Privacy is a thing of the past, says private investigator

Private eye Steven Rambam explains what he does, how he knows everything about you and why he's not the one you should be worried about.

How can businesses protect their intellectual capital, particularly when it's in electronic form?

You can have five firewalls in a safe room with the most current locks monitored by 24/7 motion-detecting, IP-addressable cameras, and all of that is meaningless if a 16-year-old kid can social-engineer a root password out of you. The downside to all of this publicly available information is that it's now a lot easier to social-engineer somebody.

Should businesses hire a company like yours?

They should if they don't want a back door or a Trojan [horse] on their system. A year ago, a company called me from Hong Kong and said, "We're being extorted. We're getting e-mails from an individual saying if we don't give a series of payments through PayPal, he is going to take [our] source code and post it on the Internet."

We were able to determine who the guy was in 24 hours. He was a 14-year-old kid in California.

What about smear campaigns on the Web? If you're a victim, what should you do about it?

You have to have zero tolerance. You have to find out who the person is, and you have to sue them within an inch of their life, and you have to do it publicly and post it on your Web site, talking about the entire case from beginning to end.

Government databases are the biggest repository of private information. Should the public be concerned about that?

The scary thing to me is not that information is open, but that the government is trying to use every pretext and every trick to hide information from its citizens. That I think is much more nefarious and will be much more detrimental in the long run than having information out there.

Some of the things the Bush administration is doing are just incomprehensible. For example, they're reclassifying data that's been in the public eye -- that has been available to the public since 1991. Why, I can't begin to guess.

Another slippery, slimy thing is that the FBI has signed contracts with some private data providers. Polygraphs [and] background investigations are being outsourced, and the Freedom of Information Act does not apply. If you say to the FBI, "I want the report that ChoicePoint furnished to you about me," they say to you, "Sorry, we can't give that to you. That's a private business record." This is really a fairly sinister development. And it's one that's profoundly un-American.

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Robert L. Mitchell

Computerworld (US)
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