It is now safe to steal my identity

Note to whoever stole the laptop of a Fidelity employee two years ago, with personal information (SSN and more) for everyone enrolled in HP’s retirement plan: it is now safe to make use of the information. Congratulations on being patient.

I received an email telling me that the “credit watch” service in which all affected HP employees (and ex-employees) were enrolled for free has expired. Of course, we are invited to start paying Equifax to keep it running. $65 per year (and that’s supposedly a discounted rate, mind you, half the “normal” price) to run a DB query once a week on my behalf. Not bad. I should be in that business.

In what ways is the lost data less dangerous two years later? The “1 or 2 years of free credit watch” offer that is typical after events such security violations is obviously just a PR move to allow the guilty party to look like they are taking responsibility for their embarrassing display of incompetence. And it probably costs them very little, if anything, to provide this, considering how good a customer acquisition strategy it is for the “credit watch” department of the credit agencies. The fact that Fidelity and their pears don’t have to bear any real cost for this is the reason why it keeps happening.

If I sound a bit detached about this, it’s not that I am not worried about someone impersonating me by using my SSN and birth date. It’s just that I am not more worried about that specific laptop theft than I am about the hundreds of employees at medical offices, dental offices, insurances companies, banks etc that already have access to this information.

The solution is to publish every single SSN on a web site and stop pretending they can be used for authentication.

[UPDATED 2008/7/7: One more name in the long list of companies that have (often through a subcontractor) leaked so-called “personal” information about their employees. It’s only news because the employer is Google and anything Google-related is for some reason considered newsworthy. Danny is kind to be appreciative for the one year of free credit monitoring. It probably costs Google close to nothing. Which is why Google and the others don’t really care about the problem.]

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Filed under Everything, HP, Identity theft, Security, SSN

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