Privacy may be a joke to companies, but it's no laughing matter to the rest of us

Millions of leaked LinkedIn and eHarmony passwords, sensitive customer data stolen via P2P -- can't anybody do this right?

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Debt collection agency EPN of Provo, Utah, leaked the Social Security numbers and medical information for nearly 4,000 users onto P2P networks. Franklin Budget Auto Sales of Statesboro, Ga., has been charged with leaking the names, addresses, driver's license numbers, and SSNs for nearly 100,000 customers via P2P.

Not only did these brainiacs install a BitTorrent client on their networks for reasons unknown (I have a few good guesses), they failed to configure the clients to not grab every document on their networks, and they failed to notice that these documents were being shared. That's the stupidity trifecta.

The FTC is investigating nearly 100 companies that did something similar. It has not revealed what punishments it's planning to levy on these two businesses or if it plans to even investigate the LinkedIn or eHarmony password breaches. But it's clear that the downside for this kind of incompetence and stupidity is not bad enough.

By and large, consumers are the ones who pay the price when their identities are stolen and who have to go through the painful ordeal of convincing their banks, insurance companies, employers, friends, and other they are not crooks or fraudsters. Companies get a little bad press, maybe pay a small fine or agree to a privacy audit, and then move on.

If organizations really took our privacy seriously, they'd face serious penalties for such breaches. Until then, the whole notion is just a joke, and not a funny one.

What should happen to companies who leak your data? Smite them below or email me:

This article, "Privacy may be a joke to companies, but it's no laughing matter to the rest of us," was originally published at Follow the crazy twists and turns of the tech industry with Robert X. Cringely's Notes from the Field blog, and subscribe to Cringely's Notes from the Underground newsletter.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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