barrier of entry for competing entities - either through protectionist legislation or other means. The latest blight on this landscape exists in the form of software patents, but there are others - for instance, the extension of the copyright.
        • by zotz ( 3951 )
          "The latest blight on this landscape exists in the form of software patents, but there are others - for instance, the extension of the copyright."

          Ah, but when you have patents or copyrights, you have, by definition, government intervention in the markets, specifically, the granting of monopolies on certain things, and not free markets at all. Can't the free market find a better solution to the problem than these government granted monopolies?

          all the best,

          drew
          (da idea man)
      • by Travoltus ( 110240 ) on Thursday September 07, 2006 @12:17PM (#16059982) Journal
        Capitalism really peaked in the 1960s when respect for the middle/working class - the center of any free market economy - was at its zenith.

        Since then, we've been on a long descent into crony capitalism in which corporations receive billions of dollars in welfare / bankruptcy bailouts while single parents are demonized as the destruction of society. Corporation lobbyist dollars and campaign contributions now trump votes and letters/calls from regular citizens. Corporations pollute our waters and air and aren't held liable to the people they make sick or even kill. Corporations buy politicians and laws at will, and they're getting more and more efficient at brushing aside the will of the majority.

        In America, the rich are now glorified and the poor are demonized. This is absolutely positively a direct contradiction to America's much vaunted "Judeo Christian" values.

        There is no God any more in the eyes of corporate America... only money.

        Corporations trade your personal information and the free trade of your private information is essential to their bottom line, even more surely than free mp3's are desired by the common terrori^H^H^H^H^H^H^Hmp3 pirate. If corporations - specifically marketers - could have it their way, all your transactions and whereabouts would be public information.

        The old evil empire was communism, which sacrificed individuals to the state.

        Capitalism fails miserably when it crosses the "profits over people" line, as it sacrifices the individual to the corporation.

        What saves the Western world is DEMOCRACY, far more than capitalism. And when DEMOCRACY is threatened, as it is being threatened by the corporate state right now, neither capitalism nor communism can save you.
        • The way democracy is going at the moment I think were all going to need saving.
        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by phorest ( 877315 ) *

          In America, the rich are now glorified and the poor are demonized. This is absolutely positively a direct contradiction to America's much vaunted "Judeo Christian" values.

          If the poor were glorified, the rich would then be respectable? Just asking...

          • Who said anything about glorifying the poor? I don't want to GLORIFY the poor. Not treating them blanketly like evil scumbags is not the same thing as glorifying.
      • by Irvu ( 248207 ) on Thursday September 07, 2006 @12:27PM (#16060070)
        The benefits outwigh the costs only in some cases. To take your comments about process optimization and basic infrastructure you have to consider the costs of privatized infrastructure. Here in the U.S. private companies (varying from state to state) control more or less of the infrastructure. In California almost all of the power infrastructure is in private hands. Those hands recently determined that it was more cost-effective to shut down power stations rather than run them. This was effective because the resulting scarcity of power caused the price of all other killowat hours to go up.

        The practical upshot of this was that companies such as Enron were able to stop spending money on some power plants and reap a much higher profit off of the others. For the consumers this meant that even as they faced surging utility bills (as much as 300% increases) they also were forced to deal with "rolling blackouts". The Government of California meanwhile felt its hands were tied and could do nothing to ensure that power was available to its citizens and thus that the essential infrastructure of the economy was running.

        Incidentally all of this occurred just before a nasty recall election that booted the governor and brought the Gubernator into office, in part on the grounds that he would do better on the economy.

        Just to forestall the obvious comments out the free market consider the cost of competition. If we are to presume that such excesses as I have described above will be checked by the action of the free market we face two problems.

        Firstly the cost of getting into competition is extreme. Nuclear power plants don't grow on trees and neither do millions of miles of electrical lines. Infrastructural utilities are, in many ways, immune to competition because of the immense cost of investement and the infeasability of running multiple parallel infrastructure. Picture having multiple distinct road systems, power lines, sewers, or water systems. Picture the difficulty of switching from one system to another. Simple physical space and cost limitations make that infeasible.

        Secondly, it was the free market that made that gouging possible. By having a free market on KwH pricing and opening up all aspects to competition and thus making the little intentional blackout scheme profitable.

