Can There Be An Exxon Valdez For Privacy?

from the or-will-it-matter dept

Ed Felten is asking a very interesting question. With all of the data and privacy leaks over the last few years, it still seems like most people aren't that concerned. Certainly, those whose data has been included in one or more sets of leaked data (which must include nearly everyone by now) may be slightly inconvenienced, but is it enough to take notice? He asks what will it take to create an "Exxon Valdez" moment for privacy, where just about everyone suddenly starts paying attention. He asked that question on a recent panel, and someone responded that a large scale identity theft effort that impacted thousands would do the trick, but others disagree. Of course, another issue is whether or not this is even the right question. The Valdez incident may have captured public attention for a little while, and caused some changes in processes, but did it actually set in place large scale changes? And, with privacy, it seems that an increasing number of people are simply resigned to accepting Scott McNealy's position that you have zero privacy, and everyone should just "get over it." Alternatively, there are those who support the David Brin sousveillance view of the world, where you admit there's no privacy, but make sure that's true for those who have access to your private data as well (which, in theory, helps keep them more honest, since any violation of your privacy can then become known). So, perhaps the real question is whether or not there really will be a defining moment in privacy violations, or if people will gradually just become resigned to the fact that they have little to no privacy any more.


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    COD, Jun 12th, 2006 @ 11:29am

    If a privacy glitch were to kill a bunch of cute baby seals...

     

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    Leo, Jun 12th, 2006 @ 11:47am

    i cant imagine there will ever be an "exxon valdez" of privacy leakage,which is why the debate is so stupid to begin with. so some kid at the fbi hears my conversation with my girlfriend, big deal....

    great comment by the way COD

     

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      ZA, Jun 12th, 2006 @ 12:04pm

      Re: I don't think

      I think the VA incident constitutes the Exxon Valdez. How many effected would it take?

      There are so many companies that are outsourced overseas. Financial institutions included. Many countries such as India have different privacy laws. How do we know any of our personal information is safe? We don't! And there is nothing we can do about it. We just have to hope for the best.

       

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        Duane Nickull, Jun 28th, 2006 @ 4:09pm

        The worst part...

        is that it is preventable today. Until this silly notion that storing all your secrets in a locked file cabinet and giving keys to those you trust wil protect you dies, it wil also be destined to repeat itself. Microsoft and Adobe systems both make technologies that allow persistent security policies to accompany information anywhere it goes. Either of these could have easily prevented the VA nightmare and put a stop to it once the breach was discovered.

         

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    Peet McKimmie (profile), Jun 12th, 2006 @ 12:02pm

    The problem is that if a data leak affected, say, 30% of all Americans, then it still wouldn't cause that big an uproar. Everybody would just say "Hey, there's so much stolen data out there now there's little chance they'd actually use mine..."

     

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    I, for one, Jun 12th, 2006 @ 12:17pm

    Privacy is a double edged sword

    Such an event is inevitable. Political scandals are always about a failure to contain secrets and eventually something really big is going to come out because of a lost laptop, a bad erase on a USB thumbdrive, or a stray email.

    The scale of a leak is irrelevant, ten million customers data are the same as ten, it's the content of the data that makes the difference.

    Sousveillance, an interesting idea, but never forget
    surveillance is about power not protection. Those with the power can selectively rewrite the record at will, so it will never apply equally.

     

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    eb, Jun 12th, 2006 @ 12:51pm

    VA Data Leak

    If that doesn't do it, I'm not sure anything will. Imagine telling active-duty soldiers on the front lines that they "need to monitor their credit closely".

     

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    Turd Ferguson, Jun 12th, 2006 @ 12:53pm

    This is an easy one...

    When someone dies.

    Bunches of cute birdies and baby seals dying does the trick. (Exxon Valdez) Financial "death" of tens of thousands of employees due to a corrupt few does the trick. (Enron) Too many deaths at an intersection does the trick. (local governments will finally spend the money to install stoplights) And a death or two of actual people due to Russian, Mexican, or even American mob activity because they refused to pay up after their data was jacked online will do the trick too.

     

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    Adam, Jun 12th, 2006 @ 1:24pm

    The VA theft was close enough, but what it will really take is the wholesale identity theft of congress and the CEOs of banks, credit card agencies, etc.

     

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      Do Gooder, Jun 12th, 2006 @ 1:27pm

      ID Theft In The nbame Of Good

      "The VA theft was close enough, but what it will really take is the wholesale identity theft of congress and the CEOs of banks, credit card agencies, etc."

