Social consequences of the release of sensitive date stored in databases

Area of Impact

· Business and Employment

Many businesses use databases to keep track of records such as customer information, employee information, goods information etc. However, if this sensitive is released into the public it could cause many issues. Firstly, if customer information such as a customer’s personal details which may include their name, address and credit card number are released into the public it could be used inappropriately, sold onto third parties etc, but the issue is that how this effects a customer’s privacy. Well, if their personal information is out in the public than anyone can access it, and therefore lead to further problems. Another issue is that companies’ sales records are also usually stored in databases, and if the data is sold/released to the public then it could affect the company itself since everyone would know about its sales. Another matter that arises is how search engines such as keep a record of your search queries and how this has lead to other problems, for example, Google was keeping track of one man’s searching queries and this data was released into the public and lead to him having other serious problems (refer to footnote research #2). Now the issue is that how much privacy does anyone have since everything you do can be tracked down nowadays.

· Politics and Government

Computer technologies have allowed the nature of tax, criminal and other government investigations. Governments can now search through huge volumes of information and this this results is that the person a computer program considers suspicious may be detained by police, lose benefits, or be ordrered to pay additional taxes. A bridge and tunnel authority in New York gad a policy that it won’t disclose a person’s data without a court order, however, a judge said that police could get information without any law enforcement, since travelling is a public view. Here is an example of a government database which contains a collection of records, Another example would be when we shop in supermarkets and the goods a customer buys may be recorded and the data can then be used or sold onto third parties or the government and one’s buying record can be tracked down and reviewed. Government databases help government agencies function properly, which determines the eligibility of jobs and benefit programs, detect fraud and recover payments and debts, catch criminals and take in taxes and if there were restrictions to the amount of access the government can have to the information (databases) then it could lead to a higher chance of fraud, rate of crime etc. (Saara Baase, A Gift Of Fire)

Overall Analysis

The release of sensitive data can lead to many consequences affecting a number of stakeholders such us the citizen whose information is being released, the company which collects the data and the government. The citizen’s personal information may now be available in public and it is not ideal for anyone to have their information available to everyone since their data could be used inappropriately.
Furthermore, the data stored in the databases may be incorrect and therefore lead to the government/ police or any other people who may require the data to collect the incorrect data and therefore could cause some confusions when the data will be used since it is not the correct data.


The release of sensitive data is harmful to many stakeholders, for example, the citizen themself since theire data is being stored in the databases. If there data is leaked outor released to the public there could be serious issues that arise, such as other citizens knowing personal information about them or the goverments using the incorrect data which could lead to other matters as well. The use of databases will be used by many people in the country, and the data stored in it may not be reliable for the long run, however, if the data is updated regularly, then the information could be used in the long run as well as the short. Many issues could arise from the release of data as discussed above; people recieving unwanted information from third parties, search engines tracking down your search history etc. However, I think that the biggest area that will be affected is politics and government, as they are the ones that will be using information from a huge amount of databases, but they also need to consider whether their sources are reliable, are they updated etc., otherwise the information used could be wrong and could lead to other serious matters.


1." In most cultures, privacy of the individuals is important. However, there are certain cultures where it is impossible to ensure privacy. These could be related to political or technological issues or the fact that people have been brought up believing that privacy is not critical. There are places where people divulge their salaries without thinking twice about it, but in many countries, salaries are very private and sensitive. It is not easy to change cultures overnight, and in many cases you do not want to change them, as preserving cultures is important. So what overall effect does this have on data mining and privacy? We do not have an answer to this yet as we are only beginning to look into it. We are however beginning to realize that perhaps we do have many of the technological solutions for handling privacy. That is, many of the technologies we have proposed for information security in general and secrecy and confidentiality in particular could be applied for privacy. However we have to now focus on the social aspects. That is, we need the involvement of social scientists to work with computer scientists on privacy and data mining. Next, let us examine the political and legal aspects. We include policies and procedures under this. Note that some of the issues we have discussed are related to privacy and data mining, and some others are related to just privacy in general.[1]"

2. "Under the mission of “More Precise Ad Targeting” Google has created the most incredible spying machine that has ever existed on the face of the planet. They have recorded everything you have ever searched for and attached it to your IP address. In addition, if you use google adwords, gmail or other personalized services they have also added your complete information profile into the mix. I have been using Google Toolbar, Google Adwords for years and Gmail in the past, so all my online activities are neatly compiled in a Google database somewhere.[2]"

3. "One of the few comforts you can enjoy about tax time is that your information -- your wages, assets, expenses, and personal data -- are shared only between you, the government, and any tax agents you may use. No third parties can use it to target you for advertising or offers. But the IRS may be revising its rules to allow tax preparers to share or sell customer information to third parties and database brokers, as part of a sweeping change to its privacy regulations.[3]"

4. "Over the past few years, companies improved the security for information that moves across the Internet and other public connections. But although it’s estimated that 80% of all business information is now stored in electronic form (Howarth, 2004), most organizations have done little to protect data stores. The Privacy Rights Clearing House keeps a list of reported incidents going back to February, 2005. The total number of consumers affected exceeds 52 million.[4]"



  1. Bhavani Thuraisingham, "Data Mining, National Security, Privacy and Civil Liberties", The National Science Foundation, Date Unknown, Retrieved from on 3rd October 2007
  2. Author Unknown, "Google And Other Search Engines Are Tracking Your Every Move", Bala Fria, 16th August 2007, Retrieved from on 4th October 2007
  3. Martin H. Boswoth, "IRS May Let Tax Preparers Sell Customers' Information", Consumer Affairs, 12th March 2006, Retrieved from on 3rd October 2007
  4. Tom Olzak, "Data Storage Security", IT Observer, 23 February 2006, Retrieved from on 2nd October 2007