Personal Information, Over Disclosure & Security

These days too many businesses that we interact with on a daily basis require far too much personal information about each and every one of us. A prime example of this is signing up for a non-essential service at a shopping centre or local shop – some of those businesses require a comparable amount of information to that of a bank. Why do they need all that information?

I recently signed up at our local video store in Upper Coomera on the Gold Coast and they required a credit card or debit card, without one they simply wouldn’t sign you up for an account. I appreciate that they probably have issues getting money from clients who return videos late, however I’m not convinced that providing my credit card information is a reasonable measure and I’ll tell you why.

Every time I see someone pick up a pen and write down my personal information, especially if they aren’t an organisation who’s business is managing personal information, it worries me. Everytime a EFTPOS terminal is down and they take a manual imprint of a credit card, it worries me. In the case of the Upper Coomera video shop, the staff member wrote my credit card information down on a signup form – but once they’ve entered my information into the computer – what happens with that piece of paper? Is it simply scrunched up and put in the waste paper basket, burned, shredded or none of the above. What about once it is entered into the computer, is it encrypted or stored unencrypted for anyone to see. Can any staff member at the video store view my personal information, including my complete set of credit card details? Is the business and their staff adequately equipped and trained to handle that sort of sensitive information?

In my opinion, these are all good questions that the average person never thinks about. They assume that our personal information is handled with care, that businesses have reliable processes in place to minimise the potential risk of having their clients information disclosed or compromised.

These sorts of issues are being raised more and more frequently in the mainstream media, fueled by the unchecked rise in personal information and identity theft taking place. Getting this ugly secret out into the open is the only way to deal with it – people need to be made aware of it and what sort of measures they can put in place to reduce the likelihood of their information getting out into the wild.

The sad thing is, that while I read their terms of service and I know they are bound by the Australian Privacy Act – I still signed up for an account at my local Gold Coast video store. I pressed them to sign me up without that information but they wouldn’t budge and the alternative was a Video Ezy at Helensvale – a 15 minute drive away, hardly convenient.

If  you take anything away from this, let it be an increased awareness of what and how often you disclose your personal information and to what types of people, organisations or companies.

2 thoughts on “Personal Information, Over Disclosure & Security

  1. Mmmm I think most people do think about this. We are all becoming a little more over protective of our personal information. I hired a push car at the shops for Ben which required my credit card details. The lady wrote them on the form that was also the sign in and out sheet for all hire items. Which meant anyone hiring anything for the day would see my credit card number!! I insisted that my personal information be taken off the form and watched while she did it. I believe that it is not that the average person doesn’t think about what happens to their information but it is the businesses that need far better methods of handling this personal details. Until that happens I think we have the right to ask what processes businesses use to keep this private. Did you ask what happens to the paper copy?

  2. No I didn’t ask what happens to it. I should have kept pressing, however after I gave her a ribbing for requiring my credit card information in the first place – I didn’t think she was going to enjoy me following that up with a line of questioning related to the Australian Privacy Act.

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