Friday, June 7, 2013

Are You Feeling Secure in the Government's Ability to Maintain your Privacy?

With all the breaking news about servers being accessed and telephone calls being logged by the NSA, I can't help but look at this new potential database of biometric information with a touch of cynicism.

From a Wired article:
Buried in the more than 800 pages of the bipartisan legislation (.pdf)  is language mandating the creation of the innocuously-named “photo tool,” a massive federal database administered by the Department of Homeland Security and containing names, ages, Social Security numbers and photographs of everyone in the country with a driver’s license or other state-issued photo ID.
Together in one convenient place for the first time is everything anyone could possible want to track you, steal your identity, check on your government benefits, or any other piece of information about you stored in virtually any computer in the entire world. This database would be the keys to the kingdom.

What could possible go wrong? After all, we know that the government has always handled these types of sensitive information with the utmost privacy and security. Not once has any information ever been downloaded to a government laptop and then been stolen with thousands -- if not millions -- of names and social security numbers waiting to be taken. Not once has a government agency ever been hacked and supposedly secure files been taken directly from the government servers. Federal agencies are much better monitored and regulated than that.

But lets suppose for a moment the Department of Homeland Security has some kind of magic server that could never be hacked even with all the Chinese hackers in the world working on it. And let's further suppose that no employee that isn't authorized will ever gain access to the server and they will never make a stupid, human mistake like leaving their laptops to be stolen. Would that solve the problem?


Programs like this have a tendency to expand. What starts out as an expedient solution to a simple problem has a tendency to grow and mutate to the point where they aren't recognizable any longer.

Back to Wired:
For now, the legislation allows the database to be used solely for employment purposes. But historically such limitations don’t last. The Social Security card, for example, was created to track your government retirement benefits. Now you need it to purchase health insurance.
And purchasing health insurance isn't the only thing you need a Social Security card for. In my area you can't go to the doctor, get any help from the government, get a job, access your bank account through an ATM, verify that you are who you way you are over the phone, or anything else without a Social Security number.

Forming a database with all our information -- including everything necessary for a computer to recognize us -- couldn't possibly be a good idea. Not only should every civil liberties group be apposed to this legislation, every elected official and every voter should be against it regardless of party. There just isn't any good to come out of this for anyone.

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