        To put it another way, do you want to pay the "market rate" for garbage removal?
        Or, What security do you have when your elected officials can't guarantee the flow of water?
        • Your entire argument presumes no such faults in a communist or socialist system. Looking at the Soviet Union, France, Italy and other examples, I'd say you are incorrect. We still have the better system.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Irvu ( 248207 )
            I never claimed that Communism or Socialism had no such faults. Nor, if you look at my argument was I even claiming this for all of Capitalism. Capitalism as a principle falls down in many ways. That is why we don't have a "pure" capitalist society. The question is not the arbitrary ideal of capitalism any more than socialism or communism (neither of which have been run in pure form at a state level either). The question is where capitalism makes sense and where it does not. In this case, delivery of
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by danielaborg ( 993409 )
        "at all costs" ... within the boundaries of the law.
        In theory. In practice it's more like "at all costs unless you might get caught".
    • by Snarfangel ( 203258 ) on Thursday September 07, 2006 @11:36AM (#16059618) Homepage
      Our economic system is based on the idea of "profit at all costs." I mean, isn't this what we wanted and fought the cold war for?

      That's because companies are able to externalize costs, meaning that the cost is paid by others. The trick is to make them internalize costs, via legislation if necessary -- if I suffer losses because they don't protect my info, they should pay the entire cost for my time, money, and inconvenience.
      • by TopShelf ( 92521 )
        We already have a mechanism for this, it's called the civil suit. If you suffer losses because of sloppy data handling by a company, sue their a$$. That's how the system works.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by spun ( 1352 )
          Unfortunately, this kind of lawsuit costs money. And most reputable lawyers would never take such a case on commision. If it happened to enough people, they might work on a class action suit. And you would end up getting $5 as recompense for the thousands you lost, while the lawyers walked away with millions. In your ideal system, it seems, only the rich would be able to afford justice. Is this really what you want?
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        That's because companies are able to externalize costs, meaning that the cost is paid by others. The trick is to make them internalize costs, via legislation if necessary -- if I suffer losses because they don't protect my info, they should pay the entire cost for my time, money, and inconvenience.

        This would work for plenty of corporate-caused ills today, e.g., pollution. For anyone who complains that this is "socialism", remember: companies are effectively socializing the risks and costs of doing busine

    • by Kaa ( 21510 )
      Our economic system is based on the idea of "profit at all costs." I mean, isn't this what we wanted and fought the cold war for?

      Um, no. Our economic system is based on the idea of economic freedom -- which does include the freedom for people and organisations to pursue "profit at all costs" (as long as it's within the law).

      The alternative is government bureacrats deciding what the economy should do and -- how shall I put it politely? -- the historic record of such guidance isn't stellar.
  • well, duh (Score:5, Insightful)

    by oohshiny ( 998054 ) on Thursday September 07, 2006 @11:16AM (#16059464)
    Why don't companies care about privacy? Because there's not enough money to be made from securing sensitive customer information, says Jeff Rothfeder

    Well, duh. Does he have any other brilliant insights? Like that there's not enough money to be made from decent working conditions, proper financial disclosures, or from protecting the environment?

    That's why we have laws and penalties. What we need is stiffer penalties for privacy violations by companies. And, unlike child pornographers and murderers, who tend to be insensitive to the potential penalties, companies really do respond to penalties that hurt the bottom line.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      That's why we have laws and penalties. What we need is stiffer penalties for privacy violations by companies.

      Are they really violations? It sounds like this one company just didn't think their cunning plan all the way through. Don't most of them now have a clause that allows them to modify the privacy policy at will without informing the customers, and that continued use of the service is a de facto acceptance of the new terms?
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by oohshiny ( 998054 )
        Are they really violations?

        They are violations of privacy. They may not yet be a violation of privacy laws, but hopefully we can change that.
    • Re:well, duh (Score:4, Insightful)

      by compro01 ( 777531 ) on Thursday September 07, 2006 @11:23AM (#16059520)
      That's why we have laws and penalties. What we need is stiffer penalties for privacy violations by companies. And, unlike child pornographers and murderers, who tend to be insensitive to the potential penalties, companies really do respond to penalties that hurt the bottom line.

      and why exactly whould the government (willingly) create laws against that when they can make such handy use of the corperate data collection?

      and since the vast majority of the people simply don't seem to care, the government won't be force to create/enforce such laws.
    • Normally I'm not a fan of government intervention, but it sometimes is necessary. This is probably one of those times, where a reasonable law with stiff penalties could help.

