Monday 7 January 2008

Jeremy Clarkson teaches Data Protection

Clarkson learns data protection

If there was anything that would make people learn the fact that the protection of personal data is so important, we have Jeremy Clarkson to thank for that.

Now, Mr. Jeremy Clarkson is someone you would very much love to hate as an opinionated right-wing commentator who for all his faults does present a very entertaining car programme called Top Gear.

In many ways, as our society has growth soppy and more intolerant of political incorrectness, the man has tempered his opinions with a bit of restraint. The attempts to gentrify the man with more cerebral engineering programmes did not however endear him to me anymore than I can accept his professional judgement about cars.

Mr. Clarkson pooh-poohed the whole uneasiness about the loss of data concerning 25 million people in the UK by publishing his details in his column on the Sun newspaper.

These details included his full bank account information and his address, enough for someone who must have wanted to prove a point to set up a Direct Debit of GBP 500.00 to the Diabetes UK charity.

Every little data helps

Obviously, it also shows how such details can be used maliciously by others to extract a lot more than a gesture to charity from unsuspecting people who are careless with their data.

I, for instance would never dispose of anything containing my details without shredding the lot and like I observed a few weeks ago, I need a better shredder when I saw a lady trying to put together strips from a shredder waste-basket.

This matter of details could be as minor as envelopes that have just my postcode and house-number or the till receipt after paying with my bank card at the supermarket. Every little data helps the thief assume your identity on the one hand and sometimes conduct harmful transactions in your name.

Mr. Clarkson happens to be someone who checks his bank statements or else a few more transactions would have been made before he found out about the shenanigans done in his name.

Privacy from excessive data accumulation

This brings me to the Advance-Fee Fraud emails that people receive asking for their bank details in confidence so as to pay in supposedly ill-gotten gains from which the bank account holder can benefit up to 25% of the deposit.

Well, in most cases, these accounts get fleeced and emptied because the information the culprits have is good enough for either debits or credits to the account.

As penance, I would expect Mr. Clarkson to honour this Direct Debit to the Diabetes UK charity for at least a year whilst the bank works at completely changing his account details from what was published.

It also shows why our liberties have to be protected by preventing the government from acquiring more data than they require to transact any business. The fact that the Data Protection Act would not allow for the banks to pursue the “criminal” who showed up this problem of loose data management is a great enlightenment for all.

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