Home > 2012 > Personal Finance

The Real SOPA Opera Should Be ID Theft

Advertiser Disclosure Comments 0 Comments

The Stop Online Piracy Act, and its sister legislation in the Senate, the Protect Intellectual Property Act caused quite a stir in Silicon Valley, Hollywood and Washington. The two bills were intended to put a hard stop on theft of intellectual property on the Internet, by means that are controversial in terms of the First Amendment. Big players from the overlapping worlds of movies and music pushed for this bill. So did their high priced lobbyists. But SOPA and PIPA were ultimately shelved last week, and not just because there were formidable forces lined up against it. Google, Facebook, Yahoo, AOL and Twitter are just a few of the tech companies that opposed the bills, and they can certainly afford some pretty high priced lobbyists, too.

What also put a knife through the heart of SOPA and PIPA was the non-paid lobbyist community—a.k.a., the grassroots. The last few weeks, millions of people signed petitions in opposition of the bills. And sites like Wikipedia and Reddit went dark for 24 hours in protest.

“What has happened in the last few weeks will permanently change the way citizens communicate with their government… This is a new day,” Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), told The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent. Wyden has been SOPA and PIPA’s chief opponent in the Senate.

I don’t argue with the good intentions of the bills’ sponsors—online piracy of music, movies and the like is a serious problem that has existed and grown in direct proportion to the existence and growth of the Internet itself. But Silicon Valley folks argued that the proposed legislation would seriously curtail the operations of very popular websites, such as YouTube, even though the proprietors of those sites are not trying to steal anything themselves, and generally take steps to be certain that they don’t, in the language of the bills, “facilitate” online piracy.

Regardless of the fate that befalls either piece of legislation, the battle over online piracy is raging and will continue for quite some time. And the reason why the issue will remain top of mind is the same reason why the bills were beaten back: powerful interests lined up on both sides of the issue, and real people weighed in and let their voices be heard. I only hope that people keep talking because the truth of the matter is that SOPA and PIPA only scratch the surface of online piracy.

But while we contemplate the gargantuan battle of the content vs. technology worlds, we must not forget an equally serious, actually even more serious example of online piracy.

While no numbers have been reliably developed to compare the two, I would make book that the most common and sinister piracy that goes on via the Internet involves database compromise and identity theft rather than theft of movies or music. According to the Identity Theft Research Center, 4,300,056 records containing sensitive consumer data were stolen in hacking incidents in 2011 alone, exposing those consumers to the risk of identity theft. The current proposed legislation doesn’t deal with identity theft, but of course, there are a number of laws on both federal and state books that do. Unfortunately, most aren’t tough enough and, in the case of the federal government, they are few and far between.

One of the complaints I have often heard from proponents of SOPA is not so much that existing law is inadequate, but rather that existing enforcement of that law is lacking. Doubtless, while SOPA (or Son of SOPA) provides new and potent enforcement weapons, the noise surrounding the recent battle will definitely step up enforcement activities under current law, something that is critical, especially if both bills die beneath the Capitol dome (which apparently one has). And given the fact that Congress has mastered the art of internecine squabbling and gridlock, nothing seems to be going anywhere fast in Washington, no matter how serious the problem.

If only identity theft were as buzz worthy; alas, (the recently departed) SOPA and PIPA are big news because of the power and prestige of those on both sides of the issue. That’s why the grassroots ultimately had to get involved.

The victims of intellectual property piracy are generally large and powerful companies, with lobbyists in Washington and in every important state capital, with money to spend to help with enforcement or to technologically impede the theft of their property. On the other hand, the victims of identity theft are generally individuals with meager resources, both financial and political, to fight against the theft of their sensitive personal information, and the destruction of their financial lives, or even more dire consequences should they experience medical or criminal identity theft. Put simply, the victims of intellectual property theft are generally much wealthier and more powerful than the thieves, whereas in identity theft, the playing field is generally more tilted in favor of the bad guys.

It’s safe to say that if multibillion dollar companies need more legislation and better enforcement procedures to protect their property, individuals need all the help they can get to protect theirs. While there are many organizations that do their best to prevent identity theft, they cannot match the resources available to those who have large financial interests at stake, like the entertainment companies that have embraced SOPA. This is, after all, America, where money talks but big money shouts.

I hope that the senators and representatives who are hell-bent to kill or at least seriously maim the onsumer Financial Protection Bureau and other consumer-oriented federal regulatory agencies take note of the fact that consumers need all the help they can get to protect their identities. Unfortunately, there are no lobbyists or media campaigns to shout at Congress, but perhaps a large chorus of smaller voices will make a lot of noise at the polls in November.

