Newly released details on the University of Minnesota data breach underscore its severity. The records involved span from 1989 into 2021 and include: names, addresses, phone numbers, driver's license and Social Security numbers, dates of birth, demographic and employment data. Additionally, the breach included parent information and other personal identifiable information from previously submitted FAFSA submissions — grades, loan information, degree information, test scores and family income. Astounding!
If there were ever a textbook example of there being too much personal information being secured, utilized and stored by the educational system of this country, then this is it. I'm livid (but not surprised) that the University of Minnesota gathers this much data. I'm befuddled as to how willing the populace is to provide this level of data to anyone and everyone who says they must have it for you to participate. No! There are other ways to do this without putting the public's most personal and sensitive information on servers, databases and recovery sites across the globe, which are prime data theft targets. Do I blame the hackers for this? Of course. But I also blame the system in which the University of Minnesota is an active and willing participant.
It is well beyond the time for our government officials to act once and for all and to make personal identifiable information personal and private. Universities, utilities and others all clammer for our information. It's bought, massaged, filtered and sold for purposes well beyond its intent. Every time there's a data breach, individuals are instructed to be diligent and to check their credit report frequently for anything out of the ordinary. We're also told that we can purchase data theft protection services to help mitigate its misuse. Here's a novel concept: How about these organizations find ways to do business that don't require sensitive data, and whatever data is held is secured and then later purged. When there is a breach, how about they pay those whose data has been compromised instead of suggesting that we can go buy a third-party service?
Until we stop abusing people's private and sensitive data in the manner we do, these breaches will continue. It's well past time for the system to change — but I'm going to be the last one to hold my breath waiting for that change to come.
Hans Molenaar, Shoreview
Do they want this job or not?
Imagine you are a business owner selling pizza. You'd like to hire someone to help with your business. Someone applies for the position but makes it clear he/she doesn't like pizza, has no skill at making pizza and in fact if hired would do everything in his/her power to make sure that no one else could make or buy pizzas. Unlikely that you would hire this person.
Isn't this comparable to the obstructionists in Congress who have no interest in governing, show no skill at finding solutions to government problems and, when solutions are presented to them, fight them every step of the way? I feel very grateful to live in a state with hardworking legislators who take their job seriously and do the work of the people.
Micki Rasmussen, Bloomington
A start, but only that
The Sept. 19 article "Startup aims to clear a billion tons of CO2" introduced us to Carba and its CEO, Andrew Jones. Carba's goal is both ambitious and the right thing to do. However, as Jones himself pointed out, Carba alone will not get the world to where it needs to be. According to NASA, carbon dioxide stays in the atmosphere for at least 300 years. That means Carba's technology could be removing CO2 that has been up there since the industrial revolution. We've emitted plenty more since then.
Carba has an important part to play in preventing the worst effects of climate change, but it is like sailors bailing water out of their ship — their efforts mean nothing if the rest of the crew is drilling holes in the hull.
While we cannot all build startups, each of us still has an important role to play. On Oct. 19, the Minneapolis City Council will vote on whether to raise the franchise fee and put the proceeds in the Climate Legacy fund. The money raised would go toward projects like building retrofits and grid electrification, all in pursuit of lowering greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2050. With emissions at zero, Carba's project to remove age-old CO2 from the atmosphere would start to undo decades' worth of damage done to our planet. I have let my Minneapolis City Council member know that this is what I want to see, and I invite you to do the same.
Kelsey Murphy, Minneapolis
Climate change is one of the most complex issues facing us today and is a global problem as a result of greenhouse gas emissions. A recent Star Tribune article ("Startup aims to clear a billion tons of CO2") describes a process that captures carbon dioxide and converts it to a charcoal-like substance. Plants will capture CO2 out of the air via photosynthesis and the "biomass waste" will be converted into a recalcitrant solid carbon, which is sequestered underground. The use of the term "biomass waste" is concerning, though, because most plant biomass is about 45% carbon and plays a critical role in maintaining nature's carbon balance and nutrient cycling on our planet. Nature has evolved over 3.8 billion years into a model of sustainability where biological "waste" is recycled and efficiently reused.
Agriculture mimicking nature holds solutions to both global climate change and food security. Agriculture is the backbone of America. Carbon is the backbone of agriculture that requires understanding the difference between biogenic carbon in living soil systems and fossil carbon that may reflect millions of years in development of fossil fuels.
Soil produces over 95% of our food and is a powerful living system that stores carbon and is powered by biogenic carbon. Biological systems require biogenic carbon that provides energy through decomposition for the soil-microbial-plant-atmosphere system to maintain critical soil carbon, water and nutrient cycling processes required for crop production and food security.
There is no question that we must remove some CO2 from the atmosphere to achieve climate stability, and the technology described in the article appears appropriate and feasible. The major concern is the undetermined and unintended consequences of using the currently available biogenic carbon to create fossil carbon sequestered and biologically unavailable for thousands of years. In addition to removal of carbon, this would also remove and lock away additional soil nutrients. Therefore, removal of biomass must be done considering preserving the soil resource and not resulting in diminishing the overall fertility of the soil producing this biomass for carbon sequestration goals. As agriculture faces climate-related challenges of environmental preservation and food security, we must be innovative and open to new ideas, technologies and solutions for managing CO2 and our changing climate, but we need to ensure that we do not create unintended consequences of these proposed mitigation actions.
Don Reicosky, Morris, Minn.
The writer is a retired soil scientist.
Regarding "Mpls. giving land to Red Lake Nation" (Sept. 22), I believe the operative word is "returning."
Mary Axelrod, Bloomington