Sometimes I feel like a prophet of doom, walking around in sack cloth with ashes on my head, wearing a sandwich board sign that reads “The End Is Near”. Unfortunately, the sobering truth is that the better you understand the world of identity theft and data security, the more bleak the outlook seems. For example, there is little hope that identity theft can be addressed by the government, because it’s not capable of responding quickly enough to make a difference. For proof, let’s look at current events.
Think for a moment about a term that has made it big the past couple of years… going viral. This is the term we use when somebody posts a video that everyone is talking about in a very short time, often just a few hours or a couple of days, but certainly a few weeks. Anything can go viral from cute kittens doing ninja stunts to strong arm brutes dousing peaceful protesters with pepper spray. That UC Davis video made it across my desk within 24 hours, and I don’t know anybody who has not seen it. And this happened just last week at the time of this writing. An investigation has already been opened up, the school chancellor has reconsidered her position about what the safety of the students really means and has distanced herself from the decision she made to call in local police to handle the situation. All because a video went viral.
This is the world we live in now, and identity thieves capitalize on this as well. A new concept or idea in the identity theft world can go viral just as easily, spreading like wildfire across the country or the world. By that time the news has a chance to report on it, it’s already ancient history and they have plenty of victims to interview. And local media pride themselves on reporting on the hottest, freshest topics they can find. This is exactly what happened a few years back with the so-called Jury Duty scams, and years before that the same thing happened with phishing scams based on birth announcements in the local papers. In fact the only way to get up to date news about the sort of thing is to be watching newsgroups online… although information about scams tends to travel a bit less rapidly than the scams themselves.
Now give consideration to the process of making a law and enforcing it. When the Federal government decides a law might be necessary for something, the first thing that happens is that a study group is commissioned. This study group will research the subject for a minimum of a year before making recommendations on what that new law should look like. Then a battalion of English scholars sit down with a regiment of attorneys and the law is written as a bill. This bill goes through a congressional body, either the House of Representatives or the Senate, where it is assigned to a committee. The committee may assign it to a sub-committee, or review of themselves. The committee checks to make sure there are plenty of words in the bill, and ad pages as necessary to ensure the bill is of minimum weight, then they report back to the congressional body with a recommendation to pass the bill. The bill then goes to the other Congressional body were the same process is repeated. After all of this, it goes to the President of United States who then signs it into law.
The new law has to go to an agency that figures out how to enforce it, and several years after somebody had the idea of addressing the issue, something finally starts to happen. In the same amount of time identity thieves have made their money many times over and completely disappeared.
It’s a very simple matter of numbers. It takes far longer to write the laws that will protect consumers than it takes to sell their information and use it.
And until this changes, identity thieves will always have the upper hand.