Wanderings – My value on the open market is minimal

According to a recent email, I am worth $7.86. Sadly I am not surprised by this figure, but still I expected it to be at least in the double digits.

That email from health care company LifeLabs said that my personal data, and nearly one million other Canadians’ personal data stored, suffered some sort of a data breach. A subsequent lawsuit and settlement determined the company had to pay every claimant $7.86. I don’t think I even got a penny per word for my data.

Data breaches are happening more frequently. Western-Canadian drug store chain London Drugs closed its doors for nearly 10 days after hackers broke into their databases. The company’s data was held ransom by a hacker group that demanded $25 million or else. That ransom was not paid, and the group released the information onto the internet. The cost of cleaning up that data breach was cheaper than paying the ransom. A larger breach at the Canada Revenue Agency required millions of Canadians to reset, and then recreate millions of tax accounts. Ironically there was no legal settlement there.

Even most technologically-adverse Luddite must interface with the online world a little bit. No matter what we do, there is some little digital piece of you left in a database or screen capture or the like. We can’t avoid it.

A friend once asked me why hackers do these types of invasions. To my knowledge, its due to the challenge of cracking into a closed system, or seeking monetary gain, or just sheer boredom. I suggest getting a hobby rather than spewing my blood work information online.

A few years ago, Kemptville District Hospital suffered a “cyber security incident.” I was there a day or so after it happened. It was like the world had gone back to the stone ages, or the 1990s. When you walked in, patents were handed a file folder, a page of stickers with their name and information on them, and as you moved around the hospital, you carried your file with you. It was blissfully simple.

The doctor I spoke to at the time described the incident in very vivid blue language. Eventually I received a letter from the hospital explaining that there was a breach, but again no compensation was given. I guess knowledge of my knee issue wasn’t worth much to hackers.

We live in complicated times. The online world is more convenient, it’s quicker to do things like paying bills or buying things. Nearly everyone is connected in one way or another – sometimes begrudgingly. Simple things though are less simple to do. Try paying your utility bill in person, or going to the bank to talk to a teller. How long do you have to wait on the phone to book a doctors appointment?

While we have the convenience of online, we pay for it with our data. Free email accounts aren’t free if Google is serving ads to you based on what online flyers you receive.

While this is all easier to use, it is less secure. Online security boils down to a bunch of ones and zeros. And if some data is breached, you may be compensated for that loss, with an insurance-friendly amount. In my case, $7.86. A few more data breaches and I can save up for that pizza I wanted to buy.

This column was originally published in the June 5, 2024 print edition of the Morrisburg Leader.