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Dr. Anarchy answers your mail #4: How can we safeguard our data?

Here's a pretty old post from the blog archives of Geekery Today; it was written about 16 years ago, in 2008, on the World Wide Web.

… the occasional advice column that’s taking the world by storm, one sovereign individual at a time.

This week’s letter comes to us from a reader in the United Kingdom. The question has to do with a fundamental issue of trust. How can you rebuild your belief in someone when he’s let you down, over and over again?

Dear Dr. Anarchy,

The theft of a laptop from a Royal Navy officer which held the personal details of 600,000 people is being investigated by the police.

The laptop was taken from a vehicle which had been parked in the Edgbaston area of Birmingham.

It contains data including passport numbers, National Insurance numbers and bank details connected to people who had expressed an interest in, or joined, the Royal Navy, Royal Marines and the RAF.

Meanwhile, hundreds of documents containing sensitive personal data including benefit claims and mortgage payments have been found dumped on a roundabout in Devon.

How can we safeguard our data?

— Baffled at the BBC

Dear Baffled,

Stop collecting it. You don’t have secure data that you don’t collect.

I know that you want to believe that if you just had the right people, if you just had the right policies, maybe you could go on turning over all this data to the government and distributing it to all these different agencies and have it somehow remain secure from malice, malfunction, or human error. But you need to look at this relationship honestly and realistically. You may be fooling yourself. The government will go on doing what they have been doing, with all their usual vices and limitations. If the only way to get what you need out of this relationship is to change your partner into something that he’s not, then you need to seriously consider whether it’s time to just dump him and move on.

Dr. Anarchy

That’s all for today. Just remember, folks: people are more important than power. And everything is easier when you reject the State as such.

Next week: Dr. Anarchy answers your health and safety questions!

(Story via Phil Wilson 2008-01-20.)

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