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Selling Other People's Identities

CowboyNeal posted about 8 years ago | from the information-trade dept.

146

joeflies writes "The San Francisco Chronicle has an extensive article on the controversial site Jigsaw, which makes it easy to sell other people's identity information. Jigsaw encourages people to collect business cards and email signature blocks, which is compiled together into a searchable database. Participants earn points towards their own searches or earn money. Is this exactly what Scott McNealy meant when he said electronic privacy is dead?"

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Private Business Cards (4, Insightful)

telchine (719345) | about 8 years ago | (#16064306)

Can business cards be classed as private? Surely the idea of giving them out is so they get spread far and wide?

Re:Private Business Cards (3, Insightful)

Qadesh (998988) | about 8 years ago | (#16064323)

Is jigsaw taking any steps to ensure that only information from sources like business cards is uploaded. What is to stop users from uploading information they've obtained by other means?

Re:Private Business Cards (4, Interesting)

Sam Ritchie (842532) | about 8 years ago | (#16064460)

Is it Jigsaw's responsibility to police how people use their service?

Now answer again, pretending that Jigsaw is an ISP or a filesharing software developer.

Re:Private Business Cards (1)

Qadesh (998988) | about 8 years ago | (#16064575)

But they are not an ISP and if they were the considerations would be quite different

Re:Private Business Cards (1)

Sam Ritchie (842532) | about 8 years ago | (#16064621)

How would the considerations be different? An ISP provides a service which, whilst it has many legitimate uses, can be used to violate an individual's privacy. What steps do ISPs take to ensure web pages served from their address block or hosted servers (or information from their whois service, or emails sent via their relay etc) do not contain inappropriate information?

Also, I was visiting a website the other day and was informed that my computer was broadcasting an IP address to the internet! Surely that's partly my ISPs fault.

Re:Private Business Cards (1)

Rix (54095) | about 8 years ago | (#16064645)

How about if we pretend its a dairy farm, or paper plant?

Re:Private Business Cards (1)

Sleepy (4551) | about 8 years ago | (#16065329)

>Is it Jigsaw's responsibility to police how people use their service?
>Now answer again, pretending that Jigsaw is an ISP or a filesharing software developer.

Wrong question.

Legal filesharing is a fact of life no matter what the RIAA/MPAA do to taint the P2P market.
P2P makes it easier to publish works (good), and so harder to shut down sources faster than they appear (bad, if you are a reactionary, or if your copyright is being violated).

You can draw an analogy to the block printing press, which in its time was just as controversial on both counts.

And by the way, the answer is YES, service providers (P2P or otherwise) ARE subject to copyright law -- they must act in accordance to a takedown notice, or court order, on any identifiable copyrighted work. The printng press manufacturer is not liable for copied books - but the press operator is.

I don't think the question should be, are they policing how the data is used.
I think the question should be, are they acting in accordance to established privacy rules and regulations.

I think anyone can argue that P2P has many legal uses. Collecting personal data on people, and "pretexting", is akin to hacking into someone's privacy. There are a patchwork of laws against this, but poorly enforced. Companies that ARE allowed to collect data on people are tightly regulated (probably not this one).

This is a database about collecting data on taxpayers - other people. There doesn't seem to be any gray area, like there is say with file distribution.

Re:Private Business Cards (4, Informative)

Sam Ritchie (842532) | about 8 years ago | (#16064489)

Actually, now that I've read TFA (gauche, I know), the CEO is quoted as saying "Jigsaw doesn't touch non-business information with a 10-foot pole", lists examples of the type of information not accepted, and relates a circumstance in which inappropriate information was removed. So, yes.

Is trash private? (1)

uioreanu (554486) | about 8 years ago | (#16064771)

How is Jigsaw's different from a huge business-cards trash-can? Is trash private? If not, why not wait and see what can they make out of that mess

Re:Private Business Cards (4, Interesting)

wannabgeek (323414) | about 8 years ago | (#16064373)

It may be true if you're in some kind of sales job or something where you want all the people who are interested in it to contact you. I give out my business card only to people who I want to give my contact information to. It's just an easy way of giving out contact info, that's all. If there was an easier way of transferring my contact details - may be a single button press on bluetooth phone to phone transfer, I will do that instead.

Slashdot Login Problems (1)

dch24 (904899) | about 8 years ago | (#16064928)

So I have to ask, is the reason Slashdot is refusing to let me log in, and meta-moderation has been down for four days now...because CowboyNeal and CmdrTaco are waiting for the eBay auction to close. I think I'll bid $0.25 for all the users and passwords on slashdot.

I kid, I kid.

Re:Private Business Cards (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16064439)

I for one welcome business card EULAs. You can copyright your cards no?

Nothing but public information (5, Interesting)

Riding Spinners (994836) | about 8 years ago | (#16064611)

Jigsaw [jigsaw.com] isn't putting up your grandmother's Social Security number, nor is it hosting pictures of you and your dog. All they host (and all they want) is business contact information. This isn't a violation of privacy... it's a boon for businesses to contact other businesses. It has no desire to be a Zabasearch [zabasearch.com] clone.

If the submitter had bothered to read the article, they would've seen this very important message:

Jigsaw wants only business information. The company won't take home addresses, cell phone numbers or e-mail addresses from Gmail, AOL, Yahoo or other domains that are not identifiable business e-mails. "Jigsaw doesn't touch non-business information with a 10-foot pole..."

So there you go. Someone decides to conglomerate the information any moron can find in a "Contact" page on a corporate Web site, and the privacy nuts freak out — despite the fact that it has nothing to do with privacy. I love how some people commented about creating fake identites and submitting them. Well, unless Mr. John Doe has his own domain and business license, I don't think that fake info will do any good!

Perhaps CowboyNeal [cowboyneal.org] needs to see a psychiatrist about his manic-depressive and schizophrenic paranoia disorders. At the very least, he should apologize to Jigsaw (if not to all of Slashdot).

Re:Nothing but public information (1)

morie (227571) | about 8 years ago | (#16064853)

Jigsaw doesn't touch non-business information with a 10-foot pole...

