I've been a professional computer systems tech for about 15 years now, and The Independent Weekly's coverage of Zorn vs. Coast Capital Mortgage Co. and the purloined data rings familiar with me ("Vanishing Coast," May 4).

About six years ago, I picked up a couple of old PCs for parts. Yes indeed, one man's trash is another's treasure. While perusing the hard drives, I found the entire caseload of a local law firm's paralegal. Apparently, when the firm rolled out new computers and donated or sold the old ones, the data was overlooked. I picked up the phone, called the firm and we made an exchange ' I got a new hard drive, and I surrendered the one loaded with their files. As a courtesy to them, I first destroyed the drive. (It's amazing what a Black & Decker 1/4 drill will do to a hard drive. Fifteen seconds in the microwave smokes any data structures on that drive.)

As computer professionals we need to see data for what it is ' data. It's something to be respected with a sacramental confidence. Day in and day out, I see sensitive data, and to me, it's just that ' data.

The entire Coast Capital situation was handled badly. I doubt anyone at Coast Capital seriously intended to carelessly distribute their customer database. People make mistakes both in practice and judgment, but it's a shame when they do both at the same time.

Most computer consultants around here bill in the $50 to $75 per hour range. At my rate, I'd have almost 50 hours billable to justify a $3,500 charge.

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