Legal Research

Identity Theft

I spotted the following statement this morning:

A paper trail is an identity thief’s best friend.

I was no where near a fortune cookie. Really. This statement appeared on the back side of an envelope from a financial institution, who was pushing sign ups for electronic statements. The institution even suggested that we can all “rest easy knowing all [our] account information is locked away safely online. Yes, paper statements are not secure, that’s why we shred them after we no longer need them. And, paper statements may also be intercepted while in transit. However, skimming paper statements is not scaleable. That’s why identity thieves target online databases. So, instead of obtaining account information on one person, these thieves can obtain account information from millions of people. I’m not confident that any information can be locked away safely online.


Facebook Linkbait

The Lawyers Weekly will be warning law firms about the dangers of Facebook. Will be? Yes, the article is dated January 25, 2008, or two days from today. Nifty time travel trick aside, the article is great linkbait because Kevin O’Keefe commented on it, and I feel the need to chime in as well.

Written by an electronic discovery expert, the article warns about the supposed perils of Facebook. True, Facebook users face some risk that their private data may be exposed to “fraudsters and corporate spies.” However, Facebook users can control what information appears on Facebook as well as who has access to it. In contrast, all the major credit reporting bureaus possess far more sensitive information in their databases, and you cannot easily correct or remove data that you want to keep out of the hands of third parties. I’m 100x more worried about a credit reporting bureau losing a data tape or a laptop with confidential information than someone hacking Facebook and downloading profile data. This is self-reported profile data and, as we should all know by now, you can’t believe everything you read online.

Also, the author presents a false dichotomy where social networking applications only have a non-work-related purpose. Sure, corporations and law firms should rightfully be concerned that their employees are wasting company time visiting blogs and other social networking sites for their own personal purposes. However, I am increasingly discovering that for long-tail searches, most of my results come from blogs instead of mainstream media sites. Nowadays, whenever someone encounters a problem, they blog about it instead of seething silently. And, when you are lucky, they also tell you about the solution they discovered. Ban Web 2.0 applications and you lose a lot of collective knowledge. Reminds me of this incident from the not too distant past.