That's 3 metres, for you SI fetishists

Re:Nothing but public information (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16065335)

3.048m

Jigsaw has high ethics (maybe) (1)

antikronos (1001219) | about 8 years ago | (#16064630)

Since you are the author of your own life, the copyright of all data connected to you should be yours en you should get the money and give permission. Currently companies claim the copyright on your personal data! Likewise is it strange that for instance Google and the ad-sense publishers are making money on your data, which they collect without your permission and store forever. In fact they steal it from you and don't honour the author of the data. Jigsaw has much better ethics and it is at least transparent what information is collected, how they collect it and what is done with it. That is the way it should be! They could make a giant leap if they would reward people who have provided their own data, everytime the data or advertising is sold and thus respect the authorship of the provider and original owner of the data.

Re:Private Business Cards (1)

SlOrbA (957553) | about 8 years ago | (#16064918)

It shouldn't be question of privacy!

It should be question of copyright and the copyright holder should be the creator of this information. This copyright concept means that individual record is actualy owned by the respected individual.

It's easy... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16064308)

...conduct a concerted effort to steal the identy of jigsaw's CEO (Jim Fowler), then use that identity to sink his company.

Re:It's easy... (1)

smitty_one_each (243267) | about 8 years ago | (#16065028)

Brilliant Plan:

Upload the entire /. userbase into jigsaw, totally destroying their signal/noise ratio.

After all, I'm a troll: aren't you?

Is it really? (2, Interesting)

TVAFR (992256) | about 8 years ago | (#16064309)

Since this business contact information, be it on business card or in email signature is already willfully given out by owner I think it is not "selling out people identity" strictly speaking. It is a kind of mining and aggregating public data.

Re:Is it really? (2, Insightful)

shotgunefx (239460) | about 8 years ago | (#16064669)

Yes and no. Not everyone gives out business cards indiscriminately.

Re:Is it really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16064813)

When I send you a letter, that letter doesn't automatically become "public data", and there are restrictions on what you can do with it. Business cards are no different.

Re:Is it really? (2, Insightful)

lysergic.acid (845423) | about 8 years ago | (#16064926)

Business cards have the same implicit confidentiality/privacy as letters?

Business cards are handed out by people to put their contact information out there for potential future business partners. It's not uncommon for people to go to a business convention and just put out a stack of business cards for strangers to take. It's also not uncommon for one person to pass on another's business card to someone else whom they feel might be interested in contacting the person listed on the card.

Letters don't exchange hands the same way. Letters are written and directed at a specific person, and it's not customary to pass on to other people a letter someone has written you in confidence. Sorry, but that's just a piss poor analogy. An appropriate analogy would be passing a particular company's brochure to another person. These are "business" documents which aren't directed at any specific individual and contain information that people want to put out to facilitate their business.

No one is going to get ahold of you via your business contacts or want that info. unless they want contact you regarding some business related matter. And if you don't want other people to solicit your business through a particular contact then you don't list it on your BUSINESS card.

Re:Is it really? (3, Insightful)

SillyNickName4me (760022) | about 8 years ago | (#16065108)

Business cards are handed out by people to put their contact information out there for potential future business partners.

Talk for yourself, don#t talk for others.

Currently I run my own business, and I indeed give out business cards for the reason you mention. A couple of years ago however, I was a systems engineer for a huge IT company, and whenever I gave a business card to someone it was because of that specific individual having a need to contact me and me approving of him contacting me.

The morale of the story is that what you happen to do is first of all not representative, and second, might change over time.

A business card as such is copyrighted both in its design and its content. Taking that content and copying it is a violation of my copyright on my card, and you cannot do that without my permission.

The layers are going to love this one. (3, Interesting)

threeofnine (813056) | about 8 years ago | (#16064310)

I am just waiting for the first law suit. This guy had better have some deep pockets, cause I am sure it will not be long before someone sues.

Very dangerous territory.

Re:The layers are going to love this one. (1)

laughingcoyote (762272) | about 8 years ago | (#16064499)

Sues on the grounds of what?

If I hand out cards to all sorts of people, stating that my name is John Smith, I'm vice president of silly walks at Acme Industries, my phone number is (123)456-7890, and my email is jsmith@acme.com, can I really then make a case that I had a "reasonable expectation of privacy" for that data?

That's not to say that I like data-mining, mind you, but if everyone from grocery stores to the NSA can get away with it on the grounds that the information was already publically available, I really don't know what anyone would make a case against this site on.

Re:The layers are going to love this one. (1)

advocate_one (662832) | about 8 years ago | (#16064832)

If I hand out cards to all sorts of people, stating that my name is John Smith, I'm vice president of silly walks at Acme Industries, my phone number is (123)456-7890, and my email is jsmith@acme.com, can I really then make a case that I had a "reasonable expectation of privacy" for that data?

yes... one of my phone numbers is ex-directory (the direct line to my desk). I only hand out business cards with that number on to those I want to know it... the other business cards have my public numbers... when my ex-directory phone rings, I'm expecting it to be a call from one of a very small set of people.

Re:The layers are going to love this one. (1)

smoker2 (750216) | about 8 years ago | (#16064954)

The layers are going to love this one.
Beware the Mutant Legal Ninja Chickens !

Re:The layers are going to love this one. (1)

henriquemaia (733518) | about 8 years ago | (#16065107)

There is no problem at all with privacy. They, Jigsaw, have put privacy on a hidden layer (on GIMP).

My secret identity is for sale??? (5, Funny)

davidwr (791652) | about 8 years ago | (#16064317)

Better stop handing out those Daily Planet business cards.

--Superman

How many points do I get for this guy? (1)

twitter (104583) | about 8 years ago | (#16064597)

He seems important [wikipedia.org] . I've got no fewer than nine business cards from him, all different.

Re:My secret identity is for sale??? (1)

bangenge (514660) | about 8 years ago | (#16064616)

Better stop handing out those Daily Planet business cards.

--Superman


don't worry too much. just keep the glasses on.

Re:My secret identity is for sale??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16065065)

Too late, I already bought your personal information.

