Once Again, If The Gov't Has Data, It Will Be Abused

from the seen-it-before,-will-see-it-again dept

We've pointed this out over and over and over and over and over again, but whenever a government puts together a big database of info on people -- the data gets abused. The latest example, found via Michael Scott is the news that a police chief in Iowa has been suspended after he supposedly revealed data that he never should have had in the first place, supposedly handing out information on someone's driving record and criminal history, despite having no legal reason to even have that info, let alone distribute it to anyone. So why do we keep assuming that governments won't abuse such data collections?


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    icon
    bwp (profile), Nov 24th, 2009 @ 5:14am

    That's easy...

    ...we don't assume they won't abuse. In fact, I would say most people assume it will be abused.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
    identicon
    Headbhang, Nov 24th, 2009 @ 5:17am

    Re: That's easy...

    Rather, the gov't simply pretends and claims that it won't abused and people just take it.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    identicon
    NullOp, Nov 24th, 2009 @ 5:44am

    Govt

    Who among us is so stupid/naive to think the government would not abuse data? I don't think it can be said too much that if any government has data is absolutely will be abused at some point, period, case closed! This is not a maybe thing, not an isolated incident. It is a bet-the-farm sure thing.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    identicon
    BCross52, Nov 24th, 2009 @ 5:45am

    First we need to recognize that "The Government" is not a faceless, monolithic thing. "The Government" is actually thousands of inter-related organizations, each with it's own mission, responsibilities, and authorities. "We, The People" created all of these organizations and they are made up of . . . (wait for it!) . people just like us. Thus they have the same weaknesses that exist in any other organization -- "good" people, "bad" people, strong people, weak people, obsessed people, indifferent people.

    Next, "We, The People" need to put real effort into our existing control of these organizations by studying the issues and by actually thinking about who we should elect and what 'official' policy should be.

    Instead "We, The People" spend all of our time obsessing about single issues and bitching online. Overall, based on the amount of effort we put in, we get the government that we deserve.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    identicon
    Mechwarrior, Nov 24th, 2009 @ 5:55am

    Re:

    "The People" don't create these problems. A large minority of people probably didn't even elect the people who created these problems.

    Id like to say this is an example of "tyranny of the masses" but that only works when the masses know what's happening, which often isn't the case. Its why NSA can riffle through people's conversations about love affairs and hemorrhoid , its why police chiefs can pass out other peoples personal information.

    Nobody knows, least of which the people. And thanks to the Freedom of Information act behaving exactly opposite of its name, it'll be the same for time immemorial.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
    identicon
    Call me Al, Nov 24th, 2009 @ 6:06am

    Same situation in the UK. We have hundreds of thousands of innocent people's DNA on a database. These are people who have either never been charged or who were acquitted of a crime. The government and police refuse to delete the records (despite the EU telling them to) on the grounds of crime prevention. Abuse of data is endemic.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 24th, 2009 @ 6:17am

    Trust.

    It is the trust that we give them. I don't think information can't be misused nor do I think other think the same still I do recognize that the government and others have a need for some information.

    There are companies like credit companies and some private investigation companies that have large databases about everything anyone can collect and they probably could tell what underwear you are wearing right now based on what you bought last week with your credit card.

    Courts have open archives so if you digitize them you will have a very clear criminal record of a great portion of the population in any and I mean any country.

    With that said. Breachs of that trust must be dealt with strong action and be given a harsh punishment. It doesn't matter if the actual worker was ignorant of procedures and protocol or not he has to assume and err on the part of society and not on the part of his job or interests.

    Decades of chipping away societies rights have given some people extraordinary powers without checks and balances.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    identicon
    Same thing, different entity, Nov 24th, 2009 @ 6:21am

    When the government has data, it abuses it. When a private entity, it abuses it. The only difference is it usually comes to light what the government is going (as opposed to the private entity).

    By the way, Mike. Please tell the hippie in the UPS video to get a hair cut and get a real job (and to get it together like his big brother Bob).

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
    identicon
    Vake, Nov 24th, 2009 @ 6:25am

    Another reason to oppose so-called universal healthcare.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
    icon
    Ren (profile), Nov 24th, 2009 @ 6:28am

    Distinction between Goverment abuse and individual abuse

    This is an example of personal misconduct and not a goverment system that abused the use of personal data. In this case, their needs to be safeguards to prevent the abuse. Apparently the safeguard to detect the abuse has worked, because we now know of it.

    If we make the premise that the government can not be trusted with data and building large databases then we must assume that these programs are opportunities for abuse:

    1. The Health Care Legislation
    2. 911 house location data
    3. The census
    4. Social Security

    Should the government abandon these programs because it is too risky to hold all of that data? Should we privatize these functions?