      But there are two problems I can see with this approach.

      First, it would likely be years before the courts sorted out the lawsuits and we would know whether the law would really have any teeth.

      Second, given our government's track record WRT respecting privacy the last century, do they really care, and can we trust them?

      And this all assu
      • by AK Marc ( 707885 )
        First, it would likely be years before the courts sorted out the lawsuits and we would know whether the law would really have any teeth.

        And which corporation would want to be the first to fight it? That alone would cost a significant chunk of change, so it would be a deterrent.

        Second, given our government's track record WRT respecting privacy the last century, do they really care, and can we trust them?

        Are you saying they'd make a law that said "You can't have breaches unless you give all your inform
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          Corporations aren't citizens. Corporations have no rights. Corporations are constructs of the government that exist at the whims of the government.

          Maybe this is why you don't care about unreasonable laws... because this statement is completely untrue.

          Corporations have all the rights of an individual, except that they're completely immune from prosecution (the company can continue to exist and do business; only its officers can be criminally charged.. but not civilly, as the corporation shields them from t

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by cptgrudge ( 177113 )

      And, unlike child pornographers and murderers, who tend to be insensitive to the potential penalties, companies really do respond to penalties that hurt the bottom line.

      Exactly. We need a few rounds of truly hard-core lawsuits to smack these companies into line.

      It isn't like your info can just be used once. It's permanent damaage that has been done. Do you get a new SSN? No. Do you get a new mother's maiden name? No. A new birth date? Obviously not. Credit cards and bank accounts can be close

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by vertinox ( 846076 )
      That's why we have laws and penalties. What we need is stiffer penalties for privacy violations by companies.

      Unfortunately, because of corporate charters, most companies can do things that would land an individual person in jail for a very long time.

      If an individual did the same thing as the Sony Rootkit, he would be faced with hard jail time.

      Where as Sony just got a slap on the wrist and no one... Not a single developer, intern, manager, or CEO went to jail or even were placed in court.

      We need a better sys
  • by HateBreeder ( 656491 ) on Thursday September 07, 2006 @11:16AM (#16059468)
    ... So why should corportations?

    Most Consumers, barely consider privacy implications when purchasing software or signing up for services.
    Most Consumers, will easily hand out their personal information when signing up to a service, as long as it does a good job at providing it.

    See for instance, GMail.
    A privacy nightmare, yet it's a damn good web-mail service.
    Most people won't bother with privacy. period. ... Do You own a GMail account?
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by compro01 ( 777531 )
      Do You own a GMail account?

      yes, but it has barely any real personal info. the extent of the real stuff is the province i live in. they try looking up any of the other stuff, and they'll be chasing a spectre.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Stradenko ( 160417 )
        Province, your name (maybe) and any personal data that you've ever transmitted by email through gmail. Google's business is finding needles in haystacks.

        That said, I like gmail, and for some reason...I blindly trust google to not screw up too bad.
      • by gstoddart ( 321705 ) on Thursday September 07, 2006 @11:42AM (#16059659) Homepage
        yes, but it has barely any real personal info. the extent of the real stuff is the province i live in. they try looking up any of the other stuff, and they'll be chasing a spectre.

        I guess it depends on what you're sending in e-mail.

        In a lot of my e-mail threads, it is sometimes eerie to see the targeted ads which are coming up. Some of them are just way off the mark, and it's not clear why there are there. But many of them seem to cut through the chaff and actually figure out what the e-mail conversation is about.

        That can be a little un-nerving, but on balance I still use my gmail accounts for quite a few things.

        Cheers
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Deviant Q ( 801293 )
          I am of course not 100 % sure, but I am fairly confident Google simply finds and displays those ads in real time. It isn't building an "ad profile" to show you based on your email; the only data that's processed is the current screen.

          I kind of envision it as a script that grabs all the nouns, sends them with an XMLHttpRequest to some server code, and gets back ads in an iframe. But I definitely haven't poked around.
    • Most Consumers, barely consider privacy implications when purchasing software or signing up for services.

