According to an article on CNN.com, "tens of thousands of U.S. consumers face a greater risk of identity theft after criminals gained access to a database of personal records compiled by ChoicePoint Inc."
"In California, the only state that requires companies to disclose security breaches, ChoicePoint sent warning letters to 30,000 to 35,000 consumers advising them to check their credit reports."
"Chris Hoofnagle, associate director with the Electronic Privacy Information Center... This is a prime example of how they don't and why ChoicePoint should be subject to federal privacy regulations," He is completely right.
More information is detailed in the letter sent by EPIC to the Federal Trade Commission on 1 Feb 2005: Request for investigation into data broker products for compliance with the Fair Credit Reporting Act.
It is a shame the government is failing to serve their role, as regulator, as necessary in a properly functioning capitalist economy. At least California has taken the minimal step of requiring the companies to notify consumers when the companies discover they have made their private information available improperly. The failure to regulate in areas with negative economic externalities causes great damage to the economy and the individuals of the society. Unfortunately the government seems uninterested in these responsibilities. For that reason citizens are subject to negative externalities that they should not have to suffer. If government leaders properly played their role as regulator.
I don't like the idea that my private information is held by companies that continue to fail to properly protect that private information. Their right to maintain records of private information needs to be much more effectively regulated. And citizen's should be given much more control over the flow of their private information. I wonder how much money the politicians get from those who trade in private information? I imagine, the money recieved might provide a compelling explanation for the failure to regulate properly to those who are sceptical of the pure intentions of our "representatives."
Updated 17 Feb
Dan Gilmor has added a post on this topic - A Dossier on Your Life: Now Criminals May Have It. My comments on that post:
Unfortunately many in the United States of American have come to equate no regulations with capitalism. Government has a critical role to play in regulating the market in capitalist theory. However, many political leaders don't understand the basic tenets of capitalism and fail to fulfil their vital role properly.