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Commentary: Don't leave your computer unlocked

Scripps Howard News Service

The Social Security numbers and family information of every master sergeant in the U.S. Army, federal tax forms, medical records, FBI surveillance photos, the location of a safe house for the Obama family, and now a secret report of the House ethics committee have all turned up on the Internet.
The leak of the House ethics committee’s secret list of members of Congress under investigation is sure to generate new warnings about privacy and the Internet, calls for investigations, hearings and regulation.
Guess what? The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform had its first hearing on this topic nine years ago. Then there were hearings in 2007 and most recently in July of this year.
The chairman of the oversight committee, Rep. Edolphus Towns, D-N.Y., put it this way in July: “Imagine for a moment that you had special software on your computer that exposed many of the files on your hard drive to searches by other people.
At any time your computer is connected to the Internet, other computer users with similar software could simply search your hard drive and copy un-protected files. Unfortunately, that is the sad reality for many unsuspecting computer users.”
Towns was talking about “file sharing” software that enables users to share music and video across the Internet.
Sharing itself is voluntary and legal, even if it is not legal to share protected music and movies.
Some want to regulate the file-sharing networks, but most leaks are not the fault of technology. They are the fault of people who aren’t being careful.
If someone accidentally leaves secret documents on a table at Starbucks, you don’t blame the coffee. That would be like blaming autopilot technology for the plane that overshot the airport in Minneapolis.
You shouldn’t park your car with the keys in the ignition, and you shouldn’t put secret documents on a computer that isn’t secure. It’s not the technology; it’s the operator.

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