Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Is Privacy Dead?

If you are like me, you've been reading about the pervasive use of databases by both corporations and the government. The former uses information for targeted marketing to cut costs and increase sales. The latter uses private databases for criminal investigations. I had thought that the government was also being lazy or circumventing legal restrictions, mostly just being lazy. Well, it turns out that the government is using private databases for the latter reason. It seems almost sinister because it's so subtle and opaque. The government is giving companies like Choicepoint government data to crosslink into their already massive databases and then buying back the information on a per transaction basis. The reason why is that the government doesn't have to tell you what data they were seeking or even what's in the database because they don't own the database. The Freedom of Information Act applies to public databases, not private databases. Relying on private entities for publicly obtained information is a way for government to be less transparent and accountable to its own citizens while it profiles and tracks them. An enlightening, somewhat alarming and slightly paranoid talk can be heard from this Homeland Stupidity article.
If you're only slightly paranoid after listening to that three hour talk, you aren't paranoid enough. :)
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