Breach, Data Security, Security Strategy, Plan, Budget

Could ID thieves take a bite out of Apple?

Apple Computer has been accused of exposing customers' private details to the possibility of identity theft.

As our Jim Carr recently covered in our daily online news, a class action lawsuit against the iPhone-maker recently was filed in a U.S. Southern District Court, stating that Apple violated the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) by putting customers at risk for identity theft when it printed credit card expiration dates on Apple Store online receipts. According to the FCRA 2003 amendment, sellers only are supposed to print the last five digits of a card number and expiration date on a receipt provided to customers at the point of sale.

Also on the receipts were names, home addresses and more. And, while there's no sign that theft of personally identifiable information (PII) has occurred, plaintiffs' attorneys say the inclusion of all these particulars certainly has created a perfect storm for thieves. So, it appears as if Apple has messed up.

Even I'm getting fairly regular calls from everyday folks who've come across our website looking for information on how to file complaints against organizations engaging in what they consider questionable practices. Clearly, this is not a time for a large business to allegedly fail to comply with a law that is, in part, trying to prevent theft of personal details. 

ID theft has gone mainstream. Credit card companies advertise as part of their services ID theft protections and monitoring. More and more companies are touting the technology buys they're making to help combat cybercriminals targeting customers.

As increasing numbers of individuals conduct transactions online, they expect to be protected by the organizations with which they're doing business. And, in turn, the businesses looking to remain viable are happy to oblige. Sure, many companies are still cautious about what IT specifics they discuss, but the need to maintain/ regain consumer confidence and show competitive differentiation is driving businesses to send out press releases on deals they've forged with security vendors.

Apple execs don't comment on pending lawsuits. But maybe, as a result of this most recent one, they at least might consider trumpeting their strategy against ID thieves as much as they are their expectations that iPhone sales will reach 10 million worldwide by year-end. Showing their care for protecting customers' privacy might actually help their projections, along with, of course, an assist from AT&T on improving those slow data transfer feeds.

- Illena Armstrong is SC Magazine's U.S. editor-in-chief.

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