Identity Theft Again?

Most of you have read about the security issues that have confronted LexisNexis and ChoicePoint, and each day we learn more news about more systems and databases that have been or may have been compromised. Here’s a secret, “Google hacking” is easier. It’s a term used to describe the simple act of using publicly available search engines (no, not only Google) to find information that criminals and wrong-doers can use.

Several months ago, The Wall Street Journal reported that some security experts held a contest to demonstrate how good Google hacking can be—they limited contestants to using only Google’s search engine and in less than one hour they unearthed enough information to perpetrate financial fraud on about 25 million people—including useful combinations of names, birth dates, credit card and social security numbers. In one such experiment, a team of contestants found a directory of more than 70 million social security numbers—all belonging to individuals who are no longer alive.

Yahoo! and Google and similar search engines are not the problem – these folks are continuously refining and fine tuning their search capabilities and adding more information. Why? Because we demand it; we like it; we want it. It is helpful; useful; convenient. So how do we balance the desire to have more and better information more easily available, with the need to protect our people, our customers, our society from abuses and improper use of such information? I don’t know. I do know that Rimon has literally dozens of lawyers who can help you with privacy, information security, terms of use and guidelines; can alert you to regulatory and legal issues; and can provide you with solutions to your problems, even when the simple answers are not always easy to find. Let us help you. Have an information security issue? Privacy compliance problem? Fraud or security breach? Now’s the time—before you are part of the problem.

Privacy is Back in the News

In last month’s issue, we mentioned (in “Gnu & Gnoteworthy”) the F.D.I.C. released a report entitled “Offshore Outsourcing of Data Services by Insured Institutions and Associated Consumer Privacy Risks”. Well, privacy issues are popping up all over the place again.

California Financial Privacy Act

The California Financial Privacy Act of 2003 became effective July 1st and requires banks to give customers the right to opt out of sharing information with bank affiliates with separately regulated lines of business and requires banks to get permission from customers to share information with outside companies. After the law was enacted, the American Bankers Association, Consumer Banking Association and Financial Services Roundtable filed suit claiming the Fair Credit Reporting Act—the federal law regulating sharing of information among affiliates—preempted state law and thus the part of the statute attempting to limit sharing of information among affiliates is invalid. Not so, said the Judge—to the surprise of bankers scrambling to comply—a recent notice from the California Department of Financial Institutions indicated it would begin enforcing the law immediately!

The Judge ruled that since the FCRA only applied to the sharing of “credit reports,” the California law covering a broader range of customer information was not preempted by federal law. Will the ruling be appealed? Will other states follow suit?

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