Your Data is You

YOUR DATA IS YOU….The Washington Post editorializes today about the nearly daily reports of personal information being lost or stolen from the vaults of America’s biggest corporations:

What’s needed is not extra regulation but a bigger effort to give that regulation bite. Tougher enforcement by the Federal Trade Commission and other regulators would be a start. Legal liability might be another helpful weapon: Courts in Michigan and New Hampshire have ruled that corporations can be held liable for the damages resulting from lost information, and other jurisdictions will probably follow.

That’s pathetic. The only reason we even know about most of these thefts is because a few years ago California (and now a few other states) began requiring companies to notify their customers when their personal data is lost. It’s only that regulation that’s even brought this problem to light, but the Post apparently thinks that’s plenty. No new regulation is needed. And certainly not federal level regulation, which is what makes the most sense since this is clearly a national problem.

Their notion that “legal liability might be another helpful weapon” is a little better, but doesn’t go nearly far enough. How about property rights instead? Why not grant people property rights over any substantial assemblage of their own personal data? Corporations would no longer be allowed to change, disseminate, or even collect personal data in the first place without specific authorization, and if the data were lost or stolen consumers have the same legal remedies they have if a bank loses their money or safe deposit box. That would pretty much eliminate ID theft and would give corporations plenty of incentive to keep their data safe.

So how about it, libertarians? You’re the property rights guys. How about calming down over the very 20th century Kelo decision and turning your attention instead to the biggest property rights issue of the 21st century?

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