Personal privacy lost years ago
Those are the words of Scott McNealy, former CEO of Sun Microsystems in 1999, at an event launching his company’s new technology. I was in the business of privacy blogging in those days publishing The Dunning Letter daily. I did a scathing post on McNealy implying that he was all wrong about this, that there was still some modicum of privacy. After seventeen years, I see just how wrong I was and just how right McNealy was. Even then I was wrong, but at the time all of the privacy advocates were busy trying to convince the public to protect their personal data, which is a good thing but we were going about it all wrong.
How personal does it get?
Your confidential information, even then, was being kept in databases all over the world, with facts about every aspect of your intimate life, and I do mean intimate. From the size dildos a particular woman uses to a man’s erectile dysfunction, to every other tidbit of information available on your household. In my 35 years as a data broker in the junk mail industry, I discovered that nothing was sacred, and if you looked hard enough you could find anything you wanted. It’s all there, selectable, on a moment’s notice to be turned into a mailing list. What wasn’t there then, and probably still isn’t to some degree, was maximum security for the ‘story of your life.’
Public doesn’t give a damn about their confidential information
But even in those days, and continuing through the last seventeen, the public simply doesn’t give a damn. I shoved advice on protecting the loss of their privacy at them on a day-to-day basis, and the reaction was, ‘it won’t happen to me.’ Then it did happen to them, and they begged me for a quick fix to remedy a situation they probably could have prevented. Well, there was no quick fix, still isn’t, and sometimes it took months, even years to straighten out their credit to where it had been before the data breach. Now people turn to companies who guarantee to protect your credit, or fix it if it gets broken. Ain’t gonna happen, just a band-aid.
Public must monitor its own financial records
Your best bet is to monitor your financial records on a regular basis. Check your bank statement(s) and credit card(s) billings at least twice a week and check your credit report every four months FREE as allowed by law, using one of the three credit reporting companies, Equifax, TransUnion and Experian, one for each four-month period. You can access all three here at AnnualCreditReport.com. You might also want to buy your “credit score” for around $7.50. But be careful of the small print and don’t let these credit report companies sign you up for their monthly service. Experian is the most guilty of this so read their text carefully.
FTC tells you what to do in data breach
Even a data breach can be reversed
Otherwise, most banks do a good job monitoring the use of your credit or debit cards. As an example, if someone uses either card somewhere in North Carolina and you live in Phoenix, AZ, and you have made recent purchases at your residence location, they know something is wrong. They will normally call and you can confirm that you didn’t make the transaction, and they remove it from your account. Even if they miss it and you do catch it, you have 60-days to report it. In most cases the banks make it relatively easy, but they do expect their customers to do their jobs when it comes to their finances. Check out this government site for help.
Fear and outrage just put on the junk mail market
But what brought all this up was an article last week from the Medium, “This Is How Your Fear and Outrage Are Being Sold for Profit,” that sheds a new life on personal data collected and then sold on the market. Years ago the junk mailers sold fear when they presented cancer insurance as a “must have” insurance, detailing the terrible things that could happen to you if you didn’t have it. It was eventually considered unethical and slowly faded away, but now the fear they are selling is actually real, and once again, it belongs to you. It’s fear and outrage over the political spectrum, and it’s captured with every electronic move you make; on the computer, smartphone or tablet.
Electronic activity generates a digital nightmare
You create a digital nightmare of your computerized lifestyle which can be traced back to you, with a name, address, telephone number, plus it can be appended to all of that private information above to create the John and Jane Doe dossier. If you’re worried, you should be. What we have created here is a completely different databasing product called lifestyle events, which includes the “fear and outrage,” above, mixed with lifestyles already being sold, like what wine you drink, are you a smoker, what movies you watch and hundreds more. I will cover these lifestyles in another post later, as well as medical selection they have about you. The list is endless.