    If we want the rich interaction and services that our governemnt provides, they must collect data. The focus should not be on the fact that the government collects data, but on the safegaurds to ensure data is not misused. With that said, I would have made the title of this article: "Senior Ranking Official Misuses Privacy Data: Where Were the Safeguards to Keep it Safe?"

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
    identicon
    Jim L, Nov 24th, 2009 @ 6:31am

    "Our" Government

    I assume that the government doesn't do anything right. I'm never disappointed.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 24th, 2009 @ 6:34am

    Trust.

    Now, I like my privacy, but I like free information too.

    How do we balance that?

    If we urge free information that means governments will be free to collect that information too. If we stop them we are giving them the reasoning for stopping other useful information to become public. Besides there is no one on the world that can stop anyone from collecting anything.

    In that light I'm in favour of letting it go. Let the information be collected and used and when there is an unacceptable use we as a group should make them change that use not the collection part because it would be futile.

    Maybe life should be copyrighted, this way every time someone uses your life information without consent you could sue for statutory damages LoL

    p.s.: Those are not well thought statements is just my personal on the spot thinking. They could change with time.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
    identicon
    known coward, Nov 24th, 2009 @ 6:40am

    John Poindexter

    You ship has come in, instead of national secuity you should have called it national healthcare, yea that is the ticket. then we can have that big gooie database with all information about everyone, what they but, what they eat. Yes yes i can see it now . . . .

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 24th, 2009 @ 6:48am

    "So why do we keep assuming that governments won't abuse such data collections?"

    As already pointed out, we make no such assumptions. It's just that the government doesn't listen to, nor care about, the will of the people. The people are, by and large, ignored. The government does, however, listen to big corporations.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 24th, 2009 @ 6:50am

    ratios...

    So here's the question:

    How much data, how many abuses? What is the ratio?

    Does the government collect a billion pieces of data per abuse?

    Is there a better system?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 24th, 2009 @ 6:53am

    Universal Health Care

    Background checks here is one example from googling.
    http://www.integrascan.com/

    Credit background example(from google)
    http://www.youcheckcredit.com/

    The government doesn't need universal health care to collect the data is already all available in numerous(public and private) databases.

    Besides I like the idea of a universal health care it works in France, Canada, U.K., Denmark, Japan and a lot of other places. How that should be implemented? Well there you have a real problem, the implementation can make it work or can make it useless :)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 24th, 2009 @ 6:56am

    Re:

    There are more 'bad' people in the police department than 'good' people.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 24th, 2009 @ 7:04am

    As said above, many of the cases you're citing (the present one included) are INDIVIDUALS abusing power granted to them by us and information that they were entrusted by us to protect. Simple solution is to strip these individuals of their power and no longer entrust them with our information. Not collecting and storing and securing the information is not the solution.

    The abuses I'm most worried about, and the ones that have injured me most to date, are insecure financial records held by credit cards companies, banks, etc and insecure health records held by doctors and insurance agencies. These private entities have no obligation to protect my information and have an interest in exploiting it...a recipe for disaster.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
    icon
    edt (profile), Nov 24th, 2009 @ 7:13am

    and it applies to climate data... most data came from a UN study which is always suspect... as we have now learned there an equal number of noted scientists that state: global warming is a hoax

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
    identicon
    Stephen, Nov 24th, 2009 @ 7:37am

    dna in uk

    re call me al's point, the bbc had an article today that the uk police are arresting people just to get their dna in the system:

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/8375567.stm

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 24th, 2009 @ 7:39am

    Re:

    "As said above, many of the cases you're citing (the present one included) are INDIVIDUALS abusing power granted to them by us and information that they were entrusted by us to protect. Simple solution is to strip these individuals of their power and no longer entrust them with our information. Not collecting and storing and securing the information is not the solution."

    Doesn't work that way, those collecting and storing and maintaining the information ARE individuals and they are subject to corruption.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
    icon
    Overcast (profile), Nov 24th, 2009 @ 7:55am

    The course of history shows that as a government grows, liberty decreases.
    -Thomas Jefferson

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
    identicon
    Mac, Nov 24th, 2009 @ 7:59am

    So, what about all these info companies that promise crimal records, addresses, your first born son?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 24th, 2009 @ 8:09am

    Re: Re:

    What doesn't work that way? The point was that you get rid of the specific individual...put someone else in their position. If the new individual abuses, replace them...and on and on.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
    icon
    jjmsan (profile), Nov 24th, 2009 @ 8:42am

    Re: John Poindexter

    We already have it. They are called credit bureaus. They provide credit reports to anyone who pays for it. If you want to see how accurate it is pull one of your own.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 24th, 2009 @ 8:46am

    Re: Re: Re:

    You're not the only one who has thought of this idea. The point is that this is exactly the idea that's in place right now and has always been in place and it doesn't work.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
    icon
    ethorad (profile), Nov 24th, 2009 @ 8:49am

    Re: "Our" Government

    Apart from cover up alien visits, fake moon landings, etc. For some reason governments are amazingly good at that ...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 24th, 2009 @ 8:50am

    Re: Re: Re:

    The point is that those specific individuals need to be severely punished and everyone knows it but they hardly ever are punished or replaced. Yes, in an ideal world you get rid of them and punish them but good luck with the enforcement of that.