Image: Baddog_, via Flickr.com

Comments on articles and responses to those comments are not provided or commissioned by a bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by a bank advertiser. It is not a bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

Please note that our comments are moderated, so it may take a little time before you see them on the page. Thanks for your patience.

Certain credit cards and other financial products mentioned in this and other articles on Credit.com News & Advice may also be offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com will be compensated if our users apply for and ultimately sign up for any of these cards or products. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment.

Hello, Reader!

Thanks for checking out Credit.com. We hope you find the site and the journalism we produce useful. We wanted to take some time to tell you a bit about ourselves.

Our People

The Credit.com editorial team is staffed by a team of editors and reporters, each with many years of financial reporting experience. We’ve worked for places like the New York Times, American Banker, Frontline, TheStreet.com, Business Insider, ABC News, NBC News, CNBC and many others. We also employ a few freelancers and more than 50 contributors (these are typically subject matter experts from the worlds of finance, academia, politics, business and elsewhere).

Our Reporting

We take great pains to ensure that the articles, video and graphics you see on Credit.com are thoroughly reported and fact-checked. Each story is read by two separate editors, and we adhere to the highest editorial standards. We’re not perfect, however, and if you see something that you think is wrong, please email us at editorial team [at] credit [dot] com,

The Credit.com editorial team is committed to providing our readers and viewers with sound, well-reported and understandable information designed to inform and empower. We won’t tell you what to do. We will, however, do our best to explain the consequences of various actions, thereby arming you with the information you need to make decisions that are in your best interests. We also write about things relating to money and finance we think are interesting and want to share.

In addition to appearing on Credit.com, our articles are syndicated to dozens of other news sites. We have more than 100 partners, including MSN, ABC News, CBS News, Yahoo, Marketwatch, Scripps, Money Magazine and many others. This network operates similarly to the Associated Press or Reuters, except we focus almost exclusively on issues relating to personal finance. These are not advertorial or paid placements, rather we provide these articles to our partners in most cases for free. These relationships create more awareness of Credit.com in general and they result in more traffic to us as well.

Our Business Model

Credit.com’s journalism is largely supported by an e-commerce business model. Rather than rely on revenue from display ad impressions, Credit.com maintains a financial marketplace separate from its editorial pages. When someone navigates to those pages, and applies for a credit card, for example, Credit.com will get paid what is essentially a finder’s fee if that person ends up getting the card. That doesn’t mean, however, that our editorial decisions are informed by the products available in our marketplace. The editorial team chooses what to write about and how to write about it independently of the decisions and priorities of the business side of the company. In fact, we maintain a strict and important firewall between the editorial and business departments. Our mission as journalists is to serve the reader, not the advertiser. In that sense, we are no different from any other news organization that is supported by ad revenue.

Visitors to Credit.com are also able to register for a free Credit.com account, which gives them access to a tool called The Credit Report Card. This tool provides users with two free credit scores and a breakdown of the information in their Experian credit report, updated twice monthly. Again, this tool is entirely free, and we mention that frequently in our articles, because we think that it’s a good thing for users to have access to data like this. Separate from its educational value, there is also a business angle to the Credit Report Card. Registered users can be matched with products and services for which they are most likely to qualify. In other words, if you register and you find that your credit is less than stellar, Credit.com won’t recommend a high-end platinum credit card that requires an excellent credit score You’d likely get rejected, and that’s no good for you or Credit.com. You’d be no closer to getting a product you need, there’d be a wasted inquiry on your credit report, and Credit.com wouldn’t get paid. These are essentially what are commonly referred to as "targeted ads" in the world of the Internet. Despite all of this, however, even if you never apply for any product, the Credit Report Card will remain free, and none of this will impact how the editorial team reports on credit and credit scores.

Our Owners

Credit.com is owned by Progrexion Holdings Inc. which is the owner and administrator of a number of business related to credit and credit repair, including CreditRepair.com, and eFolks. In addition, Progrexion also provides services to Lexington Law Firm as a third party provider. Despite being owned by Progrexion, it is not the role of the Credit.com editorial team to advocate the use of the company’s other services. In articles, reporters may mention credit repair as an option, for example, but we’ll also be sure to note the various alternatives to that service. Furthermore, you may see ads for credit repair services on Credit.com, but the editorial team isn’t responsible for the creation or implementation of those ads, anymore than reporters for the New York Times or Washington Post are responsible for the ads on their sites.

Your Stories

Lastly, much of what we do is informed by our own experiences as well as the experiences of our readers. We want to tell your stories if you’re interested in sharing them. Please email us at story ideas [at] credit [dot] com with ideas or visit us on Facebook or Twitter.

Thanks for stopping by.

- The Credit.com Editorial Team