       

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        Do Gooder, Jun 12th, 2006 @ 1:28pm

        Re: ID Theft In The Name Of Good

        "The VA theft was close enough, but what it will really take is the wholesale identity theft of congress and the CEOs of banks, credit card agencies, etc."

        Brilliant, I'll get started on that right away.

         

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      Detenebrator, Jun 13th, 2006 @ 7:46am

      Re: Exxon Valdez

      You got it right. Wholesale theft of congressional privacy data. Let a few senators, congressmen, and their aides spend a few months getting their financial lives back *then* we'll see some real action.

       

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    wolff000, Jun 12th, 2006 @ 1:26pm

    Nothing Left

    A wise man once said that an honest man has nothing to hide. All I can say to that is the wise man either was A not very wise or B had never left his house. I for one have plenty to hide so this topic really bothers me. I know we have had next to no privacy in this country since before I was born but the little we have is slowly being sucked away. So how do we get our privacy back? Good question someone please let me know as soon as they figure it out.

     

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    Get an Ex to do it for you, Jun 12th, 2006 @ 2:12pm

    All you have to do is trash your own credit and no one can or would want to use it. :)~

    My ex-boyfriend took care of it for me.

     

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    David Levine, Jun 12th, 2006 @ 2:14pm

    Holding your private data hostage

    What if someone stole the entire IRS database of individual tax returns and published it on the Internet?

    Having credit cards stolen is nothing compared with the theft of sensitive information: Medical information, corporate secrets, military secrets, sealed court records, driving record, all your financial records, all your tax returns, etc.

    Perhaps it's even scarier if the break-in goes unnoticed and records are actually updated. Imagine if your medical records are doctored. Or your social security account is altered.

     

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    Chris, Jun 12th, 2006 @ 2:30pm

    Gotta love the media...

    If it wasn't bad enough that the information was stolen, the media made sure to let whoever stole the laptop just how valuable the data on it was, and exactly what they could do with the information.

    Thanks guys, really.

     

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      ebrke, Jun 13th, 2006 @ 7:35am

      Re: Gotta love the media...

      And you get the feeling that the government is really hoping they may get the damn thing back, what with the reward and all. Duh, even if someone returns the hardware, do they really believe the data won't have been copied and sold to the highest bidder?

       

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    ansientwun, Jun 12th, 2006 @ 2:36pm

    Exxon Valdez of Privacy

    It seems to me a great terrorist attack would be against the privacy/financial things we Americans hold so dear. Once it comes, we'll look at it much the way we did 9-11 and say "we should have seen it coming".

     

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    Maggie, Jun 12th, 2006 @ 2:45pm

    The Exx-Valdez of data

    There will be public outcry and call for action when a bank leaks the full details of all the accounts including balances, owners names, acct numbers, and wiring permsssions, and the bad guys quickly empty out thousands of accounts.

    Remember the saving and loan debacle in the 80s, where tons of people lost real money and had to be bailed out by the govn'mt? This event led to major changes in banking practices and regulations. Do you know of a financial institute that still has "S&L" in its name?

     

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    Moneyguy, Jun 13th, 2006 @ 5:00pm

    There is no privacy on the Internet

    ...where just about everyone suddenly starts paying attention.

    The majority of people didn't think about their privacy before the internet and most don't think of it now. The people reading TechDirt are in the minority - and just as likely to suffer from identity theft as someone who doesn't read TechDirt or even use the internet for that matter.

    There is no privacy on the internet, never was and never will be.

     

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    (Insert witty remark here), Jun 15th, 2006 @ 2:56pm

    My Letter from the Office of Veteran Affairs

    I received a letter from the Office of Veteran Affairs yesterday. Apparently an employee of the VA took home (against policy) private veteran information.
    The information contains SS numbers, contact info, disability ratings etc.

    The employee's house was robbed and the computer, containing the information was stolen.

    Your "Exxon-Valdez for Piracy"? 26.5 MILLION veterans information was stolen and presumed compromised.

    Fuck that fuck that fuck that

     

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    jomama, Jun 27th, 2006 @ 5:31am

    Leaky gummint now contends with a waterfall

    While I think most individual "citizens" don't much care how much privacy (if any) they have, the gummint is in a panic that someone on the inside would want to broadcast heretofore secret stuff like their tapping of SWIFT wire transfers to catch the "bad guys".

    Do you really think the "bad guys" or even the "good guys" didn't already know this?

    Hilarious.

    Enjoy the show. Washington (and other capitols) are now connected to a firehose of leaks if not a waterfall.

     

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