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Friday, September 14, 2007


If you have read The Dunning Letter before, you know my position that consumers should have control over their names and private information, and that they should be compensated when it is sold. That said, you must wonder how my concept of control can solve the problem of your sensitive data being everywhere from Los Angeles to India. But first, that trip your personal information takes resulting from any number of simple transactions you might make in a day. These can range from surfing the Internet for something intimate like a contagious disease, providing facts about yourself that could later be used to deny insurance or employment, to applying for a mortgage where you must lay out complete details on every facet of your life, all of which ends up in office file cabinets we all know are vulnerable to determined crooks. And then there are the six to ten pieces of junk mail per week that go to approximately 73 million households, many of which are unsolicited credit card offers, some pre-approved, that, if not shredded, are the catalyst for thieves to steal your identity. The list goes on and on: loyalty programs collecting your buying habits, pharmacies and pharmaceutical companies assembling your prescription data and selling it, questionnaires and surveys asking questions that identify your daily lifestyle right down to what you drink and where you gamble, thousands of junk mail companies, most of which have your credit card numbers attached to your name and address. Each time you give up your name and personal data it is recorded either on paper or electronically; today it all eventually ends up as electronic records so they can be moved around and sold at will. Every day billions of consumers’ sensitive documents are manipulated between thousands of junk mail and non-junk mail companies, hundreds of computer facilities, countless transport organizations, off-site locations—many overseas—where customer service is conducted, and a number of backup warehouses—also possibly overseas—where your names and private information are kept in case the other stash is lost. And…it is all completely out of your hands. On Monday, more terrifying facts and statistics, and why and how you can take back control over your sensitive data.

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