    "Not collecting and storing and securing the information is not the solution."

    Also, the government should have justification for collecting and storing information on us. The question shouldn't be one of, "is not storing information a solution" it should be one of, "what problems does storing information solve and what justification is there to store information." Of course asking what kinds of problems storing information causes is also important and if there is cause to store information we must ensure that the cause outweighs the problems that storing information causes and the effort and cost that society must put into solving those problems. I must say that I think there is little cause for them to store information and the problems it causes outweigh anything it allegedly seeks to solve.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 24th, 2009 @ 8:53am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    (Btw, I'm not saying that there is little cause for them to store information in an absolute sense. Some information should be stored, like criminal records and such. But some information is none of the governments business. and we should look at every piece of information individually and decide what information they should store and what information they should not be allowed to store).

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30.  
    identicon
    CastorTroy-Libertarian, Nov 24th, 2009 @ 9:06am

    Re: Distinction between Goverment abuse and individual abuse

    Yes they should, it would save the taxpayers money and private corporations can/would/and do a better job if its needed at all.

    Also they the Government can really take the roll of unbiased referee and not Judge,Plaintiff, and executioner...

    if you cant see bias of the Government running those types of projects, and collecting tax, and control.. then you need to take another look at what personal responsibility means and truely what freedom stands for.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31.  
    identicon
    CastorTroy-Libertarian, Nov 24th, 2009 @ 9:14am

    Re: Universal Health Care

    Try again, the people in France, Canada, U.K., Denmark, and Japan do not agree.. And i speak to people in most of those places everyday... Hell one guy i know in Canada has to hit a lotto in the town he lives in to get to go see a damn doctor...

    "How that should be implemented?" - Hmmm Social Security - Broke, Postal Service - Broke, DMV - Broke and non-functional, Police Departments - Broke/Non-functional/reactionary only, Homeland Security- Uselss Joke, list continues for 100's of more pages

    so really they havent made one thing work yet in anyway or with any effiecency... so yea lets give over 1/8 of the Economy to the Government...

    Great Idea...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32.  
    identicon
    CastorTroy-Libertarian, Nov 24th, 2009 @ 9:17am

    Re:

    great point

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  33.  
    identicon
    boost, Nov 24th, 2009 @ 9:42am

    Re: Distinction between Goverment abuse and individual abuse

    "Should the government abandon these programs because it is too risky to hold all of that data? Should we privatize these functions?"

    For 1 and 4...YES!!!

    Also, gun control....YES!!!

    The government should be there to do something that the majority of people in the country can't do on their own. Well, guess what, the vast majority of people can pick and pay their own healthcare coverage and retirement planning.

    What can't we do on our own? Infrustructure, fighting foreign wars, overal domestic security*.

    What things is our government failing? Infrustructures, fighting foreign wars, overal domestic security*.

    *We as a majority can ensure domestic security without the government, just not while continuing our lives as normal, this is something that a central government is pretty effective at helping with.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  34.  
    identicon
    boost, Nov 24th, 2009 @ 9:53am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Doesn't work that way, Bub. You can't just assume the benefits of something. However, that is the way government mostly works.

    "Look at this idea...isn't it great? It'll revolutionize the country and make everything better. If you look at the drawbacks, then you're just a nay-sayer"

    You have to look at the pro's and the con's of everything. Then, you have to make certain that once it's actually implemented that it works. And that means developing a way to measure it's success and agreeing to those metrics ahead of time. This is somethign I've never heard of in the government and, I think largely, why it's been such a failure.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  35.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 24th, 2009 @ 10:27am

    Universal Health care.

    @CastorTroy-Libertarian:

    Ok then.

    I still like the idea of universal health care because I experienced them.
    I lived in London and Tokyo used both systems and have no complaints about it.

    I know from experience that heart surgery to repair damaged heart valves after half of your heart died and months in recovery cost in Japan 10.000 dollars to do it and it only costs $50 dollars in medicine monthly. Nobody told me that I saw it with my own eyes.

