Personal information in hands of others – how safe it is?

There are 4 groups of personal information (PIM, Jones & Teevan, 2007):

  • Information a person keeps directly or indirectly for personal use. This is information used to complete tasks (documents, email, etc.), to  use for pleasure (music, videos, books, etc.), study …
  • Information about a person but managed under the control of others. This group includes health records, police records, ISP’s log files, tax agencies’ records, libraries’ logs, banks, etc.
  • Information experienced by a person but not under person’s control. This might be a borrowed book, DVD or similar items form a friend, a library or from internet; but in a broader sense it’s all information out there we come across.
  • Information directed to a person. This are received emails, software alerts, push ads on the web, RSS news, etc. Information from this group can fall into the first group after its acquisition.

The second group of personal information is the most troublesome for most of us. In most cases is probably better to leave our sensitive information with professionals and agencies that have several security measures to prevent such information to be disclosed to third parties. But we hear about how credit card’s numbers leak to the internet and similar horrifying stories.

The soon-to-be-released study by CDW shows that people in USA trust their doctors to store their physical health records, but fear that in electronic format, this records would bee exposed to greater risks. It also showed that a third of doctors don’t have basic security tools on their computers, such as antivirus software!!

The conclusion is, that having documents and records in digital form brigs a lot of advantages and sadly, disadvantages. The only thing we can do about this second group of personal information, is to HOPE that whoever has to deal with our information, considers the security and privacy very seriously and uses expected tools to prevent leaks of such information to unauthorized users! And believe me,  our health, tax and other records fly around from one office to the other, insurance companies, etc. So there’s a lot of hands who handle our personal information.