I always enjoy Ken Hanley’s articles in ComputerWorld Canada. They give me something to think about, and I do like to keep my brain busy.

I wanted to make an observation about the articles he has been writing on privacy. I totally agree with his comments, provided the information that is being kept on people is correct. Unfortunately, errors creep into the databases, and decisions can be made based on incorrect information. This is the only reason why I have a problem with information being kept about me. I am sure that because there are so many data sources, there are zillions of errors.

As an example, a couple of years ago, I applied for a loan. It was turned down, with no explanation other than “poor credit risk”. I had no idea why I might be considered a poor credit risk, so I investigated. I got my reports from the credit bureau, and found that someone else’s bad debt had been updated into my records. This person happened to have the same name as me, but wasn’t me! The credit bureau, of course, wouldn’t correct their records based on my say-so, so they had to launch their own investigation. They finally figured out that this other person who shared my name was born in 1929. I, on the other hand, was born in 1961 and have lots of documentation to prove it. Anyway, my records were eventually corrected, but in the meantime, I could not get a loan, could not get a line of credit, and could probably not have applied for a new credit card should I have needed one.

I have another example, too, but it isn’t quite as good because I helped cause it. My “real” name is Elizabeth, but I call myself Betsy. I have bank accounts, government records and other records in each name, depending on what stage of my life I was in when I applied. (In my teens, I was always “Elizabeth” because I felt I should put everything in my official name. In my twenties, I called myself “Betsy” because I thought, F*** it, I’m Betsy so everyone should call me that. In my thirties, I went back to “Elizabeth”.) So if you wanted to tie together my history – say, my medical records, or my spending patterns over the years – you would have difficulty, because they’re under different names, and not everyone collected my SIN when they collected my other information.

Just some thoughts. I bet you will get lots of interesting feedback.

Keep writing those great articles!

Betsy McLeod


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