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Posted at 01:30 PM ET, 04/05/2011

Thanks, Epsilon! An open letter to whoever has my data

Dear Epsilon:

Thank you for all those years you toiled away protecting my data without any recognition, as I registered willy-nilly for everything from Brookstone catalogs to Best Buy newsletters with Better Buys. It turns out that these companies didn’t handle their data security at all — they just delegated it to you, or rather, to your parent company, Alliance Data. Well, I understand how it feels not to be noticed! That’s how I feel every Friday night, which explains why the Home Shopping Network had my information in the first place, and why I own six whimsical egg-cookers that you can decorate to look like human faces!

And thank you for finally cracking under the pressure and giving up my name and e-mail address. Nobody ever asks for either of these things, so it was nice of you to take the initiative to give them to someone who might use them to try to get in touch with me. I was going to join Match.com, but that would have required finding a picture of myself where I did not look like I had been exhumed just before the photo was taken, and you’ve taken the matter right out of my hands.

You see, I’ve been having some trouble meeting people in this city. Some people find it easy to make friends, because they excel in areas like “approaching people in a nonthreatening manner” and “talking to them and blinking at a normal rate.” If you could make friends by frequently Googling the names of people you once met in high school at a math meet, I would have many friends! But as it is, I spend most of my time hunched in the dark over a computer waiting for a Craigslist personal seeking someone of my description. So far, no luck, but you need to have patience when your salient feature is “moderately good kidney health.”

I know there’s a lot of indignation surrounding the breach. “I had no idea Epsilon had my data!” people are shouting. “I was a Delta in college!” And it would be too easy to just blame people for registering for Hilton Honors or Ritz-Carlton Rewards. Sure, doing so seems like saying “I have too much money now, and expect that I may also have too much money in the future!” But it more likely means “I stayed here once and I am bad at saying no to desk clerks.” And it would also be too easy to blame others for giving their information to the Home Shopping Network in exchange for a singing juicer that makes you feel like there is someone in the apartment besides you and your 28 surviving cats. But they also have the College Board’s e-mail addresses, and that’s just unfair.

Now we have to be vigilant. Most phishers and scammers try simple but effective techniques where they pose as companies like Citibank asking for your password, or for you to just click on one easy link. This is called “spearphishing,” which sounds a lot more exciting than it is. Basically, if you get an e-mail from anyone, do not open it or click any of the links, unless the header says something like “POSSIBLE SPAM,” because that would be the last thing a spammer would say.

Still, before they start loading up the form e-mails, I have a suggestion. If I’ve learned anything from Henry James novels, it’s that people are more likely to give money to scam artists if those scam artists at least take them out to dinner once or twice and say inaccurate things about their personal beauty. And since you only have my e-mail address and name, you can’t just start spending my money without my limited acquiescence. And it could be the start of a beautiful friendship! So before you start pretending to be the Obama Reelection Campaign in Need of My Help, just think about it.

After all, I delete those.

By  |  01:30 PM ET, 04/05/2011

Tags:  technology, oy

 
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