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.