Since the ChoicePoint fiasco, the hot topic in privacy is the question of public notification of security breaches. California has led the way on this and many state and federal legislators are looking to follow California's lead. The Federal Privacy Commissioner in Canada has suggested that notification should be done, but our privacy law contains no obligation (except for Ontario's Personal Health Information Protection Act).
Bruce Scheier always has interesting things to say and on this topic there's no exception:
Schneier on Security: Public Disclosure of Personal Data Loss:
"... As a security expert, I like the California law for three reasons. One, data on actual intrusions is useful for research. Two, alerting individuals whose data is lost or stolen is a good idea. And three, increased public scrutiny leads companies to spend more effort protecting personal data.
Think of it as public shaming. Companies will spend money to avoid the PR cost of public shaming. Hence, security improves.
This works, but there's an attenuation effect going on. As more of these events occur, the press is less likely to report them. When there's less noise in the press, there's less public shaming. And when there's less public shaming, the amount of money companies are willing to spend to avoid it goes down...."
The attenuation effect may be true, but I don't think we've peaked on this yet. If you search Google News for "citigroup tape", you get well over 360 news stories about the incident. Eventually the media's interest will trail off, but I don't think it has happened yet.