Identity Theft: Coming to Screens Near You (and Not Just the Movies)
posted by Danielle Citron
Identity theft, now so common, we can joke about it.
Or as Alan Alda’s character in Woody Allen’s Crimes and Misdemeanors says, “comedy is tragedy plus time.” Time to transform tragedy into comedy, indeed. Scanning the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse database demonstrates that reported data breaches are a daily occurrence. Since January 1, 2013, private and public entities have reported over 20 major data breaches. Included on the list were hospitals, universities, and businesses. Sometimes, the most vulnerable are targeted. For instance, on January 8, 2013, a dishonest employee of the Texas Department of Health and Human Services was arrested on suspicion on misusing client information to apply for credit cards and to receive medical care under their names. Bad enough that automated systems erroneously take recipients of public benefits off the rolls, as my work on Technological Due Process explores. Those designed to help them are destroying their medical and credit histories as well.
We have had over 600 million records breached since 2005, from approximately 3,500 reported data breaches. Of course, those figures represented those officially reported, likely due to state data breach laws, whose requirements vary and leave lots of discretion with regard to reporting up to the entities who have little incentive to err on the side of reporting if they are not legally required to do so. So the bad news is that identity theft is prevalent, but at least we can laugh about it.