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Will Sandy cause a privacy nightmare?

The images coming from the New York metropolitan area this week have been mind numbing. Having grown up in the Rockaways has driven home the impact of the devastation that one storm has caused.  If you know of someone caught in the middle of all this, I hope they have fared well in the grand scheme of things.

Rightfully, the primary focus has been on the safety and well being of those affected by this disaster. Finding food and shelter for the victims while clean up and rebuilding efforts are put in place must be a  priority; it is good to hear the reports of how these items are being addressed. However, while the victims pull their lives back together those of us on the outside need to help them think about what’s next?

Media attention is being paid to the structural damage throughout the area. The damage to both homes and businesses has exposed paper and electronic media that may contain personal information leaving the information unprotected. Given the severity of the situation it is fair to assume that protecting personal information is not what is on the top of everyone’s mind as the clean up efforts are undertaken.

This situation is not new. Hurricane Katrina presented the same or similar challenges for example. The challenges impact not only those whose information is being disclosed, but businesses and consumers as a whole as well. Increased identity theft and credit card fraud are two things that come to mind immediately. So I ask, is another nightmare coming for the victims of Sandy?

Let’s go to the internet for help

A quick search on-line using the terms “protecting personal information in a disaster” yields a number of articles discussing how to protect personal information in preparation for a disaster for both home and business. A few include:

Can we do more to help today’s and future victims?

The number of practicing privacy  professionals has been growing. Just look at the increasing number of professional certifications awarded each year by the International Association of Privacy Professionals for evidence of this. Can we, the privacy community, do more to help today’s victims? Can we do more for potential future victims, both businesses and homes?

  • What can privacy professionals do to help today’s disaster victims to avoid a privacy nightmare other than relate what should have been done?
  • Can we step up to do a better job in service to our communities to warn individuals of the potential privacy hazards they may face particularly in the those areas susceptible to hurricanes, floods, and earthquakes?

It is early in the recovery process for Sandy. I believe that the privacy community can make a difference for these victims as well as those of future disasters. I am looking forward to your thoughts and comments. More so, I am looking for you to join me in finding a way that the privacy community can step up and help today’s victims.