Santa's unimaginable data disaster to mean empty stockings Christmas morning

Say it ain't so, Santa. … TJX, the VA, Disney's movie club: We expect these outfits to lose stuff and scatter our personal information hither and yon. But you? Santa Claus?

How will we tell the children that you're going to be a no-show this year?

From the Associated Press this morning:

Children’s Christmas Wish Lists Disappear

NORTH POLE (AP) – Santa Claus has announced that he has canceled this year’s delivery of Christmas presents after a computer crash resulted in the loss of all wish lists from children around the world. Also lost are records pertaining to child behavior over the past year, making it impossible to determine who has been naughty and who has been nice.

Santa had used a tape-based backup system for his critical data; however, after the crash, the tapes fell off a truck and apparently tumbled into the Arctic Ocean.

Obviously, this story will reverberate worldwide.

And, it's not as though Santa hadn't been warned. Earlier this month, Wall Street Journal blogger Ben Worthen reported on an analysis by a British law firm that revealed myriad questions surrounding Santa's handling of sensitive personal data.

This latest attempt to ruin Christmas comes courtesy of a report in Out-Law, a magazine published by the U.K. law firm Pinsent Masons, which raises important questions regarding Santa’s adherence to data protection, sharing, and destruction laws in Britain and the U.S.

Each year, Santa receives letters from millions of children, in which they disclose their names, addresses, holiday wishes and other sensitive information. Additionally, Santa keeps a list of every child in the world, which he uses to track if they’ve been naughty or nice during the previous year. It’s unclear whether Santa uses data from credit bureaus and other third parties or if he relies exclusively on his own observations.

To date, Santa hasn’t disclosed the privacy safeguards for this data, a possible violation of several laws.

The report is grim reading … and obviously prescient given what has transpired since.

By the way, the story about Santa's data disaster was forwarded to me by Kevin Kosh, a public relations professional with CHEN PR.  Public relations people are forever sending me news articles that purport to make clear the pressing need for whatever it is their client is selling. In this case, Kosh's client is Arsenal Digital Solutions, a data-protection vendor recently snapped up by IBM. It's fun to push back on these PR pitches with a pointed query or two, especially when the subject matter is as serious as protecting Santa's distribution capabilities. My questions, his answers:

Do you know if Claus has notified all of the families whose personally identifiable information has been lost? How many victims?

"Interestingly, since the North Pole is disputed territory (see excerpt from Wikipedia below), it is not subject to the breach disclosure laws of any one country in particular, so specifics are not certain as to size and scope, but based on Santa’s annual report, his customer base is, as we say in the PR biz – 'industry-leading.' "

Regarding your client's implied contention that they could have helped Claus avoid this mess: How would Arsenal propose to support a client located at the North Pole? Do they have an office there?

"Arsenal has a small sales presence in the region with pretty much the fat man and the elf union as their only target clients, and can serve Santa’s remote backup needs through its network of tier 1 carriers."

Finally, do you know if the lost tapes include naughty/nice records from the 1960s?

"Santa already uses Arsenal for deep archiving. Those tapes remain intact."

What? I figured maybe there would be a silver lining in all of this.

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