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Stories

A Towering Problem

It is important to be sure that any company with which you do business protects your personal information; however, sometimes the assurances of those companies mean little. The FTC recently brought a complaint against Tower Records. The company claimed that it used state of the art technology to safeguard the personal information of customers. However, the security system it used permitted online users of its Web site to access personal information about other Tower customers. According to the FTC, this flaw in the security system was easy to fix, but Tower failed to do so until it was compelled by a formal complaint of the FTC that was settled in April 2004. In this case, as with all FTC settlements, Tower did not admit that it did anything wrong and agreed not to do it again.

We Regret to Inform You

It is not enough for you to protect yourself from identity theft. Any company with which you do business that has personal information about you is a potential victim of identity theft. In March 2004, GMAC notified 200,000 of its customers that their personal information might have been compromised (a euphemism for “possibly stolen”) following the theft of two laptop computers used by GMAC employees that were stolen from an employee's car. Although the data stored on the particular laptop computers was protected by password access technology, the data itself was not encrypted as a further prudent security measure. The data itself was extremely sensitive material including, names, addresses, birth dates, and Social Security numbers of GMAC customers. This security breach is not uncommon in an era when employees may take work home on their laptops.


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