      I wonder how much of the "voluntarily" provided customer info consists of the following: Fu H. Kew 44 Noe Street Ware, MA 02666 e-mail: spammers@must.die.com

    • by ElleyKitten ( 715519 ) <kittensunrise@Nospam.gmail.com> on Thursday September 07, 2006 @11:26AM (#16059542) Journal
      GMail isn't any more of a privacy mess than any other webmail, they're just a little more obvious about it. Anytime you have your mail saved on someone else's server, they can do anything they want to it, and you just won't know. So GMail has some bots looking for keywords for ads. You know that. Do you know if Hotmail or Yahoo have bots looking at your emails? Or if their security is tight enough that random employees aren't reading random emails?
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        Do you know if Hotmail or Yahoo have bots looking at your emails?

        Considering the aforementioned webmail services also provide automatic spam filtering, I'd say they certainly do. A computer program scanning your email for keywords is a computer program scanning your email for keywords - whether the purpose be delivering targetted advertising to you or deciding if said email is spam or not makes no difference. I don't see why everyone thinks privacy is so much worse with gmail. It's not. It's equally bad

      • by MooUK ( 905450 )
        That's part of why I trust google/gmail more. They flat-out tell you they use your info.
      • by RAMMS+EIN ( 578166 ) on Thursday September 07, 2006 @12:07PM (#16059907) Homepage Journal
        And while we're on the topic of email and privacy, are people aware that SMTP and POP3 and IMAP all transmit messages in the clear, and POP3 and IMAP will do the same for your password? Email has so many problems that sometimes, I wonder why we're still using it.
    • by Qzukk ( 229616 )
      barely consider privacy implications when purchasing software or signing up for services.

      Sounds like an education problem to me. Maybe it's time to call for more "truth in labelling" laws, any company that collects such information from a consumer must put a label on all of their forms: "We do not guarantee that the information you provide will remain secret. The surgeon general has determined that the release of this information may lead to ruined credit, stolen houses, and terrorists using your name on
      • by cp.tar ( 871488 )
        Sounds like an education problem to me.

        Yes... but AFAIK not many, say, highschools in the world teach their students proper netiquette, let alone protecting their privacy. And it should be taught in schools, as it is almost as important as literacy, and way more immediately important than much of the stuff learned there.

    • Sure I do.

      But I take care to only use it for things I don't deem too important.
      The fact I'm just a student makes it even easier; talking about exams, DND and insider jokes, along with correspondence with certain teachers just isn't all too important for me to bother with encryption or whatever.

      And, of course, I have an alternate account or two for certain other matters. Those contain no personal information whatsoever.

      Poor security, but still... sufficient.

  • There's no money in it because consumers don't care. But apparently there is money in writing columns discussing stuff that most people don't really care about.
  • Ob. Scott McNealy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by thatguywhoiam ( 524290 ) on Thursday September 07, 2006 @11:20AM (#16059499)
    "You have no privacy. Get over it."

    While I think he's right about the privacy part, I have no intention of getting over it, now or ever.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Unfortunately the only way to keep something private is not disclose the information and that isn't practical because it's required for certain things (bank accounts and medical treatment). The only way to deal with the sale of your personal information is to completely devalue it by making it all public. That's the nail in the coffin for the so-called information economy and a major setback to a facist new world order. No, I'm not telling you where I buy my tinfoil.
  • If a company screws up with your data, you should be able to sue them. Period. Once you do that, companies will start being more careful.
    • This is the right thinking. The reason is not because there is no return for the company for securing the data, but that there is no repercussions for not securing it. While I don't think allowing a lawsuit would resolve the problem I do think a stiff monetary fine would. Something like $100.00 per person for exposing data in an insecure method. This could easily be passed in a bill/law under negligent handling of person data.
  • The author needs to realize that it is not the companies responsibility to protect you from being harmed by an identity theft.

    The company only protects information from the consumer that protects their assets.

    If the author really wants privacy then he will have to pay a lot more than what he is currently paying for certain services. A lot of service companies sell certain types of information to other companies for profit so that way their consumer won't have to pay a higher fee.

