Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Government can't protect privacy

Here's the Register's editorial on the fact that the passport records of the three remaining semi-realistic presidential candidates were broken into. The explanation so far is relatively innocent -- inappropriate curiosity on the part of contract workers doing data input -- but the initial explanation for accessing Bill Clinton's passport records back in 1992 was putatively innocent too. It tirned out to be an effort from a high level to smear him. More explanation and maybe a congressional inquiry would be appropriate.

The most important thing to take from the episode is that the government simply can't be trusted with private information. Even when it tries, it will never do the job of protecting privacy well. Technologically the government is always a few generations behind the state of the art, so it will be vulnerable to hackers. And it is inclined to share information among departments anyway. If the Real ID act is ever implemented -- it's on hold, with states permitted to apply for waivers -- it will be a nightmare, with everything an identity thief could want in one place.

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