Lex Luthor

Too late (1)

g2devi (898503) | about 8 years ago | (#16065227)

Unfortunately, you have bigger things to worry about than jigsaw. Apparently another company has published far more personal information about you:
                          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DC_Comics [wikipedia.org]

Re:My secret identity is for sale??? (1)

akaina (472254) | about 8 years ago | (#16065336)

To this entire thread:
      BWAAAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA ROTFLMAO!!!

Collaborative privacy destruction? (0, Offtopic)

Boogaroo (604901) | about 8 years ago | (#16064321)

Wow, that's messed up.

Re:Collaborative privacy destruction? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16064411)

How the fuck was the parent modded offtopic? Fucking retards!

Re:Collaborative privacy destruction? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16064464)

Maybe it's because there wasn't an 'inane' option in the mod list.

Well, it's a double-edged sword (4, Insightful)

mendaliv (898932) | about 8 years ago | (#16064322)

Fowler, the CEO of Jigsaw, is quoted as making an interesting comparison in the article. He likens Jigsaw to Wikipedia in so much as Jigsaw is a user-supported advertisment database, like Wikipedia is a user-supported encyclopedia.

What he fails to realize is just how far this user-supportedness can go. Just like with Wikipedia, I imagine that Jigsaw will be hounded by vandals and the like, dumping loads and loads of false information into Jigsaw's database.

Moreover, since Jigsaw is going against basic principles of privacy, I can imagine that we're going to see a lot more problems than with Wikipedia from "vigilante vandals".

Well, it's a double-edged sword-principles (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16064357)

"Moreover, since Jigsaw is going against basic principles of privacy, I can imagine that we're going to see a lot more problems than with Wikipedia from "vigilante vandals""

And what "basic principles" would that be?

Re:Well, it's a double-edged sword (3, Interesting)

dan828 (753380) | about 8 years ago | (#16064396)

And just like Wikipedia, the info has to be taken with a grain of salt. I just looked up my company on Jigsaw-- the only thing that they had correct was the name and phone number. Number of employees, industry, and everything else was wrong. The info would be entirely useless to anyone using it to try and make sales contacts. I have to think that the crap factor is pretty damned high for most of the data.

Re:Well, it's a double-edged sword (1)

zeruch (547271) | about 8 years ago | (#16064444)

I am curious to see what kinds of lawsuits he will eventually run into (and I am quite sure he will), or in turn seeing people going in and editing their contact data to be extremely bogus (such as to change it to Mr. Fowler's for example).

Re:Well, it's a double-edged sword (1)

1u3hr (530656) | about 8 years ago | (#16064596)

I imagine that Jigsaw will be hounded by vandals and the like, dumping loads and loads of false information into Jigsaw's database.

Unlike Wikipedia, you have to pay $25/month to use this. Also, you're not anonymous, so if you are identified as a vandal, your entered data can be removed. They also limit input to 25/entreis month.

Moreover, since Jigsaw is going against basic principles of privacy

There are lots of business directories like this, starting with the Yellow Pages. The main difference is that instead of employing staff to type it in, his customers do it for him. The only people who are damaged are his competitors who charge more.

Re:Well, it's a double-edged sword (1)

RobotRunAmok (595286) | about 8 years ago | (#16065120)

Unlike Wikipedia... you're not anonymous, so if you are identified as a vandal, your entered data can be removed. They also limit input to 25/entreis month.

Great. So the barriers for participation in a nefarious identity-mining site are higher than for Wikipedia. Which means that scenarios like this one are playing out in the back of school buses across the land:

Punk_01: "D00d! I got a great idea! Let's scam that new teacher, I glommed his biz card, we can put his phone number and shit online!"

Punk_02: "Jigsaw? No way, d00d, I heard they're like, really, really strict. How 'bout we just edit Luxembourg some more?"

Punk_01: "Sweet!"

Re:Well, it's a double-edged sword (1)

1u3hr (530656) | about 8 years ago | (#16065178)

Great. So the barriers for participation in a nefarious identity-mining site are higher than for Wikipedia...

Even if someone could insert names in this site, the "identity theft" hysterically hyped in the summary is unlikely, perhaps a few more marketing calls than usual. Your "punks" would have more fun signing their teacher up for a gay dating service.

I can see my entry already: (1)

Rob Simpson (533360) | about 8 years ago | (#16064899)

Rob Simpson
123 A Street
Townsville, Nunavut, Canada
H0H 0H0
World's 2nd Greatest Lover
Finest Swordsman
Outrageous Liar
Soldier of Fortune
Stepladders Repaired

Re:Well, it's a double-edged sword (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16065017)

"Chief Executive Officer
Jigsaw Data Corporation
1700 S Amphlett Blvd Ste 250
San Mateo, CA 94402-2728
USA"

To get the phone number and e-mail you have to sign in. According to the article:

"Fowler's own guidelines tell people never to call his mobile phone, keep e-mails short and not pitch wealth management or other financial services."

Riiiiight. Wouldn't it be terrible if hundreds of people suddenly decided to call his mobile phone and send long e-mails that pitch wealth managment and other financial services *anyway*? Seriously, I wonder if he even carries the mobile phone listed there -- it must ring all day.

I've also heard that the number of phone numbers he's contactable at have recently tripled :-)

From the FAQ:

"Q5. Do I add contacts anonymously?

A: Yes. Actions of members are identified only by the screen names they provide when signing up. There are a couple of exceptions which are explained in Jigsaw's Terms of Use. This is for Jigsaw to comply with verified legal & law-enforcement requests.

Q6. What if I get a bad contact?

A: Jigsaw's contacts are more accurate because of the collaborative effort between the members and Jigsaw. If you happen get a bad contact simply update or challenge it and get your points back. As a direct result of you receiving an incorrect contact the person who added the contact is penalized with a ten point penalty. Members tend to add better contacts because they do not want to lose points and get a bad rating. Jigsaw is a patent pending, self-correcting database. "

Anonymous adds with a penalty system? Yeah, that'll work. People will use throwaway e-mail addresses with bogus information and laugh at the penalty. Is their system really implemented in such a naive way? I mean, let's say you're an unethical competitor -- sign in with bogus, temporary information, submit some largely useless information to get your "points", and then get in there and change your competitor's contact number or other info by 1 digit.