    If people keep wanting to bu
    • by MooUK ( 905450 )
      Correction: they sell your info to make more profit. If making more profit involves lower fees so more people use their service (and therefore more income from selling your info), then that's what they'll do. But in almost every single case, lower fees for customers is definitely NOT the intended result.
    • It's sorta funny seeing all the "having any responsibility/regulations/protection/etc would KILL the economy, cause huge costs for the consumers, bla, bla, bla" scare theories coming from the USA, because for most of them can easily be disproved by just casting your eyes over the Atlantic.

      Privacy laws? Check. Companies around here have to be responsible with user data and are explicitly forbidden from selling it around. Guess what? It didn't really cause much of an economic impact. Chances are I can get a c
      • Real social security and employee/union rights? Check. Nope, it _didn't_ bankrupt the economy, it _didn't_ push whole countries into corruption and poverty, and it _didn't_ cause half the country to give up work and mooch off social security.

        While the European laws making it harder for employers to fire employees may not of harmed those employers they do make it harder for someone to start their own business if they need to hire one or mor eemployees. Say I want to start a restaurant and I need to hire

        • I live in Germany and there are lots of new business being started each year. Some companies are created, some go bankrupt, same as in the USA, and looking at the numbers (including unemployment levels), I can't really notice any evidence that the sistem down here works any worse. I keep hearing about those kinds of theoretical problems, but they're invariably either (A) based on false assumptions, or (B) not like that in practice.

          E.g., let me assure you that you _can_ fire people. I don't know what America
  • Would it cost too much extra computing power to have end-to-end encryption for electronic data? I'm talking about even to the point of encrypted communication between devices in the computer. Of course we still have the analog output holes, but at least this would address outside hacking.
  • Meh (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 07, 2006 @11:23AM (#16059518)
    They're not inept in the least. In a marketplace like ours where "competition" often means that you have a couple of choices in an oligarchy, if you're lucky, there's no reason to satisfy customer demands.

    Consider this particular case: I used to work at a company that had a very large call center staffed. The call center, from the business perspective, was a cost liability only. It provided no income.

    One might argue that it's job is the maintain income by satisfying customers, but as it turned out our customer turnover and return rate was so high that it actually benefited us to ABUSE customers to make them get off the phone. Simple economics showed that it cost us more to help people than to chase them away, so, with the exception of a handful of particularly loyal buyers, we did just that. We enacted policies that basically encouraged our "service" reps to force people off the phone as fast as possible (either service them in under two and half minutes, or lose your job). We didn't staff the call center that well because if you don't show the abandonment numbers, you can make yourself look really good by pointing out how fast you handled the actual calls that come through. And if someone gets angry enough to cancel, just do it and don't worry about it, because three other suckers will be attracted by the low price "deals" to replace him.

    Until consumers wise up and stop chasing bargains to whatever poor quality store has them and starts demanding a return of actual service and respect, they're not going to get any of their demands met and they're not going to get any respect. Simple matter of economics: it costs them less to abuse consumers because nobody cares about the overall product, including service, they just think "value" starts and stops at "lowest price".

    Consumers get the level of service, privacy, etc. they pay for, and since all they care about is how little they pay, that's how little of each of those things they get.
    • ``Until consumers wise up and stop chasing bargains to whatever poor quality store has them and starts demanding a return of actual service and respect...''

      This is why customer reviews are such a great idea. Before you sign up with any service, STFW for what people who've tried the service are saying. If it's a nightmare, signing up with it is one mistake you don't have to make anymore.
    • Frankly, I think that's not true. Provide the company name so we can check that the leave-and-return rate justified shoving customers out the door. I can't think of one example where this would work. Humor me.
  • Easy Solution (Score:4, Interesting)

    by jackhererUK ( 992339 ) on Thursday September 07, 2006 @11:30AM (#16059579)
    With the Data Protection Act here in the UK and similar laws throughout the EU, companies are legally obliged to keep personally identifiable information confidential and if they do not they can be prosecuted. Implement that in the US, there's your answer.
    • It's one thing to have laws in place, but quite another to have them enforced. How do you trace where leaked information came from? If you find that a lot of companies are leaking information like there's no tomorrow, do you fine them all out of existence? If you don't, how will the law force companies to care?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by RexRhino ( 769423 )
      I don't mean to offend anyone with blasphemous statements against your religion (Government Worship)... But laws don't solve problems.

