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ChoicePoint Settles With The FTC About Its Data Breaches and Security Lapses

I'd written previously about my less than consumer friendly experiences with ChoiceTrust, a service from ChoicePoint, Inc.. Recently, the U.S. Federal Trace Commission (FTC) announced a settlement by ChoicePoint, Inc. after the company's past data breaches and data security lapses:

"In April 2008, ChoicePoint (now a subsidiary of Reed Elsevier, Inc.) turned off a key electronic security tool used to monitor access to one of its databases, and for four months failed to detect that the security tool was off, according to the FTC. During that period, an unknown person conducted unauthorized searches of a ChoicePoint database containing sensitive consumer information, including Social Security numbers. The searches continued for 30 days. After discovering the breach, the company brought the matter to the FTC’s attention. The FTC alleged that if the security software tool had been working, ChoicePoint likely would have detected the intrusions much earlier and minimized the extent of the breach. The FTC also alleged that ChoicePoint’s conduct violated a 2006 court order mandating that the company institute a comprehensive information security program reasonably designed to protect consumers’ sensitive personal information."

Gee, that's extremely poor management. First, the company fails to implement every security feature it had already established. Second, its actions violated a previous court order about data security. How arrogant can a company act?

ChoicePoint's settlement included actions to:

"... strengthened data security requirements to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that the company failed to implement a comprehensive information security program protecting consumers’ sensitive information... This failure left the door open to a data breach in 2008 that compromised the personal information of 13,750 people and put them at risk of identify theft. ChoicePoint has now agreed to a modified court order that expands its data security assessment and reporting duties and requires the company to pay $275,000."

Was this fine sufficiently large enough? In my opinion, no.

Will ChoicePoint do the right thing and maintain adequate protections for the consumer data it stores and sells? Will it comply with applicable Red Flag rules by the FTC in 2010? Time will tell. I'm not holding my breath.

I'd love to be able to pull my C.L.U.E. insurance reports and records from Choicetrust, but we consumers don't have that option. Due to ChoicePoint's cozy relationship with the government, the company enjoys a near-oligopoly status regarding C.L.U.E. insurance reports. This is a good example of a "free market" sham. Same for the credit-reporting agencies.

At some point, this crap has to end.


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John Taylor

Good stuff George!

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