Political Risks Associated with Personal Information Storage

When we think of risks related to malicious hacking, we usually list financial ramifications.  But as global information delivery changes, the risks are increasing in severity. 

This week, Google moved its search records from its Chinese site to the United States.  The reason stated for the move was the possibility that the Chinese government might access those records without Google’s consent.  This was a responsible move by Google, given the potential reprisals against individuals whose searches cause concern within political circles in Beijing.  But is the data safe in the U.S.?

I wrote in a January 26, 2006 blog article about a successful attempt to acquire U.S. Military secrets by alleged representatives of the Chinese government.  A foiled attack against the British government prompted the article.  What prevents these same attackers from breaking into databases in other countries to search for evidence of dissident activity in China?

I don’t know what the solution is.  But I do know that maintaining information that can be used to reconstruct an individual’s Internet habits is becoming a bigger problem than the privacy issues touted by many Americans.  It’s important for Internet companies to understand that the emergence of a truly global Internet requires vigilance that many organizations operating within democracies may find difficult to comprehend.  Business intelligence isn’t a good enough reason to store search information or other personal data that might be compromised by a foreign government for political purposes.

Author:  Tom Olzak

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