Momentum Building Against Database Aggregation of Personal Data?

26 Feb ’05

There has been an increasing number of media stories lately on this topic, and the tone has decidedly changed, I think (disclosures of the week – PayMaxx and Bank of Americaread David Fraser’s post on this one – unbelievable).  My sense is that the avalanche of identity thefts and data disclosures we’ve seen lately, in particular the ChoicePoint case, has considerably sensitized the public to the issue.  Are people ready to re-think database aggregation per se? (I thought they were ready after former Admiral John Poindexter was bounced out of the Pentagon’s Total Information Awareness program, but that wasn’t the case).  Or are the aggregators going to see us getting a lot tougher on how they use and securely protect the data?

Well, if political interest in the issue is any barometer of its relevance to the public, they may well be in for it.  US Senator Chuck Schumer has come out on the issue with all guns blazing, and Westlaw is right in his sights.  The NYT has a story on Schumer’s new campaign issue concern for privacy and data security.

Sabrini Pacifici rounds it out with a great collection of links to resources on this issue.

All of this is a very, very good thing.  We’ve had lots of attention recently in Canada on the introduction of privacy statutes, but it has all been very dry and dull.  What we need now are some high profile cases, like the CIBC junkyard fax case, to grab public attention and get people focused on how data is being used, and arguably, at least, abused and misused.  You can quibble with Schumer’s approach and grandstanding, but he’s doing what needs to be done – calling attention to the issue and forcing people to think about it.

Related note: there is now a class action lawsuit – still a relative rarity in Canada – over the CIBC case.  No idea yet whether it has any legs.  The lead plaintiff "feels violated", and his lawyer is highly critical of the bank.

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