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Security Research

What Did You Do On Data Privacy Day?

January 29, 2009 - 2 min read

January 28th is officially international Data Privacy Day. Apparently this was established in 2008 to raise awareness for data privacy issues, provide education (particularly to teenagers) regarding data privacy concerns, etc. Did you even know about it? Don't worry, neither did I. Maybe we need an awareness campaign to educate people that there is an awareness campaign to educate people (heh). Intel has some various online links and material related to the happenings of Data Privacy Day.

Anyways, while educating users to not hand out their personal details is a good thing, the bulk of concerning data privacy breaches have been largely caused by large corporations mishandling user data. Whether it's AOL, Choicepoint, or Heartland, educating a user to keep their data private is irrelevant if a 'trusted' third-party data keeper is just going to expose it on their behalf. Thus I'm not sure why we are trumpeting to solve privacy at the end user level with new 'privacy enhancing technologies' (PETs) when bigger data privacy and exposure problems exist upstream. P3P headers, anonymizers, and cookie removers are not going to affect things like the Veteran Affairs leak from happening. Even if I'm tight-lipped about my personal details, my service provider might not be. Or the person my service provider outsources to might not be. Or the person that person outsources to might not be. You get the point.

I'm sure there are some in the crowd that are thinking "PCI will help with data privacy exposure issues in third-parties." Well, kind of. Just look at Heartland--they were PCI-compliant. Which brings to an interesting point: compliance != security. PCI can potentially ferret out gross negligence, but catching all the low-hanging fruit doesn't prevent someone from going a little higher up the tree. Especially if they are hungry.

Until next time,
- Jeff

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