With the recent news about Sony's PSN and SOE services being hacked, this reminded me of the all too common problem of identity theft. I'm usually very careful and very guarded about my personal information. I don't like to give it out and try to limit who has access to it. Unfortunately, just about everyone from your department store to your dentist wants your personal info. Name, address, Date of birth, social security number, etc. etc. etc. Basically, everything someone would need to steal your identity. I've often refused to give out some of this information, but I am always assured that it has to be given. Otherwise, I won't be able to partake in whatever service I wanted.
Honestly, I think a lot of it is bogus. The only people that really need to know your info are probably the government and maybe whatever bank or credit card company gives you a loan. The problem with companies having your personal info, is that they are often careless with it. I've personally been notified several times by various companies that some files or documents may have been compromised and that my personal info was among them. Some have offered to give me free credit monitoring for a year. Others suggest you watch your credit, but won't provide you with a complimentary service.
Jumping back to the PSN issue, it's known that credit card info may have been lost. Honestly, that doesn't bother me that much. Fixing a stolen credit card is easy. It's relatively easy to monitor your statements and look for unknown charges. Most credit card companies have fraud protection and will not hold you liable for charges you did not make. Simply cancel your card and the crisis is over. Not so easy with your personal info. If that gets stolen, you may have to fight for months to years to assure the safety of your identity. There is no easy fix and no great service to try. Often times, you may not even know that someone is using your identity to purchase things, take out loans, etc. I've heard horror stories of people struggling with that for months, spending time and money to get back their identity.
It's frustrating. I wish the government would do more to limit what information companies can keep on you. Certainly they like to do their research, but it should not be at so great a risk. If they can't keep that info safe, then they shouldn't take it.