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Intervention by Denise Caruso Read Intervention by Denise Caruso, Executive Director of the Hybrid Vigor Silver Award Winner, 2007 Independent Publisher Book Awards; Best Business Books 2007, Strategy+Business Magazine

THE $54 MILLION QUESTION:WHAT’S YOUR INFO WORTH?

by Mike Neuenschwander ~ February 18, 2008.
Permalink | Filed under: Hybrid Vigor, 21st Century Risk, Social Trust Online.

Technologists have long admired the almighty algorithm: the piece of patentable code worth millions of dollars. While computer hardware has gone the way of commodity pricing, software and online services companies insist that consumers pay big bucks for use of their proprietary algorithms (when most consumers can’t even say “al-go-rhythm”), in the form of the software packages they buy, or use online for a fee.

But how much is your personal information worth? One woman, Raelyn Campbell, claims her information is worth $54 million. Campbell says she took her $2,000 computer for repairs at BestBuy more than six months ago and hasn’t seen it since. BestBuy offered to settle for about $2,000 to cover the lost hardware. But Campbell rightly points out that in losing her computer, BestBuy also lost her personal information, including account information to a variety of online sites.

Hopefully, Campbell stored only her own information on this computer, and not any HR information from her employer. Stolen or missing laptops are common types of data breaches, as attested to by the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse. These cases are usually multi-million-dollar lawsuits. Curiously though, Campbell draws on a dry cleaning incident as precedent for her suit. In that case, a customer sued a dry cleaning establishment for losing a pair of paints (see the link to the Campbell story for more details). The $54 million law suit was eventually dismissed after costing the dry cleaner $100,000 in legal fees. Campbell, it seems, has an elevated sense of dramatic irony by attempting to take BestBuy to the cleaners for the same amount as the case of the purloined pants. But keep your shirt on — Campbell admits to using an inflated amount to get media attention. Nice move.

I’m sure that encryption vendors love this kind of story. And yes, encrypting our data is a good idea in theory. But it’s not particularly easy or convenient. It messes up indexes, so you can’t ever find stuff when you need to. Simply put, we’re a few ideas short of a solution to this problem.

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