Someone I know once went through the process of getting top secret security clearance for a project he was working for at work. This was many years ago, but he tells a great story how pretty far along in the process he spent nearly a whole day in a room with two government investigators quizzing him about all sorts of inane things. Towards the end of the tiring interview where my friend was getting increasingly frustrated at the pointlessness of the questions, the investigators suddenly started asking very specific questions about something a somewhat estranged relative of his had done years and years earlier -- and the guy realized that the entire interview was leading up to that point to find out whether or not he was somehow connected to this event that happened when he, himself, was a child. He said it creeped him out to realize how much the government knew about stuff that was barely related to himself. Of course, that was many years ago, when the biggest fear was the "Big Brother" of government and what they knew about you. These days, Big Brother is all of the various corporations that have been collecting data on you. Witness the experience of Russell Beattie, who tried to renew his Boost Mobile account today only to find himself freaked out about the "security" questions the company started asking him. They were digging up random old addresses of his to make him identify them, and then asked him to correctly identify the age of his father and brother -- information he wasn't sure how they had on file. Of course, the silliest (or perhaps scariest) part of all of this is that such data is apparently easily available to the basic social engineer. So, by making these questions part of the "security quiz" for a mobile phone service, if anything, that data is now more widely available -- which doesn't seem to make Russell any more "secure" than he was before. If anything, it makes his private life less secure.
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