IN OTHER WORDS : Data fleecing

The breathtaking success of data thieves in exposing 40 million credit cardholders to the risk of fraud is only the latest evidence that the US urgently needs to force standards and safeguards on the feckless world of consumer-data gathering. Roughly 200,000 of the accounts were reported stolen outright after a credit card processing company, CardSystems Solutions, improperly retained masses of data in vulnerable files as filchers moved in.

Horror stories grow by the day. CitiFinancial disclosed that unencrypted computer tapes for 3.9 million customers were lost by a package deliverer. Crooks were easily able to buy the data of 145,000 consumers from ChoicePoint, the nation’s largest broker of personal information. For the thiev-es, consumer data becomes liquid assets and must be guarded as such by companies that are now far too phlegmatic about security.

Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California, is proposing a national requirement for consumer notification, with civil damages for negligent companies. Her bill is a good start. It would adopt stronger safeguards, stop the easy access to Social Security numbers and help identity theft victims regain their fiscal balance. Credit-card companies and information brokers bear prime responsibility for the ravages of data thieves. — The New York Times