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T-Mobile Customers’ Information Sold to the Highest Bidder Karishma Sundaram | , 10:02 a.m. Nov. 19, 2009 2009-11-19

For most individuals, their privacy extends to their information. Information is a vast umbrella, and while it might be interpreted in one of several different ways, there are a few facts that everyone would like kept private under any circumstances: things like bank account numbers, telephone numbers, addresses, social security numbers, just to name a very few. It is indeed a scary thought that this information could be given to unscrupulous people, who will manipulate it for their own gain, leaving one loser – the individual. 

Therefore when one hears about a company like T-Mobile struggling to plug a nasty scandal involving personal information, there is a lot of anger and ten times more worry. 

Touted as the ‘biggest breach of its kind’ by the information commissioner, Christopher Graham, the company reported that some of the staff were caught selling off customer records to third-party brokers. The brokers would then resell the information to clients who require a large user database of information, complete with useful demographic information. 

The information commissioner had been appointed as a watchdog to ensure the security of user information, and evidently the step was not taken a minute too soon. While other telecommunications providers were not under scrutiny, T-Mobile admitted to having investigative officers working with the higher echelons to uncover possible misuse of data.

The members of staff caught perpetrating the crime were calling clients whose contracts were due to expire. The information of these customers was sold to the brokers. 

While this particular crime has been discovered, and the criminals will be prosecuted as a result, there are a number of ramifications that unfold after such an incident. Firstly, a number of T-Mobile subscribers will stop to ask themselves whether their personal information has been bartered off to the highest bidder or not. T-Mobile themselves will suffer, as their reputation will take a hit, especially in the capacity of being a trustworthy service provider. The fact that the company itself brought the attention of the information commissioner to the crime, it will still reflect badly on the company itself. 

Each individual needs to consider what information they are putting out into the information superhighway. With technology the way it is, nothing on the Internet ever actually gets deleted. As a small example, people who lose phone contacts have created Facebook groups to recoup their information. People are actually foolish enough to post their mobile numbers on the wall, where not only can members of the group see them clearly, but any other person who browses the Internet can as well. In fact, taking them down now would be pointless, as Google caches all web pages to make them available to users in case the original site faces difficulties. 

Anyone who has received advertisement texts on their phones will sympathize with the sheer frustration of having your personal space violated – especially as these texts are relevant to them as an individual. It is important to stand up and ask how marketers have gotten this information and put a stop to the trade of personal information altogether.

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