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Another shining moment for local TV news

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I have a timer on my DVR that records the local Atlanta news (WSB-TV) each night at 6. When I get home, I run quickly through the newscast to see if there’s anything interesting or important in between the stories of teenage car wrecks, inner-city shootings and pointless “consumer advice” stories.

So the other night WSB ran a piece about some program being looked at by state officials called The Matrix. Seems The Matrix is a one-stop shop for looking up public and private information on whomever the state is investigating at that moment.

I’m not getting into whether we should be bothered by this here.

But during the piece, there was a shot of The Matrix in action. It’s the typical pan-across shot that TV news loves to use for showing things on computer screens.

So the camera pans across a Matrix entry for somebody …. there’s a Social Security Number … there’s a name … there’s an address history … there’s a phone number.

“Surely”, I tell my wife, “That can’t actually be a real person’s information”.

So I back up the story, pause the DVR, grab the laptop and go a Google search on +”[FirstName] [LastName]” +Atlanta (No, I’m not going to actually use the guy’s name here).

And what pops up? The same name, phone number and current address that I just saw on my TV. What do you think the chances are it’s also this real person’s actual Social Security Number?

I came very close to calling the guy, telling him what I saw and asking him if this was, in fact, his Social Security Number.

And this incident comes on the heels of a report WSB did on a company that was throwing information on student loan accounts away in a dumpster rather than shredding them. In that report – which talked about this horrible abuse of personal privacy – the camera panned down a page of data … also showing names, phone numbers, addresses and Social Security Numbers.

I feel safe now.

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