Planet Mars, Curiosity, and Data Security

by Cozen O'Connor

For those captivated by recent events in astronomy, parallels can be drawn between the recent landing of NASA’s rover Curiosity on planet Mars and the public discourse on data security in Canada. With the distinction that one is effectively equipped with the right budget and tools to achieve its actual objective, both have come a very long way, both have managed to blaze through layers of clouds, both seek to secure ingredients essential to life, and both are now aimlessly wandering about unchartered territories.

A decisive factor in Barrack Obama’s 2008 political campaign was the extensive use of individual, thin sliced consumer data to send highly tailored messages to gain political support. Within 13 years, Google has become the most valuable brand in the world through the aggregation of vast amounts of data including search data, or data held in Gmail accounts. This information is then used to create an advertising cruise missile, which is much more efficient than the old method of pattern bombing.

Before going to war against Iraq for the second time, thousands of Iraqi military officers received tailored e-mails on the secret Iraqi Defense Ministry e-mail system, causing many Iraqi officers and their troops to go on “leave of absence” before the U.S. started its own cruise missile campaign. In other words, be it controlling ideologies and political thinking or monopolizing sectors of the market through information asymmetry, behind every data breach there is the potential for a greater harm than that which is often spoken of in the media. In short, data breaches have the potential of affecting core democratic institutions; privacy is the only protective layer.

Causes for data breaches have been attributed to malicious attacks, negligent insiders, system glitches, and lost, stolen, or compromised technologies such as USB keys, laptops, cloud services, mobile phones, and external hard drives. As technologies become more complex and diversified, transparency is reduced, and the risk of human error and data breaches is increased. Data breaches are occurring in every industry sector: financial, retail, healthcare, services, education, technology, manufacturing, transportation, consumer, hotels, leisure, entertainment, marketing, pharmaceutical, communications, research, energy and defense. In 2011, the average organizational cost of a data breach in the U.S. was estimated at $5,501,888.00. The average per capita cost of a data breach was $194. The average size of a data breach was approximately 28,349 records. Whether these numbers increase or decrease in the near future will depend on the growth in public awareness of not only the direct cost of data breaches, such as notification and legal defense costs against class actions, but also of the more serious and indirect costs to society.

Curiously, the least discussed yet most concerning issue surrounding data security isn’t the multiplicity of ways data can be breached, or even the damaging financial consequences such breaches may pose for companies but rather the lack of awareness of the consequences compromised data poses to the functioning of democratic information societies. (Those who remain in the dark about their organization’s financial risk exposure would be well advised to visit Symantec’s data breach risk calculator at The consequences are severe and run very deep in a system that was not designed with modern technologies in mind. To say the least, data breaches have the potential of affecting everything from free and competitive markets, security, sovereignty, and democracy.

For the most part, however, privacy commissioners as well as the media have directed the public debate towards the tip of the iceberg in the data privacy/security debate, with the result of soft legislative provisions reflecting a misinformed public.

Not clear? Consider the issue from a different angle. What is the most effective way of developing a child’s cognitive abilities? By telling the child that cognition is important, or by presenting the child with a highly valuable concrete object and asking the child to provide one good reason as to why he or she should be entitled to hold the object. Unfortunately, nothing about data breaches is visible or concrete. Other than the old identify theft and secure your financial information rhetoric, little is understood about the true value of data. In discussing the implications of the recent data breach of Election Ontario, for instance, the Ontario Privacy Commissioner vaguely alluded to the “possibility for identity theft and other deceptive practices”.

Written by:

Cozen O'Connor

Cozen O'Connor on:

Readers' Choice 2017
Reporters on Deadline

"My best business intelligence, in one easy email…"

Your first step to building a free, personalized, morning email brief covering pertinent authors and topics on JD Supra:
Sign up using*

Already signed up? Log in here

*By using the service, you signify your acceptance of JD Supra's Privacy Policy.
Custom Email Digest
Privacy Policy (Updated: October 8, 2015):

JD Supra provides users with access to its legal industry publishing services (the "Service") through its website (the "Website") as well as through other sources. Our policies with regard to data collection and use of personal information of users of the Service, regardless of the manner in which users access the Service, and visitors to the Website are set forth in this statement ("Policy"). By using the Service, you signify your acceptance of this Policy.

