Welcome to the Data Theft Bowl

This game will not be televised

December 29, 2005

2 Min Read
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3:40 PM -- This isn't how any company wants to end the year.

And here's a barrel-shoot of a prediction: We're going to see even more of this, probably not too long after the last word of "Auld Lang Syne" gets slurred.

Yes, more lost data, from theft or negligence is anybody's guess. The Marriott Corp. isn't saying much except that some tapes are missing. The missing tapes contain personal information about employees and customers -- affecting more than 206,000 people, according to wire reports.

In case you were too busy last week what with all the wassailing, Ford Motor Co. alerted 70,000 current and former employees that their social security numbers had been stolen, along with a company computer.

This isn't how companies that so zealously safeguard their image and branding really want to compete.And yet, they pay so much lip service to their commitment to data privacy and handling sensitive personal information responsibly. Are these bytes that slip through the cracks inevitable and just another cost of doing business? There doesn't seem to be much investor outrage -- the share price of these stocks is more affected by a spike in insurgent attacks.

The only enforcement action I saw with regard to any data handling case was the $2.1 million fine that the New York Stock Exchange levied on JPMorgan Securities -- 10 months ago. How much longer are state and federal regulators going to observe a grace period before they crack down with some heavy fines? Or are we just going to continue to pass toothless laws and wring our hands over the growing identity theft problem?

Personally, I like USC's odds in the Rose Bowl next week a whole lot better. But that's a place where big numbers will mean a better game. And employees and customers won't have to get burned for it to make headlines.

Terry Sweeney, Editor in Chief, Byte and Switch

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