A sort of involuntary blogging.
December 14, 2000 5:45 AM   Subscribe

A sort of involuntary blogging. Does anyone else have similar stories?
posted by tranquileye (15 comments total)
What has the Visor Victim learned from this?

Oh puh-lease.

This man's a Communications teacher, according to the article he talks about digital communication and issues. He's not a victim of anything other than his own stupidity.

"I know, I'll fill up a memory module with my personal data, and bring it back to the store where I no longer control it without wiping it! That seems like a good way to keep stuff I want kept private private!"

He makes a comment about how easy it is to get data from a PDA. Yeah, easy when you hand it over to someone. Comparing it to a dead tree diary, would you bring a notebook back to a store (because, I don't know, the binding sucks or something) but leave the first 5 pages filled in with phone numbers, PINs and stories about your break-up?

Here's a hint to all who are concerned by this: you control access to the data you enter into your PDA, your computer and any other digital or analogue data store. If you don't want it available to the world, hide it.
posted by cCranium at 6:57 AM on December 14, 2000

The problem was that the place where the data was stored (a Visor backup module) appeared to be defective, and the guy had no way of knowing his data was in it (aside from wiping his Visor and seeing whether the backup module restored it, which, since he thought the module defective, probably seemed a bit risky). I don't think it's all out of line to warn people of the potential of these backup modules to divulge personal information accidentally. Better to use a utility like BackupBuddy that backs up all your data to your desktop machine.
posted by kindall at 8:15 AM on December 14, 2000

This is the reason that DOD classified hard drives must be physically destroyed when they fail.

I mean, like, open the case, disassemble the spindle, and break the platters up with a sledgehammer... with 2 superior officers watching you do it.

They're Serious about this schidt.
posted by baylink at 8:33 AM on December 14, 2000

Back when I was dealing with stored-value smartcards, the company always made a point of driving a nail through the chip of any card which was sent back to us as defective, once we made the appropriate refunds.
posted by harmful at 8:48 AM on December 14, 2000

kindall, if the memory stick was completely fubared, I'd agree with you completely, but the article states:

When he noticed some glitches in restoring data he'd backed up, Cook returned the module to Bureau en Gros. (emphasis mine)

"Some glitches" means that it was restoring quirkily, ie some but not all of the data, or some of the data was corrupted. Meaning that some of the data (apparently quite a bit) was intact, and he was therefore relinquishing control of data he knew existed on the device.

"No questions asked" goes both ways, he didn't ask what they were going to do with the module either.

Responsibility for personal data belongs to the person; if he's not willing to accept that responsibility, he learns the hard way.

Baylink, I've had the pleasure of doing such tasks for the Canadian government while I did tech support for a division of theirs. If I didn't know better, I'd think it's really just an excuse to let the geeks vent some aggression, 'cause it's just plain ol' fun. :-)
posted by cCranium at 8:49 AM on December 14, 2000

It's true - it was a boneheaded move. The guy is a friend of a friend of mine, and several other people I know had heard this story in the past few days. Anyhow I've heard the guy feels a little silly about the whole thing - and it was a friend of his who called the journalists as far as I know.

At the same time, I would like to think that a company would, for the benefit of its customers, have a standard operating procedure to deal with something like that to prevent such things from happening - even if it's not really their responsibility to do so.
posted by mikel at 9:00 AM on December 14, 2000

I disagree, mikel. No company is going to establish a million little rules to handle every new bit of technology that shows up. Instead, we're simply going to rely more and more on our own common sense -- which is really the way such things *should* be handled.

Accept responsibility for your actions, people!
posted by Kikkoman at 9:38 AM on December 14, 2000

Oh, mikel, I definetely agree that that memory stick should've been wiped before putting it into a demo model, or before restocking it for resale.

Hell, the guy could've very well had insane amounts of pr0n on that thing, and by not wiping it the store exposed themselves to an high degree of potential damage.

Also, by having this made public the store themselves is bound to have received negative press, because really, that's a stupid thing for a store to do.
posted by cCranium at 11:45 AM on December 14, 2000

From what Iain tells me he had no way of erasing the memory module. I think driving a nail through it might have voided the warranty. Regardless, it is reasonable to expect that the returned module will not end up on public display somewhere. The store was sloppy, and they should have at least checked the module before exposing the data.

mikel, I'm curious as to who you heard this from, and what the story has turned into.
posted by tranquileye at 12:11 PM on December 14, 2000

Accept responsibility for your actions, people!

NEVER! Wah ha ha
posted by ethmar at 12:42 PM on December 14, 2000

No way of erasing it? That's just a bad product then, and I officially retract my "stupid" comment.

I'd also like to point out that it's extremely, extremely cool that people who know people in the news are able to inject a bit of knowledge into our discussions. Have I mentioned that I love the Internet yet today?
posted by cCranium at 1:48 PM on December 14, 2000

I mean, like, open the case, disassemble the spindle, and break the platters up with a sledgehammer... with 2 superior officers watching you do it.

I've heard in a lot of cases it goes well beyond this. Bulk-erase the media eight or ten times, shred the disks, take it somewhere and bury it, where it's guarded 24/7.
posted by aaron at 11:14 PM on December 14, 2000

The ministry of the Government of Canada I worked for didn't take matters that seriously, at least not with any of the drives I got to destroy. Basically we pulled the drives apart and scratched up the platters (there's probably a bunch of "rmd" and "sell-out.com" [an old domain, don't even bother] marked platters in trash piles) and broke a few, depending on how we were feeling.

But we weren't the Ministry of Defense, and none of the data we were mangling was classified, so the security wasn't quite as brutal.
posted by cCranium at 6:32 AM on December 15, 2000

Well, not exactly in the same realm, here. But at a place I used to work, one of the techs breaking down a departed employee's machine found some erotic stories she had written and left behind, which were passed around via e-mail.

Not only did I think it was enormously tacky (to me, user data is sacrosanct), he was lucky he didn't get fired. In those days there weren't legal precedents and he was merely disciplined internally.
posted by dhartung at 9:02 AM on December 15, 2000

Techs passing potentially damaging (to themselves especially) data around by e-mail's just plain ol' wrong.

For one, I agree with dhartung. In former lives as a Network Administrator, I would ensure that any corporate data on the hard drive was preserved, but personal data got blown away as soon as I discovered it.

I would think that the techs would realize that e-mail's a pretty bad way to pass around anything that can get your ass canned, especially porn.

If you really can't resist passing it around, use some dead trees or something, cover your tracks.
posted by cCranium at 12:06 PM on December 15, 2000

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