      To give an example everyone has heard of, take prohibition in the 1920s. The U.S. government banned alcoholic beverages... but since there still existed a huge demand for alcoholic beverages, and since there was an huge financial incentive to provide those beverages, it created an entire underground economy. Not only did alcohol consumption grow, but the ill effects were a lo
  • Not surprising (Score:3, Insightful)

    by paladinwannabe2 ( 889776 ) on Thursday September 07, 2006 @11:32AM (#16059592)
    Claiming to have a privacy policy increases business (and profits) while actually respecting privacy is expensive (especially when you consider how much personal information can be worth). Because of this, most companies will share their data with "Business Partners"- and if you share your data with 10 other companies, odds are they won't all have privacy standards as high as you.

    Another problem mentioned in the article is when a company goes out of business, they no longer have any financial incentive to keep your records private- it's not like they will lose your business if you find out. While this is illegal (now) if it violates their privacy policy, there can still be strong financial incentives to sell personal data.

    Of course, what the article doesn't mention is that many web companies have "privacy policies" that bascially say "anything you tell us may be used against you- we have the right to sell or reveal your personal information in any way we feel like". Once you give information to them, everyone can find out about it.
  • by SeanMon ( 929653 ) on Thursday September 07, 2006 @11:33AM (#16059600) Homepage Journal
    NOOOOOOOOOO...

    oh. Death of privacy. Nevermind, no big deal.
  • "information" age (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Ajehals ( 947354 ) <a.halsall@pirateparty.org.uk> on Thursday September 07, 2006 @11:36AM (#16059621) Homepage Journal
    We apparently live in an "information" age, and as such information is power and/or profit depending on your aims.

    This article states the obvious, if you pass your data on to a company for the purpose of say making a transaction they are going to try and hold on to that data, because it has additional value.

    The fact is that information about people, is worth a lot of money, not so much names, postal and email addresses (although it has some in a certain context) but data that includes demographic information or any other information that can be used to deduce trends or intentions, (like age, sex, income, health information, credit and spending history, even complaints).

    Without a rigorous and enforceable framework to regulate the use and transfer of this information it is going to be used in whatever manner ensures maximum profit for the company, be that keeping the data secret and using it in house to "add value" and so that you continue to trade with them or spreading it far and wide to generate some cash quickly.

    What is needed are real penalties for intentional and accidental information disclosures, after all if data has a value and its yours then surely you are entitled to be reimbursed if it is compromised, but that will probably never happen, especially given the complexity of identifying the leaks.

    In addition the line FTA: "...offering these records to the highest bidder, despite an online privacy policy that explicitly stated the company would never share customer data with any third party" proves the point that regardless of what an online or other privacy policy might state it is just that, a policy, usually subject to change, and more over not a guarantee to the customer (unless it is described as such and you don't see that all that often)

    As an example, I recently started getting a huge amount of junk mail (the old kind that comes through the letter box) mainly offering credit cards and other credit facilities, it was badly targeted (offering products aimed at people with bad debt, corporate entities, people with good credit, and people over 60).

    I managed to speak to 4 of the more prominent companies (international banks) and a smaller number of the smaller firms to ascertain the original source of the data, it turns out that the finance companies making these offers where inter sharing data massively, leading to a web of sources. My search lasted just over two months of calling and writing (asking people to remove the data as I went along) that ultimately ended with a major credit reference agency (one of the 2 Major UK agencies), who I have never dealt with directly, but who were used for a credit check when I recently purchased a mobile phone through a very large and reputable telecoms provider.

    It turns out that the credit reference agency ticked the little box on their computer system that said that I consented to the sharing of my data (something that I make a point of not doing and doubly so as I hadn't dealt with them directly...). They have offered to stop sharing my data, but that is all, and of course the "damage" is already done. All a bit late really as once your data is out there its out there forever, or until you move or your details change enough to make it useless.

    So there really is no real way of protecting your data any more, and one mistake by you or someone else and you are stuffed. The only thing I can suggest is changing your name, address, phone number, email address and possibly your gender about every 12 months....
  • FTA, in re: HIPAA and the more stringent privacy regulations it provides:

    These laws affect fewer than a quarter of U.S. companies, and as a result, their reach has been limited. Ironically, the European Union's privacy regulations have probably had a much more significant influence on the data-protection policies of a much wider group of U.S. companies.

