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11/7/2005
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Signing Your Name Away?

People say that we live in a wonderful digital age; information of all kinds is readily available for download; Bills can be electronically paid with a click of the mouse, no stamps or pens required.  You can purchase anything your heart desires without ever having to leave your house, just use your mouse.  Sounds great in a utopian way.  However, in recent years, privacy issues have loomed, making people question where all that online information get stored, and who has access to it?

Moreover, the replacement of paper forms with digitized forms has caused great concern.  Case in point: last week I had to get a CT Scan.  I arrived at the doctor's office and proceeded to fill out the customary information forms.  To my surprise, the HIPA statement was not a paper form but electronic.  The receptionist asked me to review the onscreen form and when I was ready, to sign my name on the tablet.  Sure, no problem.  With a click of the mouse my signature was captured and the form was complete.  Without a second thought, I proceeded to have my testing done and left the premises.  On my way home, something struck me:  they had my signature on file! Or did they?  How was I to know what they did with the form and my signature?  They already had all my vital information, including social security number, date of birth, home address and phone number.  With all that information, one could easily obtain a credit card in my name.

Then a second thought occurred to me - what happens to your signature when you electronically sign the tablet at your local department store or supermarket?  Does it also get stored somewhere else?  One cashier recently told me never to tell anyone your zip code when you complete a transaction at a terminal - I wonder what she meant - if they have your zip code, can they also have the keys to your kingdom?  Very scary.

The next time you enter your signature electronically, or disclose your zip code, caveat subscriptor.  I know I will.

David Goldes is the President and Senior Analyst at Basex. In his role as an analyst, Mr. Goldes has helped pioneer Basex' research in Collaborative Business Knowledge, with emphasis on implementation and end-user issues. He is widely cited in industry publications and speaks frequently on these topics at major conferences. Mr. Goldes is also responsible for overseeing Basex' day-to-day operations.

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