"Patent pending"? In some ways, I hope they get it, because it might help stifle anyone else implementing such a foolish idea.

It would be really interesting to seed some contacts with temporary e-mail addresses used for no other purpose, and see how long it is before the spam starts rolling in.

Very extensive article. (4, Informative)

Lord Aurora (969557) | about 8 years ago | (#16064325)

For anyone who hasn't RTFA yet, go do it now. The summary is a mess of paranoia, and, while there might be something to actually worry about with Jigsaw, TFA does a great job of showing how it works and what exactly could and could not happen. The creator likens Jigsaw to Wikipedia--and it's a pretty good comparison, in that both rely solely on users to edit and maintain information. No, Wikipedia doesn't aid in identity theft--separate issue entirely. Depending on how stupid your average Jigsaw user is, it could be a great tool or a dangerous advantage.

Given how stupid your average human is, though, there isn't much hope for the former.

Very extensive dodge. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16064386)

"Given how stupid your average human is, though, there isn't much hope for the former."

Funny how the people who say this, always manage to exclude themselves from the herd.

Re:Very extensive article. (3, Informative)

Karma Farmer (595141) | about 8 years ago | (#16064436)

For anyone who hasn't RTFA yet, go do it now. The summary is a mess...
You must be new here. You've just described every summary ever created on Slashdot.

Contact information != identities (3, Informative)

rjamestaylor (117847) | about 8 years ago | (#16064329)

As posters already pointed out, there are no such things as private business cards. Besides, your local library probably has access to ReferenceUSA [google.com] , which is a compendium of Personal and Business information extraordinaire. Opinion: overreaction.

upon reflection (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16064351)

Upon reflection, I probably just gave a huge hint to some unconnected soul out there wanting to play the Jigsaw game...

OTOH, Lotus Marketplace shocked in 1991 (2, Informative)

rjamestaylor (117847) | about 8 years ago | (#16064513)

Before many /.'ers were born (or sentient, anyway), Lotus released Lotus Marketplace [wikipedia.org] , a database of 7 Million business (then individuals) for use by whoever for whatever. The uproar in 1991 caused Lotus to discontinue these offerings. Now it's really no big deal that several companies do it, but people don't want a bunch of individuals doing it. Slippery slope... but we're so far along it that there's no point in trying to stop it.

Logan's Run is now (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16064334)

Do they have pictures of the people's faces too?

Cause for $2k you can go to a site like Thermage.com and copy someone's face, jigsaw style.

Logan's Run, anyone?

Make money fast! (0, Offtopic)

edunbar93 (141167) | about 8 years ago | (#16064338)

Sell your soul! Hell, sell someone else's soul! We don't care! We at evilpeople.com, we will buy souls wholseale!

Re:Make money fast! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16064358)

>Sell your soul! Hell, sell someone else's soul! We don't care! We at evilpeople.com, we will buy souls wholseale!


Already been done: TotL Soul Mart [totl.net] .

Jigsaw? oh no! (1)

js92647 (917218) | about 8 years ago | (#16064339)

Hello $FetchFirstNameFromIP, would you like to play a game?

Re:Jigsaw? oh no! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16064768)

No. and if you ring me about double glazing again, I'll sue!

The chickens have come back home to roost (1)

Travoltus (110240) | about 8 years ago | (#16064352)

To quote Kosh from Babylon 5, "And so it begins."

For ages, these same poor put upon privacy-deprived businesses have been pirating our personal information and trading it around.

Now it has come back home to bite them on the butt.

Maybe now we'll see them use their lobbyists to buy some privacy laws. Then everyone will want to participate in those protections. Hmmmmmm. Good idea, Jigsaw!

Re:The chickens have come back home to roost (1)

Don_dumb (927108) | about 8 years ago | (#16064526)

For ages, these same poor put upon privacy-deprived businesses have been pirating our personal information and trading it around
Not all of the people in a 'rollodex' are going to be businesses, many would be clients perhaps. I am pretty sure that in the UK if they aren't businesses then any unauthorised selling or distribution of that personal data is illegal (the Data Protection Act), not sure if that t DPA covers business data also.

In TA he cites the example of people who buy houses and enter themselves onto public lists/databases, as something justifying his site. But house ownership doesn't seem to me to be something that many businesses would do, so he doesn't seem to be precluding the general public from getting onto this list, which is very wrong.

If the system is just to create a 'super business directory', then I dont see why too many businesses can complain. It is just extra advertising.

It is companies that should improve id checking! (5, Interesting)

poliopteragriseoapte (973295) | about 8 years ago | (#16064363)

The scandal is not that people are selling and buying that kind of information. The scandal is that companies accept that kind of information as identification information.

The scandal is that anyone can pretend to be me by knowing my name, address, phone number, and social security number, and little more sometimes, but not always. NONE of those pieces of information was EVER meant to be secret. We have to write our social security number in zillion of places, our employers know it - nobody in his right mind could trust that as a piece of identification information!

Yet this is exactly what companies do, because they bear little of the cost, and there is no legislation that forces them to be more selective with what they accept as identification information (read with what little info one could access the phone record of Thomas Perkins).

And all the while, better tools for identifications are widely available. I could identify myself to my bank simply by sending them a PGP-signed email: all that this requires of me is to click on the "sign it" button in Thunderbird - and I get incredibly better security than monkeying around with SSNs.

Yes, people with PGP tend to have small webs of trust - but this is because of lack of legislation that requires better identification for transaction, and also, for lack of public services. In my city, want to tell the tree pruners that the city tree next to my house needs some pruning? There is a phone number and a very kind and helpful employee on the other end of the line. Want to get your PGP key signed by a city/county officer that checks your papers thoroughly? No hope. You have to somehow know someone who is connected enough to others that need PGP (package maintainers, for instance). Tree haestetics surely ranks higher than basic identity security, even though our nation is more and more based on remote transactions.

Our legislation, and public services, are late some 20 years regarding identity management. The scandal is that they are not brought up to date faster, not that some people are selling email footers that we send around for free.

Re:It is companies that should improve id checking (1)

mcrbids (148650) | about 8 years ago | (#16064478)

And all the while, better tools for identifications are widely available. I could identify myself to my bank simply by sending them a PGP-signed email: all that this requires of me is to click on the "sign it" button in Thunderbird - and I get incredibly better security than monkeying around with SSNs.