Information Collection and Use by JD Supra

JD Supra collects users' names, companies, titles, e-mail address and industry. JD Supra also tracks the pages that users visit, logs IP addresses and aggregates non-personally identifiable user data and browser type. This data is gathered using cookies and other technologies.

The information and data collected is used to authenticate users and to send notifications relating to the Service, including email alerts to which users have subscribed; to manage the Service and Website, to improve the Service and to customize the user's experience. This information is also provided to the authors of the content to give them insight into their readership and help them to improve their content, so that it is most useful for our users.

JD Supra does not sell, rent or otherwise provide your details to third parties, other than to the authors of the content on JD Supra.

If you prefer not to enable cookies, you may change your browser settings to disable cookies; however, please note that rejecting cookies while visiting the Website may result in certain parts of the Website not operating correctly or as efficiently as if cookies were allowed.

Email Choice/Opt-out

Users who opt in to receive emails may choose to no longer receive e-mail updates and newsletters by selecting the "opt-out of future email" option in the email they receive from JD Supra or in their JD Supra account management screen.


JD Supra takes reasonable precautions to insure that user information is kept private. We restrict access to user information to those individuals who reasonably need access to perform their job functions, such as our third party email service, customer service personnel and technical staff. However, please note that no method of transmitting or storing data is completely secure and we cannot guarantee the security of user information. Unauthorized entry or use, hardware or software failure, and other factors may compromise the security of user information at any time.

If you have reason to believe that your interaction with us is no longer secure, you must immediately notify us of the problem by contacting us at In the unlikely event that we believe that the security of your user information in our possession or control may have been compromised, we may seek to notify you of that development and, if so, will endeavor to do so as promptly as practicable under the circumstances.

Sharing and Disclosure of Information JD Supra Collects

Except as otherwise described in this privacy statement, JD Supra will not disclose personal information to any third party unless we believe that disclosure is necessary to: (1) comply with applicable laws; (2) respond to governmental inquiries or requests; (3) comply with valid legal process; (4) protect the rights, privacy, safety or property of JD Supra, users of the Service, Website visitors or the public; (5) permit us to pursue available remedies or limit the damages that we may sustain; and (6) enforce our Terms & Conditions of Use.

In the event there is a change in the corporate structure of JD Supra such as, but not limited to, merger, consolidation, sale, liquidation or transfer of substantial assets, JD Supra may, in its sole discretion, transfer, sell or assign information collected on and through the Service to one or more affiliated or unaffiliated third parties.

Links to Other Websites

This Website and the Service may contain links to other websites. The operator of such other websites may collect information about you, including through cookies or other technologies. If you are using the Service through the Website and link to another site, you will leave the Website and this Policy will not apply to your use of and activity on those other sites. We encourage you to read the legal notices posted on those sites, including their privacy policies. We shall have no responsibility or liability for your visitation to, and the data collection and use practices of, such other sites. This Policy applies solely to the information collected in connection with your use of this Website and does not apply to any practices conducted offline or in connection with any other websites.

Changes in Our Privacy Policy

We reserve the right to change this Policy at any time. Please refer to the date at the top of this page to determine when this Policy was last revised. Any changes to our privacy policy will become effective upon posting of the revised policy on the Website. By continuing to use the Service or Website following such changes, you will be deemed to have agreed to such changes. If you do not agree with the terms of this Policy, as it may be amended from time to time, in whole or part, please do not continue using the Service or the Website.

Contacting JD Supra

If you have any questions about this privacy statement, the practices of this site, your dealings with this Web site, or if you would like to change any of the information you have provided to us, please contact us at:

- hide
*With LinkedIn, you don't need to create a separate login to manage your free JD Supra account, and we can make suggestions based on your needs and interests. We will not post anything on LinkedIn in your name. Or, sign up using your email address.