Sunday, April 22, 2007

You can make a difference by refusing to hand over your information

Recently a friend of mine wanted to volunteer to be an assistant Little League coach. There is an extensive application that everyone is required to fill out and turn in to a designated league volunteer. That volunteer then takes the application and runs it through a paid service to do a background check to be sure you are not a predator with a history of past offenses. This is all good as we all want the children to be safe from those individuals. But it is imposing a great risk to all volunteers.

My friend asked me if he should provide all the information requested, drivers’ license, date of birth, social security number, etc. I advised him against it. Why? Because he would be handing the keys to his identity over to a complete stranger, a volunteer, a person he had never met! He was sure this person was using the information correctly and as required, but what else should he be concerned with? The answer is a lot!

Let’s assume this person is an upstanding volunteer and only uses this information for its intended purpose. But what does he do with all of those applications emailed or mailed to him. He called to find out, and it turns out he has to keep them until the end of the season, and then he shreds them and delete them. Great, but how secure are they until then. My friend was never sure. The volunteer probably did not leave them on the kitchen counter, but didn’t lock them up either, and he was sure his email was probably not password protected. And that’s where the system falls apart. Everybody in the league knows he collects hundreds of applications with all this information. This is literally a goldmine to anybody with deceitful intentions. A plumber, a painter, the housekeeper, a babysitter, a relative, a teenager’s friend etc. Starting to see the picture?

Why do they need all this information? Simple, the more information they have on you, the narrower they can have the search results returned and the less duplication of names.

Well guess what started happening? People were refusing to provide information and therefore volunteer. On April 13, 2007 the Little League International issued a statement that they would no longer be requiring volunteer applications to include a social security number. It does not address the entire issue especially with the information volunteers possess, but it definitely is a step in the right direction.

The next time someone asks for more information than you think they should have, take a stand and refuse, you may not receive the service you wanted but ask yourself if it is worth loosing your identity over.