    I faily to see the irony. Health care related businesses are a smaller subset of the economy than the subset of those who deal with European companies and

  • Just follow the money, and the truth will be revealed.
    • Subject: In any quest
      Just follow the money, and the truth will be revealed.

      This didn't work in Leisure Suit Larry in the Land of the Lounge Lizards. Please explain.
  • by jjh37997 ( 456473 ) on Thursday September 07, 2006 @11:38AM (#16059634) Homepage
    This is why I hope privacy will become a dirty word in the future. The only thing wrong with traditional surveillance is the imbalence of power between the watchers and the watched. However, technology is finally starting to level the playing field. What we need to do is encourage their use and stop lobbying for things like strong encryption, which only gives the illusion of privacy and strive to make a completely transparent society. The strongest cipher is useless if a fly on the wall records your password as you type it. Such methods only encourage an arms race that we cannot win. Currently the rich, powerful and crooked have the ability to peek behind your veil of "privacy".... let's work to turn this situation around!
    • You got modded funny, but you make some good points, as well. I sometimes wonder what the consequences would be everything that people now try to keep as private secrets became public knowledge. In all probability, a lot of things would suddenly become less big deals. So what if John Doe smashed a couple of windows when he was a kid? Big deal that Fred Foobar got 12 speeding tickets last year. Etc.

      Also, your point about the false sense of security is a very good one.
    • by taustin ( 171655 )
      Been reading David Brin, eh?
  • by tygerstripes ( 832644 ) on Thursday September 07, 2006 @11:46AM (#16059687)
    When research is done into data security, it usually concludes that, yes, it is possible to obtain sensitive information from a company regarding its customers (duh).

    However, the important thing to find out is whether or not this can be acheived without significant risk of discovery to the enquirer. This is a tough question for a commissioned third party to answer, as they have carte blanche. I dunno about the US but, in the UK, the answer is usually: no.

    Anyone who works with sensitive or private data (especially when it relates to children or vulnerable adults) has it so heavily drummed into them that security is crucial, that it has become part of the culture (which, of course, is the point).

    Obviously there are breaches and slips, and people are not always challenged when they should be. However, these occurrences are infrequent, irregular and - most importantly - unpredictable. You couldn't approach a company/authority/whatever with a cunning ploy to discover data that worked last time and be sure of not getting caught out this time. It's not worth the risk, and employees are getting more savvy every day.

    The absolute worst kinds of data integrity slip-up are from fucking sloppy work by people using info systems. I worked in HR for a while, and ended up maintaining the personnel data system (for about 7,500 peeps - and it was a shit piece of software). I discovered that one or two staff members were using the software incorrectly and, frankly, in a totally incompetent fashion, because they couldn't be bothered to use the proper routines. I wish I could've made that impossible, but it wasn't my software.
    They had replaced the addresses of several employees with the addresses of several job applicants who happened to have the same name, because it hadn't crossed their minds that the personnel tables accessed by the applicant-processing module and the contracted-employees module might be the same. The result? I got a phone call from an irate HR manager asking why they had been returned a contract with payroll info, tax stuff etc from someone who had never worked for us with a note saying "not known at this address". Of course, the girl responsible tried to blame it on me, and got heavily bollocked shortly afterwards for being a dense fuckwit.

    Glad I'm not working there anymore.

  • by Speare ( 84249 ) on Thursday September 07, 2006 @11:47AM (#16059699) Homepage Journal

    I've noticed that democratically controlled systems, or the corporate equivalent of "vote with your dollars," breaks down when the population gets between 1e7 and 1e8. Suddenly, the political parties have become somewhat desensitized or even immune to the feedback for their outrageous actions. Corporations can essentially ignore pretty much any sort of public relations fiasco, since a boycott can't possibly raise enough countervotes to seriously impact the bottom line.

    Honestly, at this point, if you said that Sam Walton's heirs, the Olsen Twins, and Dick Cheney were found in a secret lovenest in an undisclosed location in Tora Bora, writing a draft of USAPATRIOT ACT III which says that shoplifters were terrorists and should be buried under a hill of depleted uranium razorblades, there would be a five day story on the news and a 1% drop in poll/profit numbers, then it would be off to the next "scandal."

