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Saturday, October 13, 2007


Planning to switch your auto insurance coverage? List company Focus USA may have you in their database, with other personal data like age, income, whether you have children, invest, travel, carry a credit card and if you are Internet connected. Here’s another data mining/predictive modeling program (See former post) designed to forecast your habits this time in purchasing auto insurance, and based on marketing research of “consumer behavior and intentions.” The latter is most likely survey mailings that ask questions tied to products or services where the answer is prompted by what product or service the consumer wants to receive from the survey. The downside to a list like this is a ton of mail to recipients who may not want it, plus the fact that once again you are labeled personally with characteristics that may not be true, and could be damaging. Does it bother you that all of a sudden National Intelligence Director, Mike McConnell has become more open to sharing the details of government surveillance? It’s beginning to sound like the carrot to sway Congress in the Bush/Cheney plan to shield the likes of AT&T, Verizon, and other telecommunications companies from prosecution. These guys are alleged to have given up private information on innocent Americans in the NSA surveillance activities back in 2005 and should at least be investigated. Based on a May 31 ruling, the government now must get court warrants if any telephone activity travels in a US network. McConnell did say that fewer than 100 people inside the United States are being monitored under FISA warrants. We’ll see who wins this one between Congress and the Bush administration. It’s happened to Pfizer again, but it’s not their fault this time, according to Ed Silverman’s Pharmalot blog. The problem on the latest of four breaches is with the company that supplies cars for Pfizer, Wheels, and fortunately is limited to only 1,800 employees. The bad news is the data released—without encryption—is name/address, date of birth, and driver’s license numbers. All that’s necessary for the ID thieves to dig further and open the door to the individuals’ more sensitive data. This one also points the finger again at companies holding consumers’ personal data that are working for other companies responsible for that data. Eventually the hammer has to come down on one side or the other because of the number of incidents, and also because ultimately the victims have to look to one entity as the responsible party for their dilemma. Here’s a great idea! Demand the names of companies who breach consumer data, and publicize them in a “public shaming” as Lisa Vaas suggests in a story. She doesn’t have much hope that this will help in view of the apparent lack of concern consumers and investors showed over the worst ever TJMaxx data loss of over 45 million customer debit and credit card numbers. Clearly neither the consumer nor the investment community decided to overlook the potential disaster in light of the company’s much “improved” sales results. Not that I want to see TJMaxx parent TJX suffer needlessly, but you would expect an educated public to be somewhat hesitant over this kind of conspicuous incident. At the very least to stand back and question just what security measures the company would take to prevent this from happening again. But no, it’s just another excellent example of the “Apathetics” that populate the marketplace, thinking it could never happen to them.

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