Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Personal Privacy Evangelist

I attended breakfast with members of the Wachusett Chamber of Commerce down the road in Sterling, Mass. this morning. I noted a day earlier that Robert Siciliano was to speak at the event, and I wanted to see the man’s presentation.

If you haven’t heard of Siciliano yet, you will soon (besides within this blog post). Siciliano is a personal security consultant who has taken up a vigorous crusade of educating regular folks about identity theft and securing PII. Earlier this year I had occasion to trade emails with Siciliano as a source for a story I wrote on whether or not credit monitoring services were of any real value as an ID theft prevention tool.

Siciliano is an evangelist. Much of his presentation consisted of headlines, facts, and figures that I’ve been familiar with for a long while, and although he covered no new ground for me, I was fascinated by his talk for two reasons.

The first was the passion he brought to the subject. Clearly, this guy has immersed himself in the issue, and he was able to make his point without much hyperbole, but merely relying on the facts to tell their own story.

The second was the reaction from other attendees. My eyes were opened to just how little people understand the issue of personal information security. As Siciliano illustrated how easy it is for criminals to assemble pieces of an individual’s identification and create an alias for themselves with that information, I watched as others around the room literally gasped and sat with eyes wide open, mouths agape.

More shockingly, there were representatives from a number of financial services organizations who were among the most affected by Siciliano’s revelations.

As privacy professionals, one of our biggest challenges is in education. Unless and until greater awareness, based on fact and reason, is generated about the issue of identity fraud and personal information security, we will continue to see more people victimized. The problem is that, while the chances are they will suffer because of their own ignorance, those of us who serve them will pay the price through the erosion of trust.

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