Game Over?

This week’s message is for everyone who didn’t think the 4th Amendment protections matter with 3rd party data storage:

It matters.

Recent news of the large-scale hack into Sony’s Playstation Network throws this issue into the spotlight. Members of Congress are trying to tell us that we don’t need Constitutional protection of our “old” (6 months ago or longer) personal information stored online or by 3rd party data storage. They want us to believe that once we share our information online or with a 3rd party, it is no longer private information and we should not expect it to be safe from searches and seizures. To be fair, Congress only wants those rules to apply to government and law enforcement agencies. A reasonable person might wonder, though. If we apply the same reasoning Congress uses- that sharing our information online or with a 3rd party makes it no longer private- to the recent hack at Sony, we have to dismiss any sympathy we have for the millions of users who have had their credit card, passwords, emails, birth dates, and other information stolen. After all, they chose to use a credit card to purchase games over the internet. How can they possibly expect that their credit card information will be safe?

It would be easy, too easy, to simply point fingers at Sony and say it’s their fault for not protecting their users. There is some truth to this. However, in the last month, there have been other large-scale hacks at other companies, although there has not been the press coverage that Sony has seen. Epsilon, a company that manages consumer information for over 2,000 companies, was hacked on April 2nd. Contact information and potentially financial information about customers of approximately 50 companies was hacked and accessed. These are companies with security measures in place to protect their customers, and still hackers were able to breach their security.

Most of us spend much time, and a good amount of money, online. Not just on our computers, but video game consoles, web tv, and smart phones. Congress needs to catch up to the reality that an increasing number of Americans are facing, that the internet requires the same privacy protections as our homes, banks, shops, and other businesses. Just ask anyone who had their information hacked recently.

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