Privacy Act?!? I’ve never heard of it.

clip_image001The other day, my girlfriend forwarded an email on to me, one that she was surprisingly eager for me to read.

It turned out it was an email concerning data privacy and how it related to driving licences. When I discovered it originated from her somewhat notorious ‘Uncle John’ I should have probably smelt a rat. Thinking she was showing me because of my penchant for this type of thing, though, I was prepared to give it the benefit of the doubt.

Anyway, the subject line read: New Drivers License and the Privacy Act. “Privacy Act - - I’ve never heard of it”, I snapped, worriedly. Was I really this ignorant? Had the existence or, even worse, the passing of such an Act in England and Wales occurred without my knowing? For someone who likes to feel that they have their finger at least partially on the IT and privacy law pulse, if this should have passed me by unawares, I was going to look like a prize turkey. And that's putting it mildly.

A quick search on Google for privacy act allayed my fears. “See, there’s no such Act”, I calmly stated. My faith in my knowledge and the general order of the world was at least partly restored. “What are all those, then?” my girlfriend questioned, pointing to a long list of hits. “Look, they’re all Canadian, Australian and American”, I retorted, almost angrily.

Still, somewhat intrigued, I read the through the body of the email:

Did you know that this was happening?

Check your driver's license information on-line.

Now you can see anyones driver's license on the Internet, including your own!

It asks for U.S. Info, but unfortunately it works for Canadian, English,

Australian and New Zealand licenses as well.

Just searched for mine....putting in England as the city and there it is, picture and all.

This is really scary. I removed mine. I suggest you all do the same.

Go to the website and check it out.

So that explained the American spelling of licence in the subject line, I thought to myself. It’s clearly an American site but they claim drivers’ details from several countries are available. Given the shocking state of the nation’s data security – many incidents of which have been documented on this blog - I couldn’t rule out completely that this wasn’t a bona fide situation being brought to the world’s attention.

It was, of course, a harmless spoof, albeit one that created a cheeky and somewhat ignominious copy of a US driver’s licence.

To my girlfriend, Sarah’s credit, she played the part well. I was surprised she was ostensibly taking it so seriously – particularly as it was from her ‘Uncle John’, and I really should have caught on sooner. It was unlike her to be so trusting of anything like this. After all, this is the girl who I’ve described on more than one occasion as being ‘suspicious of ‘everywhere, everything, and everyone’. Still a forensic science degree is wont to have that effect on a person.

So, children, the moral of the story can be summed up like this: bad as the data privacy situation is in the UK, it’s not quite at this stage yet. That being said, it might not be long until this type of thing is for real.


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