Total Number Of Personal Data Records Leaked Since 2005: At Least 358.4 Million

from the lost-but-not-forgotten dept

The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse has put up a pretty interesting chronology of data breaches (via Guardianista) detailing leaks in the US since 2005 that resulted in the loss of people's personal info. They've totaled up the figure over the past five and a bit years, and it's a staggering 358.4 million records lost. Keep in mind that 358.4 million is just a minimum, since there are plenty of leaks that have lost an unknown number of records (like the one from a closed-down Hollywood Video store in Nevada, where customer records were thrown in a dumpster then scattered by the wind). Still, you may be thinking that you don't hear about record-breaking data breaches much these days, but that's not because they've stopped -- it's just that they happen so often, they're really not all that newsworthy any more. A lot of lip service gets paid to clamping down on fraud, but it really doesn't seem like much goes on to stop data leaks, since the penalties for the leaks are toothless and are cheaper than any real prevention.
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Filed Under: data breaches, personal data

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  1. icon
    mariovistus (profile), 27 Apr 2010 @ 9:08pm

    privacy violation

    One useful way to understand this problem is as a negative externality. Just as a paper mill that pollutes a river as a negative by-product of its production process, the credit industry by granting easy credit and failing to secure customer data has made identity fraud an attractive crime to the detriment of the public. To make matters worse, the credit industry blames the individual - shred your personal documents, be careful about revealing your personal information, etc. According to the economist Ronald Coase, a negative externality should be dealt with if the cost of doing so is less than the cost of the negative externality itself and it should be done in the least cost way. Clean up the river or stop polluting it in the first place? My choice for the credit industry is to make data breaches so costly through fines that they have to remove the structural causes.

    Another analogy is to the use of ATMs. Some bright person in the banking industry thought it would be a good idea to stock machines with a bunch of money and put them in all kinds of sketchy locations, 24/7. When the crime of robbing people when they took out money became popular, banks blamed the victim. Be more careful, don't use ATMs in bad neighborhoods. Somehow they figured out that they had liability so they improved the lighting and cut the shrubbery around ATMs, and most importantly added video cameras. By taking seriously their responsibility for security around ATMs they eliminated the negative externality of those robberies. Making data theft unattractive at the source via heavy fines, would lead those who traffic in personal information to find creative solutions to the problem of data theft.

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