Give back the power to protect

29 Oct 2009 View Comments
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You may have missed the fact that the week before last was National Identity Fraud Prevention Week.

It must have worked, because as soon as it was over, insurance firm Zurich announced it had lost a backup tape containing the personal details of 51,000 customers. The incident actually took place in August last year, so it came as a belated but timely reminder of the problem.

It also emerged last weekend that hackers had penetrated the Guardian’s jobs web site, potentially compromising the details of half a million users.

The awareness campaign’s organisers had already revealed research suggesting that only three per cent of consumers are confident that companies handle their details securely. They must have been delighted to see their claims underlined by the subsequent week’s news.

There is growing recognition that the database-centric model of securing our personal details has a limited future. Even the most “unbreakable” database is not immune to CDs going missing in the post. Only one person truly cares about what happens to their identity details ­ and that’s the person whose identity it is.

It makes sense, therefore, to develop a model that puts control of those details back in the hands of the individual.

The government, sadly, ignored such a recommendation, made in a Treasury-commissioned report last year. Instead, Gordon Brown pressed on with the deeply unpopular ID cards scheme.

The Global Trust Council policy body is pushing for an international scheme to achieve such a goal, and undoubtedly there will be other similar initiatives. As the internet puts more control into its users’ hands, it will become inevitable that government and industry will need to put in place legal and technical means to extend that control to securing identities.

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