More Than Target Customers Are at ID Theft Risk
Your personal information isn’t safe.
That doesn’t apply only to the 40 million Target shoppers whose credit and debit card numbers may now be in the hands of hackers.
It’s a trend that’s been clear for many years: The stewards of consumers’ personal info — businesses, hospitals, government agencies — are woefully negligent when it comes to safeguarding data.
Too often, sensitive computer files are unencrypted or left on laptops that get stolen. Aggressive moves by hackers are met with only the most cursory security upgrades.
And it’s not just illegal activities that people have to watch for.
A multibillion-dollar industry has emerged to profit from the buying and selling of perfectly legal consumer data, regardless of whether you’ve given permission for your ostensibly confidential information to be hawked on the open market.
On Wednesday, a leading privacy advocate told Congress that professional data brokers are selling lists of rape victims, people with HIV or AIDS and even police officers’ home addresses to marketers.
“Few people know that data brokers exist, and beyond that, few know what they do,” said Pam Dixon, executive director of the World Privacy Forum.
“Even a knowledgeable consumer lacks the tools to exercise any control over his or her data held by a data broker,” she said. “It doesn’t matter that the data is about the consumer. The data broker has all the rights, and the consumer has none.”