Yes, and no. You get better security, as long as your system isn't trojaned, wormed, or compromised. (And no, running Linux or OSX doesn't make you immune to these problems, though it helps) And so long as a multitude of other factors are considered. Such as:

1) Does your private key reflect sufficient randomness?

2) Does the 1-way function used to generate your private key have a "back door" making for trivial penetration?

3) Is your private key sufficiently private?

4) Is your bank USING PGP to authenticate?

5) Is THEIR private key really private? (If not, there's room for a man-in-the-middle attack)

But, even if those issues didn't exist, this solution simply doesn't scale well. What about people who don't have computers? What about people who can barely turn them on? What about people who are illiterate? What about people who don't speak english? How do you make sure that this works when the power is out?

And, if you think phishing is a problem now, boy, just wait until word gets around that private keys are such a big deal!

Our legislation, and public services, are late some 20 years regarding identity management. The scandal is that they are not brought up to date faster, not that some people are selling email footers that we send around for free.

A great sound bite. Unfortunately, it's just not true. You haven't presented a solution that works well, is cheap, widely understandable, fails gracefully, and is in the reach of the average (non-techie) Joe.

What solution presents all of these?

Certainly not your PGP "Web of Trust".

I'm a techie-type, who tends towards paranoia in security, and I've never set it up. It simply offers no real value. Hardly anybody else uses it, and if they did, they wouldn't care about the signed email. Realistically, nobody's going to say "Yes, I knowed it was you, because the Email was SIGNED!!!".

If somebody spoofs an email, it's pretty easy to look in the headers to identify that it wasn't me, and nobody has ever spoofed me to my detriment. Nor do I know anybody who's been so spoofed to their detriment, either. I've seen SPAM go out with forged from: addresses, but nobody believes that the penis pillz offer actually came from that person. Additionally, even if you encrypt an email so that only the recipient can see it, that recipient is then free to forward your message (without encryption) to whomever they like. So, your email is still a matter of public record. The rules of the game are simple: don't send an email that would be a problem if forwarded.

So what was this PGP thingy supposed to do for me, again?

Re:It is companies that should improve id checking (1)

poliopteragriseoapte (973295) | about 8 years ago | (#16064509)

Look, they could issue (for $100? or how much it costs) to people devices which are able to sign with a private key a short string of digits (16? 20?) that they dictate to you over the phone. You dictate back the 20 digits of the signature. The company verifies with the public key on record. No complication, no computer needed.

Ultimately secure? Not. The keys would be most likely too short, yadayada. But anything like this would be VASTLY better than relying on the same 9-digit fixed number (the SSN) that appears in cleartext on every kind of document, and of which there are hundreds of copies lying around in offices around the country, from banks to insurance companies to medical offices to schools to universities to... you get the idea.

But until there is some legislative incentive to put this into place, companies will want to avoid carrying the cost of identifying you more properly, and will be happy to give out your information to anyone who collects a bit of knowledge about you.

The situation will change only when legislation will be introduced, or when consumers will essentially refuse to deal with companies with weak identification procedures (I am not holding my breath on this).

Re:It is companies that should improve id checking (2, Insightful)

mcrbids (148650) | about 8 years ago | (#16064566)

Look, they could issue (for $100? or how much it costs...

Ok. 300 Million people in the USA. Times $100. That's $30 BILLION dollars. So much for cheap.

to people devices which are able to sign with a private key a short string of digits (16? 20?) that they dictate to you over the phone. You dictate back the 20 digits of the signature.

Ever enter a WEP key? It's 26 letters long. I have to retype one at LEAST 2 or 3 times TWICE in order to get it to work, when I have the key printed right in front of me. Do you REALLY think that's going to work reliably over the phone?

No complication, no computer needed.

Eh, let's see. We're going to relay a 20-character random text key twice over the phone, in and out of a $100 computing device. How is this either one of "No complication" or "no computer needed" !?!?!? What is that $100 thingy if not a limited-function computer?

What happens if you lose your $100 thingy?

Ultimately secure? Not.

Meaning, it isn't even a particularly good assurance of what you're after.

But anything like this would be VASTLY better than relying on the same 9-digit fixed number (the SSN) that appears in cleartext on every kind of document, and of which there are hundreds of copies lying around in offices around the country, from banks to insurance companies to medical offices to schools to universities to... you get the idea.

The problem is that you are trying to solve a social problem with a technical solution. You can't do that. No amount of technology usage would eliminate crime. Your solutions is simply too complicated and expensive to work well. Furthermore, it doesn't fail gracefully. Somebody gets your $100 thingie, and they suddenly can do whatever they want with your bank accounts and whatnot.

I STRONGLY recommend that you read some of Bruce Schnier's work. He started out like you - thoroughly convinced that the proper use of encryption could solve all of society's security ills, through his best-selling book "Applied Cryptography".

But then, the real world showed him how he was simply wrong. He was smart enough to swallow his pride and learn his lessons, and he's subsequently become one of the worlds leading experts on system security. Some of his best works include "Secrets and Lies", and his most recent: "Beyond Fear".

Give it a chance. You could make a 6-figure career by applying his principles!

Re:It is companies that should improve id checking (1)

poliopteragriseoapte (973295) | about 8 years ago | (#16064687)

$100. Cheap. How much do you think it costs you to get a passport? Or a driver licence? Same order of magnitude. And most likely, if you mass produce it, it could be $20 (it shouldn't cost more than a pocket calculator).

Lose it? Call and ask for the key to be revoked. Somebody else voids your key? It is a nuisance, to be sure: bring it in and have it reprogrammed. I mean, also credit cards get lost, it's not the end of the world.

Somebody get my $100 thingie? They can do exactly what they can do if they know my SSN (the thingie could ask for a pin before spitting out the signature).

I also don't believe in a foolproof and perfect technical solution. But anything is better than the current solution of NO security at all. They might as well use my licence plate rather than my SSN - at least it's written in fewer places online!

