Data Breaches Aren't Deterring Users from Handing Over Personal Information

By Beecher Tuttle May 02, 2011

Data breaches have become a common occurrence in today's society, resulting in the loss of users' personal information, email addresses and even credit card numbers. Still, more and more consumers are flocking to social networking sites, online retailers and search engines that have proven to be unreliable in safeguarding the data that they collect.

A recent AP report points out that companies have very little incentive to do all that they can to protect their users' information because consumers have resigned themselves to the fact that they are taking a risk and continue to come back for more.

“I've accepted the fact that all my information is out there and someone has it, and that's just the way it is,” 47-year-old Jim Pachetti told the AP.

Furthermore, the online market is currently set up in a way that essentially precludes companies from embracing strict privacy policies. Sites that limit what information they collect and store face an uphill climb in today's highly competitive online world. The news source references a situation with Yahoo, where the Internet firm recently reversed its 2008 decision to store personal searches for only 90 days. Similar to Google, Yahoo now holds on to that information for 18 months.

“For many companies, it's easier and cheaper to deal with the repercussions of a data breach that's already occurred, rather than taking steps to prevent it,” Ioana Rusu, regulatory counsel for Consumers Union, told the Associated Press. “Companies need to be held accountable so they protect your data up front.”

Various branches of the Federal government have taken some steps to ensure the privacy of users, but not enough to encourage Internet firms to change their ways. Basically, all companies need to do to remain viable is to keep their privacy policies in line with their competition.

“Sadly, the consumer can do absolutely nothing to protect themselves,” added Bruce Schneier, chief security technology officer at the British telecommunications operator BT. “When you give your data to someone else, you are forced to trust them.”

Understandably, most consumers are simply unwilling to pull the plug on the Internet to minimize their risk of being affected by a data breach.

The AP report comes only days after Sony admitted to a data breach that affected approximately 77 million users of its PlayStation Network. The hack may have resulted in the loss of users' names, addresses and even credit card information. Sony has since apologized.

Beecher Tuttle is a TechZone360 contributor. He has extensive experience writing and editing for print publications and online news websites. He has specialized in a variety of industries, including health care technology, politics and education. To read more of his articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Jennifer Russell

TechZone360 Contributor

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