This past Saturday we had a discussion on my radio program about privacy and personal information. In a few words I said I don't trust the private sector because it's hard to discipline them, especially when they screw up. I especially don't like when they sell my information to third parties.
My caller disagreed because he trusts the private sector more than he trusts the government (in the process ignoring our earlier discussion of how the federal government was the only institution that could vouch for and save the banks from the stupidity of the private sector). Here's why I don't trust the private players to do the right thing when it comes to my privacy.
Information wherehouse companies like ChasePoint, Inc. have either sold information or have had their computers compromised (broken into) by identity thieves, and other less than scrupulous scam artists. In one case, the private information of California nurse Elizabeth Rosen was compromised. Rather than have to pay a penalty, ChasePoint sent a form letter acknowledging that the nurses information had been compromised. But ChasePoint didn't send this letter out of the goodness of their hearts.
At the time California was the only state in the union that required companies to inform people on their lists (we are not clients) when their information is compromised. ChasePoint sent the letter because they had to. But wait. It gets better. ChasePoint followed it up with a sales pitch, offering to let Nurse Rosen see her own records. She needed - so went the sales pitch - to know what information had been compromised by the crooks. The fee to see her information, no doubt, was nominal (perhaps $24.95?).
Incredible. This is akin to someone throwing a brick into your window with a note attached that reads, "Instant Window Repairs: Call 555-1234".
There's much more to this story, which I will discuss during this Saturday's program.