Re:It is companies that should improve id checking (1)

Lord Ender (156273) | about 8 years ago | (#16064580)

The FEDERAL government should start an X.509 PKI. It should issue CA keys all the state governments. They can pass them down to the birth-certificate-issuing level. Then, instead of a birth certificate, you get a credit card with a smart card which has a key signed up through the federal one.

Any COTS smart card reader could verify that you are legit.

This would cost a little bit of money initially, but it would pay for itself thousands of times over due to the reduction it fraud.

It isn't perfect--it is as close as we could get, though. CRL distribution? Hell, it could be broadcast over AM radio, from GPS sats, whatever. Not a big deal.

Whether you have been a victim of identity fraud or not, YOU ARE PAYING FOR IT in terms of increased costs on everything you buy. Federal PKI is the solution to identity fraud.

Jim Fowler, CEO and Co-founder (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16064370)

Let's start compiling information about Jim and then we can publish it here. I'm sure he would approve, since that's what his own livelyhood is based upon. As a start, I'll give $1 to the first person that posts his home address and the names of his spouse and/or children. Heck, I'll throw in an extra buck for his driver's license number or SSN.

Sign up now! Win valuable prices! (2, Funny)

Patrik_AKA_RedX (624423) | about 8 years ago | (#16064398)

Sign up for my, euh, newsletter! Win valuable multi dollar prices!
(Winners must collect their price at our central office in North-Siberia. Offer void in your area.)

To apply fill in this form:
Full name:
Adress:
Phone number:
Email adress:
Job title:
Name of Company:
Adress:
Phone number:
Religion:
gender:
Ethnicy:
Shoe size:
Blood type:
Sexual prefences:
Fetish preferences:
favorite color underpants:
Disorders (list not more than 4):
Genetic defects:
Credit cards owned (name, number, end date and security number):
Social security number:
Ilegal weapons owned:
List of people you don't want to see recieving this information:
Amount willing to spend monthly to assure this wouldn't happen:
How often do you cheat your wife/husband:
List the last 5 people you cheated with (include adress and phone number):
Likelyness your wife/husband would use violence against formentioned people:
Do these people know of your wife/husbands violent nature yet?
Other information that could lead to blackmail:

Thank you for cooperating.

Note: We will not share your information with thirth parties. In fact we don't share at all. Information could be sold to highest bidder (and probably will). Highest bidder might be a maffia member, however we of RipYouOffOnline(TM) can't be held responsible for violence as a result of not following your end of the blackmail.

Re:Sign up now! Win valuable prices! (1)

Nefarious Wheel (628136) | about 8 years ago | (#16064426)

You forgot one: o List the number of journalists and Hewlett-Packard board members you've spoken to recently

Do I have to have a subject? (2, Insightful)

AriaStar (964558) | about 8 years ago | (#16064433)

The title given to this section is misleading. My ID was stolen when I was 18, and I've lived the last seven years of my life as the victim of ID theft. Business information is not selling identities. Selling my driver's license number, social, etc., would be.

Although annoying, truthfully this guy isn't doing anything wrong and it seems he's compiling a database of business contact information accessible via a paid subscription or by adding business contact info. Only if he allowed personal or home information would this be wrong.

I always get this odd sens eo fpride at how much goes on in my own back yard, and it reminds me of part of the reason I love living in Silicon Valley and the Bay Area.

The Obvious Solution..... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16064481)

Is to provide large quantities of fictious information! Rapidly aquire your own search points and help depreciate the quality of the database at the same time!

Hooray for social de-engineering!

So... (0, Offtopic)

benplaut (993145) | about 8 years ago | (#16064500)

How much is your name worth?
How much is your soul worth?

Can you imagine... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16064527)

A beow... Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't know I was here.

For my needs... (1)

Jugalator (259273) | about 8 years ago | (#16064543)

For my needs, I don't steal identities, I make [fakenamegenerator.com] them. :-)

Probably would be illegal in the UK (5, Insightful)

26199 (577806) | about 8 years ago | (#16064546)

Quite a few times I've thought, wouldn't it be nice if America had the same data privacy laws... this is a good example of why they're needed.

In the UK a database of personally-identifiable information automatically needs permission from every single individual concerned, unless it's exempt for some reason. Even if it is exempt the data can only be kept for the purpose it was collected for, and not shared. Once it's no longer needed it has to be destroyed.

It's a good example of putting individual rights before business interests. Not something the USA excels at...

Re:Probably would be illegal in the UK (1)

Tim C (15259) | about 8 years ago | (#16064911)

You forgot to mention that you also have the right to request/demand a copy of all information held about you, and that the company must provide it for a reasonable fee; I *think* that there is a limit on that charge of £10 or £20 or so, to cover administrative costs, although I'm not 100% certain.

Don't count on it :-( (3, Informative)

Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) | about 8 years ago | (#16065104)

Our data protection laws in the UK aren't nearly as powerful as you (and most people) think, unfortunately, and while I think our current Information Commissioner is a pretty good guy, he can only protect our privacy with the powers he's given in law.

For example, take a look at the kind of data Transport for London have (or at least used to have) in their data protection entry, and tell me it's really all needed to meet the business requirements of that organisation.

Moreover, the number of exemptions is pretty staggering. Why are credit reference agencies permitted to keep vast amounts of personal data about me without my consent? (Don't tell me it's those signs at the shop counters; I read the small print, and I've read my credit report, and the two are not related in any meaningful way.) The last time I dealt with a credit reference agency (to clean up someone else's mistake that was black-marking my record incorrectly) I discovered that there were, quite literally, more inaccurate entries in my record than accurate ones. After waiting on hold for more than half an hour to speak to someone about them, I was asked after about five minutes "whether it really mattered", since "it's after 6pm and I'm supposed to be going home now". Seriously, that's what they told me, after a half-hour on hold, when the records they had on me that could directly affect my ability to get a mortgage or something were written in someone's dreamland.

