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Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Independence Is Control Over Your Name and Personal Data

What better way to celebrate July 4th than having the right to control your name and personal data, and be paid each time it is used. It won’t happen this year, but it could by 2007. It all depends on your reaction to this concept, and being able to get a grass-roots movement going that would force Congress to pass federal legislation to give consumers this right.

It is not only a right, it is a necessity, if we are to curb the onslaught of the current identity crisis. And if you have read any of the carefully planted articles that claim the crisis is overblown, be aware of the statistics from Javelin Research, provided on the Privacy Rights Clearing House site, “How Many Identity Theft Victims Are There? What Is The Impact On Victims?” PRC is one of the largest and most respected privacy advocates in the U.S.

Javelin says that even with a decrease, the number of identity fraud victims was 9.3 million in 2005. Total fraud was $54.4 billion that same year. At the hands of ID thieves in 2005, each victim suffered $5,885 in financial loss, and it took them 28 hours to correct the problem. But it’s a problem you probably won’t worry about until it happens to you and…then it’s too late.

Freezing your credit will help, but unless you are notified at once and you react immediately, there is still the chance the crooks can hijack your private information. And, there is the hassle involved for you to unfreeze your account for legitimate reasons. Paul Wenske did a good article on this subject in the Kansas City Star, “’Freeze’ on credit meets a lukewarm reception.”

There is only one answer to protecting our names and personal data, and holding Big Brother at bay when it comes to business and government usurping individual privacy. Orwell’s 1984 predicted it, and we are very close to fulfilling his prophesy, but Americans are beginning to see the light and the need to protect their inner sanctum.

This can be accomplished by passing federal legislation that gives consumers (1 CONTROL over their names and private information, and while we’re at it, give them the (2 RIGHT TO BE PAID each time it is sold. Government and business reaction is that this would halt commerce in its tracks, but this hasn’t happened under the United Kingdom’s Data Protection Act of 1998. The Act requires the U.K.’s Information Commissioner’s Office to approve any use of personal data.

1) Taking the U.K.’s Act one step further in giving the individual approval, U.S. law would set up a system where consumers, business and federal agencies are assembled in a database that assigns each a unique ID, which would replace the Social Security number for identification. This ID, along with a Pin number chosen by each person, firm or agency involved, would be the key to using the system. Any business or government entity wishing to access consumer names and private information would sign in with their ID and Pin.

But first, the individual would opt-in, or opt-out of all junk mail use of their name. Opting-out would deny any commercial or government use of data, except for emergencies.

Whether one or a million records are required, an automatic signal would be sent to each name-holder by urgent e-mail or telephone message, repeated regularly until the recipient responds. The notification would alert the consumer as to what the nature of the data request is, and, if legitimate, could be authorized immediately. If not valid, the individual so indicates, and the transaction is stopped at that point, causing no harm, and with minimum effort by all concerned.

Arrangement would be made for medical or financial emergencies, as well as the needs of national security. All activity would be subject to oversight by a committee including private citizens, along with federal and industry representation.

(2 In the case of compensation in the sale of consumer names and personal data, this same system would calculate revenue by individual, and maintain an accounting of what is due. Based on the junk mail industry’s annual take of $4 billion for the selling of names and private information, I feel the name-holder should receive one-half. Ideally, it could be placed in an account bearing simple interest of 3 percent, and the person could eventually draw around $607 a month to supplement their retirement, or take the proceeds in cash.

Write, E-mail or telephone your Congressional representatives and tell them what you think of this concept. Contacting the House of Representatives. Contacting the Senate.

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