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Is the internet a pandora's box?

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  • Is the internet a pandora's box?

    Moderator if you feel this belongs in the telecom immunity bill thread i will gladly post it there and you can lock this up,

    However this is pretty scary from a non-government, non-terror threat based side........and it's very easy to obtain, and too many people have this info at their fingertips already.

    It is sad, but if someone wants to get background info on you, and your family it is a lot easier than you think:

    Debt collectors mining your secrets
    Backspin By Mark Gibbs , Network World , 06/19/2008

    A couple of weeks ago in Gearhead I became engrossed exploring Google Docs and reader Stuart Douglas from Cleveland, responded: "I have to agree that Google Docs is pretty cool, and very handy, but the thing I keep coming back to is trust. Can I really trust that my data is only mine when it's stored outside my jurisdiction? For the time being, nothing too sensitive gets stored there."

    Douglas is probably pretty wise to use Google Docs with caution as it is one thing for Google to claim it does no evil and quite another for it to commit to keeping your secrets.

    When information lives in the cloud, no matter who owns the cloud, it is hard to commit to maintaining privacy. But the problem with this is that there are now so many sources of data, both public and private, managed by so many organizations, that all of our private details are up for grabs.

    Consider this. A few days ago I got a call asking for my wife (although the caller was apparently semi-literate as she mispronounced her name). I said that my wife was out and asked if I could help. Without explaining why, the woman asked if my wife knew a "Martha Samuels". I responded by asking who the caller was and why she wanted to know. It turned out the woman worked for Integrated Portfolio Management, a debt collection agency in Illinois, which used to be called Stanley Weinberg & Associates.

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    I told the woman that my wife knew no one of that name and asked why she thought my wife might? To shorten the story, it transpired that the company had what the woman described as "software" that mined some unspecified data and had concluded, totally erroneously, that there was some kind of connection between "Martha Samuels" and my wife.

    I couldn't get any more information out of the woman other than the name of the company she worked for and its phone number, so I went to look for it on the Web. As it happens, the company doesn't have its own Web site and you have to do a little sleuthing to find out more. I uncovered a useful site,, run by (surprise!) Bud Hibbs, a consumer advocate who has a lot to say on the topic of debt collection.

    Hibbs' site also has much to relate on the topic of Stanley Weinberg & Associates and none of it good. He told me any debt collection company has access to an incredible amount of personal data from hundreds of possible sources and the motivation to mine it.

    What intrigued me after talking with Hibbs was how the debt collection business works. It turns out pretty much anyone can set up a collections operation by buying a package of bad debts for around $40,000, hiring collectors who will work on commission, and applying for the appropriate city and state licenses. Once a company is set up it can buy access to Axciom and Experian and other databases and start hunting down defaulters.

    So, here we have an entire industry dedicated to buying, selling and mining your personal data that has been derived from who knows where. Even better, because the large credit reporting companies use a lot of outsourcing for data entry, much of this data has probably been processed in India or Pakistan where, of course, the data security and integrity are guaranteed.

    Hibbs points out that, with no prohibitions on sending data abroad and with the likes of, say, the Russian mafia being interested in the personal information, the probability of identity theft from these foreign data centers is enormous.

    So, after all that I not only find that I agree wholeheartedly with Douglas but I'm starting to think that the whole idea of stepping "off the grid" could be a smart move. Next week: What would it take to become invisible?

    Here is another link, that further explains the above article:

    Here is the most up to date blog post from Mark Gibbs, I especially like the title.
    Privacy and the red pill:

    In the column prior to last week and the one before that I discussed the dubious world of debt collecting and how your privacy is more or less completely violated by the credit reporting industry. I finished the first column suggesting that it might be a good idea to "get off the grid." I now think a better description might be to "get out of the Matrix." Red pill anyone?

    Reader Brian Poirier, a private investigator in Houston, wrote regarding the database he uses, LexisNexis, which he tells me is one of the biggest and used by most law firms and many private investigators. Poirier offered to see what he could find about my wife and me -- something that he wrote would "take perhaps five minutes." Of course, I had to see what he could find.

    The next day Poirier sent me the reports. He explained, "Since I don’t have full identifiers on you, I just did a search for Mark Gibbs in California: 96 possibles. So I looked at the Whois for and noted an address in Ventura . . . Mark Gibbs in Ventura showed four matches – one had that same address as the whois. That report is attached. Then [I looked] for someone close in age to you that shares addresses [which] revealed your wife. That report is also attached."

    In the reports were my Social Security number (with the last four digits redacted), date of birth, name variations, the date my Social Security number was issued, everywhere I had lived since moving to the United States along with the census data for each area, who my mortgages were with for each property and the price I paid, the current owner of each property, my neighbors’ details, my mother’s name (17 years ago I had a credit card issued to her), and a list of "associated persons" (people who might have some kind of relationship with me), which included my wife’s uncle in North Carolina who I have never met or even spoken to on the phone! And there was even more detail on my wife’s report!

    Now just consider that all this data about me had been compiled, without my permission, is mostly correct, highly detailed and available to anyone for a few dollars. That absolutely underlines the problem that the few privacy laws we have are at best weak and at worst ineffectual -- just consider how easily the Bush administration got the telcos to roll over and give up your data.

    Two weeks ago I quoted reader Don Dickerson and his comments bear repeating: "There is no way off the grid . . . unless you just want to be a hermit and live in a hole somewhere. Computers were released to the world, the Internet tied them together, [now] Pandora’s box is wide open and the data has already hit the rotary oscillator."

    In order to have the benefits of our modern life the commercial world gets to define the terms and we've been recorded, tabulated, and filed since we were born (or emigrated here). The truth is that there really is no way out of the Matrix short of becoming a vagrant or dying.

    What can we do to free ourselves from the Matrix? Is there a red pill? A couple of readers suggested that if you can’t refuse to provide information perhaps the answer is to be so open, to provide so much data, that the various database companies are overwhelmed. As interesting as that sounds it won’t work because only a few of us would care enough to do such a thing.

    No, the answer, my friends, is to be as vocal as you can be in supporting any and all data privacy laws. Who would have guessed that the red pill was, in fact, made out of politics?

    Gringo hopefully this will answer some of your questions and also spark some interest in how easy and scary it is to obtain info on anyone......
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  • #2
    Re: Is the internet a pandora's box?

    I don't mind individuals gathering of my information as long as there are a couple of safegaurds for the consumer and the consumer has some way to counteract it. And I think there are ways to do this.

    One, don't get in debt. Two, get on the do not call list. Three when a legal solicitor calls you tell them don't do it anymore and take your name off the list.

    If you do get in debt just start writing letters fighting the collectors actions. Know the law and if the collector steps outside the law get a sleazy lawyer and sue them or report them to authorities. It is very effective in getting them off your back.

    Growing up in a small town I got used to everybody knowing my business and I think this is a wonderful way to keep people in line.

    Now I absolutely hate the fact that the government can gather information in any manner and I think it is a completly separate issue.
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    • #3
      Re: Is the internet a pandora's box?

      My objection is that it's so hard for the rest of us to look at the data others keep on us. If our privacy is gone anyway, why should only rich credit databases know about us? Put all the data out there for everybody to see, including those it's about.
      Dude, seriously, WHAT handkerchief?

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