Other legal powers aren't as great as you might expect, either. For one thing, while you can normally get bad information corrected, if you just don't want someone to store your personal information any more, you can't make them stop, as long as they're registered for that purpose. Take Amazon, for example. I bought from them using a credit card for the first time not so long ago. After going through the usual signing-up process and completing my order, I discovered that they are now keeping my credit card number on-file, and will use it any time someone makes an order from them using my login and password (which they control), without any further attempt to confirm my identity or intent to make that transaction. Can I make them drop that number from their database and opt to re-enter it every time I make a purchase instead? Take a guess. And this in a world where thousands of people's credit card numbers or other personal details have been "misplaced" by large businesses in the past year alone, and in a country where the law does not currently require a company making such mistakes to disclose them publicly or to pay any particularly heavy fines for doing so.

So while I agree we have better data protection laws than many, I think we have a long way to go before our data is protected as well as it should be.

Re:Probably would be illegal in the UK (1)

cerberusss (660701) | about 8 years ago | (#16065171)

Offtopic, but your sig links to a website saying they've stopped doing business.

How Prescient! (4, Informative)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | about 8 years ago | (#16064555)

"Is this exactly what Scott McNealy meant when he said electronic privacy is dead?"

Yes. This is exactly what he meant.
After leaving his job as CEO of Sun, McNealy went on to found Jigsaw.

Re:How Prescient! (1)

gbjbaanb (229885) | about 8 years ago | (#16064778)

Hmm. has anyone looked up Scott McNealy on this, or other, websites?

Privacy is dead. Long live privacy! (1)

Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) | about 8 years ago | (#16065230)

I love that "privacy is dead" quote of his.

Of course, I'll actually believe it when he posts his credit card numbers, nude pictures of his wife, and the itinerary and security arrangements for his family for the next month on a public web site.

Until he puts his money where his mouth is, he's just defending unethical behaviour with a sound-bite.

Speaking of privacy.. (2, Informative)

tontammer (988352) | about 8 years ago | (#16064618)

Speaking of privacy, theres a much better way to talk online with people we already know and trust.Grupus [grupus.com]

Dunno.. (1)

bytesex (112972) | about 8 years ago | (#16064653)

Good. I see the connection: Scott McNealy is from Sun, Sun produced java, and Jigsaw [w3.org] was written in java. Glad there's no namespace confusion here.

There is no excuse for this not being opt in (1)

Rix (54095) | about 8 years ago | (#16064656)

They have the contact details by definition, so there's no reason they couldn't be contacting people and asking permission put them in the database.

Banned in the UK (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16064658)

This site would be illegal in the UK, thanks to the Data Protection Act - the data is obtained unfairly, it does not keep the data secure, it does not have safeguards for accuracy, the data is being used for purposes not disclosed to the data subject, etc.

If anyone wants to call this article an overreaction, reply with your real name, full address, telephone number, and employer. Or shut up.

Re:Banned in the EU (2, Informative)

SlOrbA (957553) | about 8 years ago | (#16064895)

The European way to handle personal information is via ownership establishment.

In EU the personal information is owned by the respective person and anyone how is copying personal information without the consent of the owners to that information is pirating the information. The only execption to this is the official records regulated by individual laws i.e. criminal records.

This fact is also the corner stone of the ruling which forbids the handing of personal information of travelers to US officials, because in US there is legal respect of this ownership.

Re:Banned in the EU (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16065190)

In EU the personal information is owned by the respective person
No it's not. Please provide a link to your source.

Re:Banned in the EU (1)

Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) | about 8 years ago | (#16065262)

This fact is also the corner stone of the ruling which forbids the handing of personal information of travelers to US officials, because in US there is legal respect of this ownership.

I believe you misunderstand. The basic idea is that within Europe, the data protection laws require certain guarantees about how personal information will be stored and processed. One such requirement is that the information may not be transferred outside Europe unless the place they're being transferred to has sufficiently strong safeguards in place to make the same guarantees. The US isn't anywhere close -- it does not recognise the level of control you describe as ownership -- and therefore any European organisation that gave the information to someone in the US would be in a deep pile or brown stuff.

How I discovered Jigsaw. (3, Interesting)

Hovsep (883939) | about 8 years ago | (#16064758)

I received an e-mail one day from someone selling a how-to book. The advertisement had a plug for Jigsaw at the bottom citing it as the source, so I decided to check this out. The e-mail address it came to was one that I'd given only to HP for their reseller program. The address and other info Jigsaw had about me matched the mailing address I'd given HP, which was pretty new at the time and I'd only given it HP. I guess someone at HP decided to earn Jigsaw points by stealing HP's list.

I had no luck contacting Jigsaw or deleting my information from their site via their form, but I did complain about this to HP. HP contacted me the next day and appologized for letting this happen. Shortly thereafter my information from Jigsaw was removed.

I've also caught several other companies that promise to not share my contact information using the same method. It's pretty effective and I just redirect those stolen addresses to /dev/null. I just won't do business with them anymore.

Jigsaw may claim that their information is only from sources like business cards that are handed out, but I can say for certain in my case that they just got a stolen customer list. They have no way of assuring that the data comes from legal sources like business cards. I see lawsuits in their future as they get more publicity like this. "We didn't know it was stolen" is not an acceptable excuse.

Trading people's identities is legal ... (4, Interesting)

golodh (893453) | about 8 years ago | (#16064876)

For better or worse, trading people's identity information is legal.

There is no sense in complaining about it since the whole US legal system happens to be designed to protect people's freedoms (such as the one to trade other people's identity information) from the snap judgement of their fellow man, especially when those freedoms are unpopular. And as we all know it's common business practice to disregard most "moral" considerations in the pursuit of revenues. Of course there is always the possibility of those revenues being affected by the backlash of being unpopular, but the decision criterion is always revenue, never morals or ethics. So impopularity only works if the backlash is large enough and inescapable enough. And that only for as long as the costs outweigh the benefits.

Which it probably won't be of course ... there are far too many issues clamouring for everyone's attention to guarantee that anyone who doesn't devote his whole spare time (or even his whole life) to being angry and upset about this or that abuse or scandal just won't have the time to much of an effective force. A handful of grumblers won't matter, but one powerful grumbler does. From the article it's interesting to see that when an individual complains to this company to have his own information removed, he is ignored. When HP complains, the information is taken down pronto. A clear case of cost-benefit tradeoff: an individual's ire (he hasn't got rights, but he might make a nuisance of himself) doesn't count for much. A large company's ire (they don't have any rights either, but they can afford a battery of lawyers to make life difficult for you) is something to be taken very seriously. Elementary economics.

