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Thursday, August 04, 2005

More On Personal Data Protection and Identity Theft Prevention in the UK

In my last post, we had just been introduced to Graham Sadd’s theory that the responsibility for a person’s data should be returned to the individual. Sadd is the CEO of PAOGA Ltd. of Maidenhead, Berkshire, England, and his company is the creator of the concept of the Personal Data Vault. Simply put, the PDV gives the consumer 100% control over their name and personal data.

He makes a good analogy of the “data available everywhere” syndrome…“like trying to recognize someone from a photograph of someone’s face made up to from 100 different photographs taken in color and black and white throughout their lifetime.” It’s not likely to look like them today. Neither will all the combined databases—compiled for years from numerous sources, containing your name and personal data—accurately reflect your true, current profile. And why is that bad?

The reason given by the junk mail industry for amassing all this private information is that the junk mailers can better target what you want to buy. So if it’s wrong or out of date, what’s the use? I’ll tell you why. Right or wrong, they can sell it for a fortune. I’m not saying they would do this on purpose, and most junk mail companies wouldn’t. As a former broker of mailing lists, I sold what was available in the marketplace, most of which, by the way, was represented as recently updated.

My point is that unless the data comes right from a legal document—like a driver’s license, voter registration, public deeds, etc.—the accuracy is questionable. Questionnaires are a farce. The person is most likely to answer the questions in relation to what free products they want. Huge lifestyle databases are built from the latter and sold for astronomical prices. Surveys may be the most truthful of the two, due to the fact that a majority are taken live, either in person or over the phone. Guess we can’t fudge on the truth when it’s so up-close.

Another major problem is the “insider’s” approach to stealing our data. If it’s an inside job, there’s not much anyone can do about it, despite the controls the data brokers and junk mailers claim they are putting in place. I’ve witnessed personally the after effects of such an incident, and there was no way it could have been stopped. In the earlier article, “Growing Concern Over Identity Cloning…”, from Devonshire Marketing, the following AOL incident was mentioned.

In mid-2004, a former AOL employee was charged with stealing the Internet company’s subscriber list of over 30 million customers, and selling it to a spammer. You can read the whole story, “AOL customer list stolen, sold to spammer”, by Bob Sullivan, technology correspondent for MSNBC. I mention this to emphasize the apparent ease with which the crooks pull it off, even with one of the top Internet providers. And, there will always be another dishonest employee lurking nearby.

So why don’t we just dump these archaic methods and go for the gold? Give the consumer 100% control over their name and personal data and make them responsible for keeping it correct. Let them decide when and where to opt-in and be able to keep out all the bad guys. And, for each time their name and data are sold, they are compensated from the $4 billion that junk mailers gross annually by selling mailing lists.

Personal Data Vaults. They’re beginning to sound like the wave of the future.

Another one of Devonshire Marketing’s Vanessa Land articles, “Retailers To Become Loyal To Consumers – Personal Knowledge Banks Will Override Loyalty Cards Over Time,” covers a topic that has become a very sore spot with some American consumers: the supermarket loyalty card that tracks virtually every item you buy from booze to prescription medications.

Her piece makes the point that Personal Knowledge Banks, just another way of saying Personal Data Vaults, if controlled by the individual, could be updated by the person to eliminate any undesired information. They could also set restrictions on who sees the data, giving permission on an as-needed basis, and with selective access, if desired.

The more I read of what is being done, or at least planned by the Brits, the more I realize just how far the U.S. is behind. Don’t get me wrong, this is a great country and we do great things. But we do tend to put business ahead of the consumer, and this has become the rule with the current administration. As I have said before, our names and personal data should be sacrosanct, and it is time for Congressional leaders to realize this and take action.

9 comments:

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