First Person Life

2006-05-22

Media Responsible if VA Records gets misused?

I understand the watchdog mentality of the media and that it serves an important function in the process of government of our nation by providing information on what goes on in the world. However, it seems to me that there is some responsibility to consider whether the disclosure of facts advances the story and what damage the disclosure might do.

A case in point is the recent loss of information from the Veteran's Administration including Social Security numbers and personal information of former military personnel. The fact is that hundreds and thousands of computer disks and systems are stolen in our country every year. The fact is that personnel who may have access to this information may have been anywhere in the country when the theft took place.

The important facts to be reported are that equipment was stolen containing potentially important information. This should be reported and those affected should be notified. But is it necessary to include in reporting that the equipment was stolen from a residence (my thought is that fewer laptops are stolen from residences than from, say, airports, hotels, and other areas) and the geographic location (city and state) where the theft took place?

With the play that this is getting in the media, it seems very likely that any person who recently stole computer equipment or disks from a residence in that geographic area is now put on notice that they have a disk with very valuable information on it. It is now less likely that equipment stolen from that geographic area will be erased until they are checked for that data.

How is the story advanced by knowing the city that the theft took place in? It doesn't. How is the story advanced by knowing that it was a residence and not a hotel or airport theft? It doesn't. In both of these cases, the only thing that this information does is to provide thieves who stole stuff from residences in that area on notice that they may have something valuable which they might otherwise have overlooked.

If the data is used to defraud anyone, I think the media should be held somewhat culpable for putting the crook on notice of what to look for and making it easier to determine where to look.

2 Comments:

  • Good point. The media also abuses their Constitutional rights whenever they leak top secret information, or just present one side of a story.

    By Blogger Dan @ Necessary Roughness, at 5/23/2006 7:04 AM  

  • They don't realize that some things don't need to be told. They go way overboard with "the people's right to know" mentality.

    Good post.

    By Blogger Althusius, at 5/30/2006 8:32 PM  

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