Therefore, as I see it, new legislation is the only way to stop this sort of thing. Personally I would be in favour of legislation stating that you and you alone "own" your identity data, and that no-one (especially no companies) may hold or store any piece of it without your permission, and that they are obliged by law to fully disclose all information they hold on you upon first request, and that they are obligated to allow you to correct any information they hold on you, say within 20 business days. All of this enforceable on pain of say a 1000$ fine per case.

That would be too bad for companies that make a living from trading information, but I happen to rank my privacy over their survival and I wouldn't mind seeing them go.

The point is of course that the majority doesn't seem to support any such law. So unless there is enough political will to enact some legislation to protect our identity information from being sold it's no use grumbling. Unless you manage to grumble loudly enough to make an impact of course.

Time to stock false IDs (2)

Opportunist (166417) | about 8 years ago | (#16064996)

I actually have a few business cards, email addresses and other tracking sources that would most likely cause you to search in all the wrong places for me. It was actually for a LARP, but then again, why not use it to cover tracks? If you can't avoid data being collected about you, just make sure the data is false.

All I can say is... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16064997)

there's a special place in hell.

This isn't a problem... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16065040)

It's only a matter of time and these databases will be poisoned much like spammers lists were, but with a catch. I'm sure law enforcement, insurance, and financial organizations will create false identities and monitor them for when someone bites, laying traps within the data to further poison the database. It can be a lucrative income for the government to nail companies who do dialing operations or large identity stealing operations.

In reality, it's about the accuracy of the information you encounter, not the breadth. Humans will need to, at some point, verify that all the information within a database is correct or it will become poisoned on an exponential scale. That's when things get difficult because then you need multiple reliable ways to acquire data and assemble it together into a database.

The time to begin worrying is when accurate databases begin to be put online and opened to the private and public sectors. For example, I went to pay a ticket today and noticed the courts schedule for every case in every courthouse in the entire state of illinois are within a computer system accessable by a terminal near the desk I payed the ticket at. Very handy if the state wants to cut costs, but also, very dangerous because that's one more bit of information that's online in a database that can be tied into another system with nothing more than a daily download. When will they enter title information into such a system to track it instead of working with just the paperwork? Social security accounts? Bank account information? Housing insurance information?

Information is a commodity; it's value is determined by it's accuracy, pertinance, cost to obtain, and use. When accurate databases of general information are opened to the world for everyone to acquire, the information itself will become useless. Everyones digital presance will no longer be accurate and companies such as credit card companies and banks will not be able to tell what house they sold on which loan to which SSN, because they will not be able to proove such information in a court of law as when one individuals digital identity is being used in 20 locations 1000 miles apart, nobody can be responsable but the bank even IF it's one individuals responsability and they had a contractual clause obligating them to pay for all thefts of data and the result, they still would have to proove it was them. Therefor many businesses have a very good incentive to keep your information private and protected.

Obligatory post linking TFA Seinfeld (2, Funny)

ringmaster_j (760218) | about 8 years ago | (#16065095)

Woman walks up to man with Russian accent sitting in black van: "I'd like to buy an identity" Man hops out of van, slides open side door, there's just a computer inside. He points at an Excel sheet: "Ahh, yes! I have maaaany identities for sale, veeery cheap! Look at this one, the Silkwood: Visa Classic, SI number, excellent credit rating! It fell off back of truck." Woman points to computer screen Excel sheet: "No, I want something more powerful. Hmmm... what about that one?" Man pushes her hand away: "That's the Commando 450, I don't sell that one. Now-" Woman: "That's what I want! I want the Commando 450!" Man: "Lady, that one is is too powerfull. Platinum Corporate Amex, it's used in the circus trade to buy elephants!" Woman: "I'll pay you (takes out wad of cash) this much for it!"

There is no privacy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16065133)

Way back before the digital revolution you could find everything you wanted to know about somebody... woha, wait a min, backup. This is about companies! Even more publicly available... let's settle down on the privacy issues. If you have something to hide then you deserve to be embarassed :P. It's just like those getting caught at a traffic light and being sent a ticket electronically. "OOh, it's bad, I'm protesting, the government is spying on me!" Come on, fess up, you got caught stop being a whiny. While this isn't exactly the same there are some odd parallels.

Come on slashdotters do something (0)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | about 8 years ago | (#16065270)

Please slashdotters, dont sit there just posting to earn Karma points. Write a bot to fill Jigsaw with tons and tons of bogus information. Write a bot to collect info from Jigsaw, randomly mutate the data by breeding one business card with another and resubmit. N sets of genuine data can be used to breed N^2 corrupt data and reduce the signal/noise ratio. If you corrupt the data enough before the advertising takes off, may be you can nip it in the bud.

Wait, there was this link to people willing to solve Captchas for 50 cents an hour. Hire them to fill it with bogus info.

You can edit your own info (1)

Caffeinated Geek (948530) | about 8 years ago | (#16065297)

Personally I don't see this as the privacy invasion of the century. But all the same I hate having to talk to cold calling sales people and I figure the less of them that I hang up on the lower my chances of one of them having the balls to call back and complain to my boss about my rude behavior. So I went in and edited my contact info. E-mail address is now bogus and the phone number goes to local time and temperature. If by some chance someone wants to send me a letter that is OK with me. As an added bonus if you edit your own info no other user can edit afterwards. I don't use the service but you can edit your own record (or any record you can check the e-mail for) without signing up.

Very misleading title (1)

mapkinase (958129) | about 8 years ago | (#16065339)

This is first time I hear about usage of that type of identity theft (business card information).

After I read the article, I realized that it is mostly not about identity theft, but privacy. Not about "identity" information, but "contact" information. The original title of the article says nothing about identity theft. It does mention it in general terms in the text.

Very misleading title. What is wrong, BTW, of copying the original title, if you are not sure you understood the article? Right. The problem is the submitter is always supersure that he understands the article.

In short. The article describes just another spammers database of contact information. Not identity thieves. Spammers.
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