Is our private data really private?

In the middle of last month, I received a phone call from a so-called “Institut Minda Selangor”, which was doing a poll to gauge support for Selangor’s Pakatan Rakyat/Harapan state government.

Now, one would think there would be no problem with just answering a few questions and submitting to a poll, but this is different.

Some details – the phone number I have is a prepaid SIM card purchased from Maxis by my younger brother as a birthday present ages ago. In fact, it could have been close to seven or eight years ago.

And thus, he registered it under his name. It works just fine, other than the fact that the whole “birthday treat” comes in August and confuses me once a year – it’s a good reminder though.

Thus, when the pollster calls up and mentions my brother’s name instead of my own, we do have a problem. You see, only three people would know that this phone number of mine is registered under my brother’s name – myself, my brother, and the telco itself.

So, where would the pollster have gotten the information?

I decided to take this case to Facebook, and as such, the telco provider has given feedback that their system is secure without a breach. However, they couldn’t provide an answer as to how the pollster could have gotten the details known only to three parties, two of which are pretty much secure and would never reveal that information.

Thus, at this point, I’m pretty much resigned to the fact that someone is leaking phone numbers, private information, to pollsters. As to who is doing it, perhaps it can be found out by finding the pollsters since telcos are all convincing that their data handling – from initial registration of buying a SIM card from a kedai runcit or even 7-Eleven, is secure and without a leak.

To those who got the same phone call, perhaps it is time to take note that your data has been sold off to would be pollsters, promoters, and maybe even fraudsters, and perhaps it is time to think about where they got it from.

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