    • ``Honestly, at this point, if you said that Sam Walton's heirs, the Olsen Twins, and Dick Cheney were found in a secret lovenest in an undisclosed location in Tora Bora, writing a draft of USAPATRIOT ACT III which says that shoplifters were terrorists and should be buried under a hill of depleted uranium razorblades, there would be a five day story on the news and a 1% drop in poll/profit numbers, then it would be off to the next "scandal."''

      And don't forget the authority figures who would appear on TV deny
  • by non ( 130182 ) on Thursday September 07, 2006 @11:48AM (#16059708) Homepage Journal
    they shouldn't, people should care, and by extension so should their governments. but when a country buys information from private companies in order to contravene its own laws concerning the privacy of its citizens, then you can't really expect the people to care, can you? the battle over control of personal information is already over; the consumer lost. frankly, the consumer never new there was a battle, never cared, and at any point in the conflict when they could have made a difference, were far more likely to open the door and let the invaders in than they were to barricade it.

    take frequent customer supermarket discounts. is your purchasing info really worth 15$/wk? mine isn't. i've recently had a building management company ask me for the transactional history of my chekcing account because i don't have a credit rating. thats right, 'don't have a credit rating.' i've lived outside of the US, where its illegal for companies to transfer personal information across borders. i don't have a credit card because i don't need one. why should i have to pay interest to spend my own money. a car rental company asked me for a second credit card because i was from out of state; why should i need a second one? because i owe that much money, and i'm therefore paying twice as much in interest payments just to buy things.

    the future? forget the future, the present. the present is the matrix, as in the movie. except that instead of electricity you're providing goos and services. you're not batteries, but you are drones. and many of you continue to function in this role despite the fact that you know you're drones. you think that you're with the overseers of the drones. you're not. you're think you're better than all the poor people that buy used cars and use all the coupons they can. you're not.

    when you can't speak your mind or they fire you, take away your credit cards and get you evicted, so that you can't rent another apartment, or a car, or anything else that requires that you possess a credit card in order to be considered a citizen, will you still be free, if in fact you ever were?
  • Privacy? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by homer_s ( 799572 )
    If you want to keep something private, don't share it with anyone else.
    If I tell my friend that I shoplifted, then it is no longer a secret - he can reveal it to whoever he wants, whenever he wants. Sure, I can make him promise not to do so, I can even make him sign a contract that penalises him if he shares the secret.
    But none of that can *prevent* him from sharing the secret. And once he does so (due to malicious intent, due to carelessness or maybe because a supervillain tortured him), the secret is
  • in reality, many companies are woefully inept at protecting privacy

    How long it would be needed for the privacy advocates to start realizing that the only way to secure your private information is to not give it way. Or in other words always question why company needs your private details.

    Personally I still remember times before the dot.com boom, when shops were promising to help with choice of products, advices, etc - to improve the bleak internet shopping experience. And? It sucked back then - it suc

  • I, like countless other college and highschool students, happen to be a Facebook user. Admittedly, the initial concept seemed harmless enough. Over time, more and more and more ways were added in which participants could put even more personal information on the pages. More convoluted privacy access controls were added, which in their default settings expose your data to EVERYONE, including people you don't know and that are in none of your communities/groups.

    The latest addition to Facebook, however, took t
  • "Furthermore, there's not enough money to be lost in privacy breaches for companies to care"

    Todays irrelevent concern is tomorrows big earner. I roughly quote that foolish HP guy...

    "what on earth would ordinary people want with computers", and extrapolate to

    "what on earth would ordinary people wanty with privacy, we're 'protecting' them"

    So yeah, keep it up guys, sooner or later some idealist bods will suddenly be the next crop of billionaires thanks to current short sightedness..
  • by John Hasler ( 414242 ) on Thursday September 07, 2006 @02:29PM (#16061056) Homepage
    > "Why don't companies care about privacy?"

    Because most customers don't care about privacy. They'll yammer on about it when surveyed and will support legislation when they don't see it as costing them anything, but they won't do anything about it. If they did, the companies would damnsure care. A lot.

Memory fault -- brain fried

Working...