As the story grows, Target has released now information about its credit card breach. Originally they said that a massive 40 million customers have been affected. Then it was 80 million. Now comes word that, in fact, it's 110 million people. For those of you without an almanac handy, that's one-third of the United States.
Whatever news stations have had as their lead story the last couple of days, they got it wrong. When something, anything problematic impacts one-third of the entire country, that strikes me as the lead story.
Rachel Maddow yesterday spent her entire show on Chris Christie. That's a big story (and a wonderful one) that has larger implications for someone who wants to be President of the United States. But right now, the story affects New Jersey. To a much lesser degree, it also affects the city of New York. There wasn't a word about 110 million Americans having their credit and debit card information stolen along with their names, mailing addresses, phone numbers, and e-mail addresses.
My favorite part of all this is the statement released by the president and CEO of Target, Gregg Steinhafel: "I know that it is frustrating for our guests to learn that this information was taken and we are truly sorry they are having to endure this. I also want our guests to know that understanding and sharing the facts related to this incident is important to me and the entire Target team."
First, I suspect it's a tad more than "frustrating" to people who have had their credit card and personal data stolen and put on the Internet for criminals. If charges are made and if a person's credit rating is impacted, it could be a hellish experience trying to resolve matters. While it's nice (and essential) that Target has said that it is offering a year of credit monitoring and identity theft protection for no cost, and no affected customers will have liability for fraudulent charges, dealing with such matters transcends frustration -- as I suspect the company will find out in the lawsuits over the next five years.
And second -- "guests"? No, these people aren't guests. You don't charge your guests when they enter your home and you offer them dinner or party favors. The company's famous announcement is not "Attention Target guests..." Anyone can wander into any of the1,800 Target stores without a personal invitation. If you really want the people affected to know how understanding and open you are, and how important this actual is, then at least be honest enough to call them "customers." Not some touchy-feely word to whitewash the reality.
In the end, there's one big takeaway from this all --
If you're going to start up a big, national company and don't want to be hit by criminals making an effort to break into your sensitive data, you might not want to give yourself a logo that's a bullseye, and a name that reinforces it.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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