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The IRS Request That Could Help Identity Thieves The IRS Request That Could Help Identity Thieves

- (Huffington) - 2 years, 4 months ago...

More than a year ago, Federal Trade Commission Chair Edith Ramirez asked Congress to strengthen her agency's data security powers. "Never has the need for such legislation been greater," she said during a hearing in early 2014. Nearly two years later, never has a statement like "never has the need been greater" remained an accurate description of a systemic failure when it comes to real advances -- at both the government and enterprise level -- to protect consumers from bad data security practices. This goes for both the for-profit and nonprofit sectors, and it is why a recent "suggestion" made by the Internal Revenue Service is particularly illogical and alarming. In September, the IRS proposed giving nonprofits the option of providing more information about people who contribute $250 or more. What kind of information you ask? Just the kind that can make your life a living Hell should it fall into the wrong hands: Name, address, Social Security number. And as an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal pointed out, while the IRS has made the option voluntary for the time being, "that's often a prelude to compulsory." Predictably, most of the criticism leveled at the proposal so far is focused on the cooling effect it will have on donations to politically oriented nonprofits. There is, however, a much more serious and impactful issue here. Not enough has changed in our approach as a society to data security for practices such as more granular data collection to be recommended by a government agency. If the Office of Personnel Management (along with just about every other federal agency and countless multibillion-dollar financial services, retailers and even cyber security organizations) can get hammered by hackers, can't just about anyone else? The answer should be obvious. As breaches have become the third certainty in life, the IRS proposal, seen through the prism of current data security practices "out there," is both misguided and terrifying. There Is No Functional Standard The government's response to identity-related issues and the state of data security legislation continues to fall far short of what is needed to stop the flow of our digital lives into an increasingly inhospitable unknown where, according to the latest yearly roundup, there is a new victim of an identity-related crime every two seconds, and an alarming $16 billion was stolen from 12.7 million consumers in 2013. To take just one example, the breach at the Office of Personnel Management exposed incredibly sensitive data. The files of more than 22 million people were put at risk, everyone from present and former government employees, contractors and airline workers to CIA agents and their families, roommates and friends. Information from background checks for security clearances was compromised and millions of Social Security numbers and 5.6 million fingerprints were exposed, so you can well imagine that mor...

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