Maintaining privacy in the digital age is proving increasingly difficult

Amid the current climate of caution surrounding personal data, it is important that any business that hopes to handle customer identifiers projects an air of trustworthiness and confidentiality.

Shoppers at the branches of the Midcounties Co-operative Society supermarket that have been trialling the Pay By Touch fingerprint-recognition payment system since 2006, for example, might like to think that the man behind the company that produces the system is the soul of discretion. After all, the system has been widely praised, even winning an Information Age Effective IT award in 2006.

And John Rogers, CEO and founder of Silicon Valley-based Solidus Networks, the company that trades as Pay By Touch, understands the pain of finding personal information leaking into the public domain. He has first-hand experience.

Back in 2001, Minneapolis newspaper The Star Tribune revealed Rogers’s “checkered past”, including various convictions and a pair of restraining orders taken against him by former lovers. The paper quoted a district judge describing Rogers as “the most dishonest man I’ve ever dealt with”.

Perhaps most embarrassing for a man at the helm of a company that trades on trust was the allegation that Rogers had informed the Inland Revenue Service of a love-rival’s irregular accounting practices.

In November 2007, Rogers filed for personal bankruptcy after four employees claimed they were owed at least $60,000 in wages, triggering renewed interest in his colourful life story.

Journalists and bloggers pored over legal and financial documents for any piece of dirt they could lay their fingers on – upturning details including Rogers’s monthly clothing spend – prompting the man himself to threaten them with private investigators. 

According to the payments industry newsletter The Nilson Report, Solidus Networks, now in the control of the COO, will be withdrawing from the biometric payments business.

As Rogers found to his cost, maintaining privacy in the digital age is proving increasingly difficult.

Further reading:

The return of the ID card debate – The UK Government’s embarrassing loss of 25 million citizens’ personal details has reignited the ID card debate.

One touch commerce – Banks and retailers are throwing their weight behind cashless, contactless payments systems, finally giving birth to the e-wallet.

Pete Swabey

Pete Swabey

Pete was Editor of Information Age and head of technology research for Vitesse Media plc from 2005 to 2013, before moving on to be Senior Editor and then Editorial Director at The Economist Intelligence...

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