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|-error-file:tidyout.log Intellectual Prop.
|-error-file:tidyout.log Privacy
| '-+ Database
| '-+ E-mail
| '-+ Web
| '-+ Encryption
| '-+ Anonymity
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|-error-file:tidyout.log Speech Issues

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Study Guide

The two main issues with database privacy are the actual security of the database itself and the legal and ethical implications of what can/should be stored on the databases in the first place.

    Database Security

    When a carder by the handle "Maxus" broke into CD Universe's database records and gained access to over 250,000 credit card numbers from customers (link), the first thing everyone wanted to know was HOW. A single lapse in database security can doom an e-company to almost immediate failure and yet it seems we hear about events such as this happening all the time.

    Database Security is integral in keeping our information private, regardless of who is maintaining the database itself. By far the most common break in security is the presence of plain-text log and/or data files on public web servers. The solution to this problem is relatively simple, either don't keep logs or use encryption. While encryption is beyond the scope of this topic, it can be used to effectively hinder the efforts of wouldbe cyber criminals. Another critical area that must be monitored are the administrators and users of the database. As in this case where a DEA Agent was found to have been selling information to various parties, all the encryption and frontend security means nothing if any user can have unchecked access to sensitive information. Keeping a checks and balances system on the users and administrators much the way a bank keeps tabs on its tellers is a necessary and effective means to keeping information safe and private.

  • Identity Privacy

    The other and much more publicized area of database privacy is in the content that is availible for public use. This is divided up into two areas, data driven for marketing, and data driven for public records.

    • Targeted Marketing

      The first people to take unfair advantage of technology in business are arguably the marketing departments. Through the use of cookies, a company can find and archive to their databases loads of personal information about the visitors to their companies and or client's websites. This is where the waters get muddy, because often the users have no idea that their identities, habits and buying records are being recorded and stored. The real problems with this come when these companies, in an attempt to add extra sources of revenue, start to sell this information to other companies. This is what happened in the cases of Verisign (formerly Network Solutions) and even moreso with the DoubleClick corporation. The nail in the coffin that makes this entire practice so upsetting and angering to the average Joe, is the extreme difficulty in being "opted out" of inclusion into these databases. Also getting removed from any lists a user has been added to can be a wild goose chase of neverending unsubscribe emails.

    • Identity Theft

      Just by spending a few minutes and possibly a few dollars on sites like peoplefind one can get to nearly anyone in the US and abroad. The ease with which a malicious person can assume someone's identity both online and in real life can be startling. Most people don't even realize that their names, home telephone numbers and home addresses are already probably populated on several public records search databases across the web. Often times the reason it is so easy to find information is not the fault of the subject of the search. Companies often use very powerful information as the key to customer records, such as a person's social security number or the use of a drivers license number. All of this information once obtained can be used quickly and often unchecked to assume the identity of a person. A hacker by the name Kevin Mitnick has written several articles on the ease with which one can obtain all the details of a person's life from public online databases (one, two).

Privacy & Databases - Discussion Questions - Lecture Notes