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Comcast’s ID overkill

If you want to chat online with a Comcast support person, they cannot do so unless you give them your social security number.

Lessons to learn:

1. Unless restrained, companies will demand more and more identification from us, because violating our privacy doesn’t cost them anything.

2. We cannot rely on market forces to restrain publicprivate sector ID greed.

3. Comcast continues to lead the field in overall corporate suckage.

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11 Responses to “Comcast’s ID overkill”

  1. Dreadful that such things are even allowed. I think we (not in the US) sometimes forget how backward privacy protection legislation is there. Such antics would be completely illegal in Canada and privacy protection – while not perfect – is actually getting better.

  2. No those are lessons of a monopoly, a true free market will have privacy rights as part of the competitive market and some companies will value them. Those that value it will get more of that market.

  3. I don’t think it’s true only of monopolies. Large stores will continue to set norms, and we will not find the incremental privacy loss sufficient to move us to a competitor.

  4. Comcast’s incompetence is now legendary. They’ve actually created a department called Comcast Cares and employed someone to scour blogs to look for negative comments about Comcast. I’m surprised he has posted yet.

    BTW, nice mention in today’s Globe.

  5. You mean PRIVATE sector ID greed, don’t you?

    Although it is increasingly difficult to distinguish. You already need government issue ID to board an airplane or enter many public and private buildings. I’m sure buses and trains will be next. Our kids will be amazed to learn that there was once a time you could travel in America without official “papers”.

  6. But we won’t have to worry about this once REAL ID goes into effect, because instead of relying on SSNs, it will be our REAL ID number, which from what I can tell of the standard is only guaranteed unique in your state. So God forbid that somebody has your number in a different state, and then the states get mixed up.

    IF it ever gets implemented, I expect REAL IDs to be used for taxing purposes instead of SSNs, probably about 15 years after. IF is a big word right now for it.

    If McCain is elected (not my preference), I expect REAL ID to be a hot item again.

  7. This isn’t just a privacy issue. Have they not heard about phishing? Encouraging people to hand over their personal information to a stranger via a popup window sets a dangerous precedent.

    Even so, no matter how much fun it is to slag on Comcast, I wouldn’t call this intentional evil. It’s equally likely that some mid-level manager hasn’t thought through the ramifications of that request — and isn’t incented to do so.

  8. This is a typical example of stupid use of the “shared secret” security factor. It obviously isn’t a secret if every company with whom you do business uses the same “secret.”

    What I’ve found that works is to ask the company to “correct” your SSN. Most don’t really care – they just want a number that they think you will remember.

    Never ascribe to malevolence what can adequately be explained by incompetence.

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