Sunday, February 26, 2006

Notification is the new moral imperative

Adam Shostack often has interesting things to say about privacy. He's posted, at Emergent Chaos, about the recent incident involving the University of Texas and their voluntary notice for the loss of encrypted patient information. Here Adam's take on their response:

Emergent Chaos: Analysis of University of Texas, 4,000 encrypted SSNs, Laptop:

Since Choicepoint, there's been a dramatic shift in the way these incidents are perceived. Assertions of caring about privacy have transformed into a moral duty to report, even when the law doesn't require it. Work to undercut the 21 state laws in place by groups like the American Bankers Association misses the point. When there's a breach of personal data, the risk is on the citizen or consumer, not on the organization that lost control of the data. The organization has demonstrated that their risk management decisions don't have the results that customers want. That means the risk analysis must be done by the person, not the organization. For the person to do the risk analysis, they need to know what's happened.

We like transparency. We accept apologies (when they're not tortured or convoluted). We prefer to work with organizations that don't keep us in the dark, `for our own good.' Finally, we don't trust anyone who has lost control of data to get the next analysis right. Whatever bad laws happen to come out of Congress, there's a new social consensus, and the University did exactly the right thing.

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