Sunday, July 29, 2007

Outsourcing For Fun and (Especially) Profit

(Via many sources, but particularly Michelle Malkin)

The latest in data mismanagement is epitomized by the outsourcing of DMV-related information to a company that has a facility in Mexico. The Superior Court in Orange County contracted with Cal Coast Data Entry, Inc, which has a facility in Nogales. Apparently, information from traffic tickets is encrypted and transmitted to the Mexican facility where it is entered into Court databases.

This story bothers me on numerous levels. First, there's our ever-tender relations with our southern neighbor. Mexico loves our tourist dollars, generically speaking, but considers us (following the European Model) to be arrogant pigs, politically speaking. They dislike our economic effects on the peso, our attempts to kill their drug pipelines, and our unreasonable desire to build fences along the border. Of course they'll protect our data.

Accountability becomes tricky. We have little legal recourse should there be criminal negligence or fraudulent use of that data. To whom do we appeal? The World Court? Well, our history with that august body has been every bit as sketchy as our relationships with Mexican politicos. I can't see them getting too fussed about someone misusing a few hundred thousand of our driver's licenses.

Secondly, I wonder what about recent data protection fiascos the Superior Court hasn't learned. A major aerospace company loses control of personal data on thousands of employees — not once, but twice — and has to pay big bucks for credit protection for the affected employees; not to mention the cost of new mandatory training for all employees. In one case the data was proven not to have been used illicitly, but the damage to internal controls was already done and the costs already incurred for correcting the situation.

I'm also a little sensitive about living in the jurisdiction of the Orange County Superior Court and having my own personal data transcribed by a foreign country. Any foreign country. Something about that scenario just doesn't feel right. This coming from a life-long capitalist who has never minded outsourcing certain things to foreign countries in the name of competitive pricing and reasonable trade. However, I have to admit feeling a bit queasy about having personally sensitive data being handled by other nations.

Perhaps it would help if, instead of harping about "infotainment" and feeling generally picked upon, Court officials would instead move to reassure us as to exactly what safeguards are in place so that we might feel better about this situation. Granted that certain things need to remain confidential, helping us understand how our data is protected shouldn't be among them. (Please don't use the word "Microsoft.")

'Fess up, folks. There's another election just around the corner.

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