    I know from experience that you pay nothing to go to a doctor in London and my only cost for an asthma attack was pennies after being hauled in too the ER and have an EV sticked into my arm. Nobody told me that, I experienced.

    Those systems worked for me, if they are perfect I have no idea.

    And still I think bad coverage is better then no coverage at all or do you think we don't need the Postal Service, the DMV, the Police, the Fire Fighters and many other less then perfect services?

    I don't care who do it, in London and Tokyo both are public services available to the people as are private options and I have no problem what so ever as long as it works.

    As long as people can afford some sort of assistance is all good.

    So did you lived anywhere that had universal healthcare and had a bad experience or what you hear is what you based your decisions on?

    Please don't believe me, go to Japan, UK, Canada and see it for yourself how it works. You want to see a bad system? Go see how universal health care is in Brazil, Argentina or Africa those are models that don't work and I been there too.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  36.  
    icon
    Free Capitalist (profile), Nov 24th, 2009 @ 10:35am

    Re:

    These private entities have no obligation to protect my information and have an interest in exploiting it...a recipe for disaster


    Actually, that is not true. The types of corporations you mentioned are obligated to keep your personally identifiable information private. Fourth Amendment protection applies to financial records.

    That's not to say they always do that well, or that none of these companies would every try to cover up a leak. However there is a law.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  37.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 24th, 2009 @ 10:39am

    Re: Re:

    What is lacking really is a way to check if the law is working and change things if they are not.

    They pass laws but don't pass functional mechanisms to keep an eye on it to see if it is working and what to do if it does not work.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  38.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 24th, 2009 @ 11:12am

    Re: Re:

    When the credit card company sells my individual purchasing history to the highest bidder, are they breaking the law?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  39.  
    icon
    Tek'a R (profile), Nov 24th, 2009 @ 5:46pm

    Re: Re: Re: "sells my individual purchasing history.."

    probably (technically) no, for two or more reasons:

    1) you agreed to it. somewhere in the 20 pages of 3pt fine print that came with your card was a statement that by use you allowed them to share information with "concerned partners" or perhaps "authorized third party representatives". Of course, its buried in legal talk so you're going to need a lawyer to figure out that they Might, Possibly be able to use that clause in such a way.

    2) its not "Your" data. Perhaps the information is carefully anonymised, so all that anyone could tell is that you are a white male between 23 and 25 with income between X and Y, who lives in area code Z, and shops at stores alpha through gamma. See, no personal info at all! a totally perfect anonymous dataset that, once generated, is the property of the card company (or more likely one of those "authorized third party representatives") to be sold, resold, upsold and downsold and mysteriously have your name added to it.

    its a load of excrement.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  40.  
    identicon
    Dave, Nov 25th, 2009 @ 2:44am

    Meanwhile.......here in the UK

    That's why I'm vehemently against the hideous idea of ID cards here in the UK. I can already imagine the bad boys rubbing their hands together as I speak, just waiting for all that lovely ID theft fodder to be stashed and abused.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  41.  
    identicon
    Gene Cavanaugh, Nov 25th, 2009 @ 9:11am

    Government data bases

    Wait! There shouldn't be any criminal records or driving records? You can't be serious - rethink what you said.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  42.  
    identicon
    Joe Smith, Nov 25th, 2009 @ 9:51am

    I got a solution,end the internet and destroy all computers!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  43.  
    identicon
    John Saint, Dec 27th, 2009 @ 7:45pm

    Government Databases

    Unfortunately it appears the government databases are not working as Intended, given that the Christmas Day bomber was not placed on the no fly list. As in 9/11, a civilian response from other passengers saved lives.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  44.  
    identicon
    Alexis Hansen, Mar 26th, 2010 @ 11:28am

    Screening Background Checks for Letigimate Users

    One of the major issues that we have to deal with at http://tenantscreeningbackgroundcheck.com when we issue our Private Eye Reports, is providing information to only legitimate users. If we a suspicious about anything regarding a request for a background check, we will conduct a thorough investigation to determine if the requesting party has a legitimate reason to be requesting the information.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  45.  
    identicon
    gerad, Jul 6th, 2012 @ 4:52am

    screening makes good sense

    hi alexis its the same thing at www.privateuk.org there is a different screening process for each type of data, it certainly has its pros but at the end of the day those who want the data to abuse it will work-around this, i see it as a hacking process

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  46.  
    icon
    Rose (profile), Nov 8th, 2013 @ 10:28am

    instant screening

    Gerad, I agree the same thing here at StarPoint Screening we require different documents to prove permissible purpose for obtaining data. Many Background searches are public record so permissible purpose proof really isn't needed. For other types of data I agree it's a possibility that people could abuse the system to get what they want.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Save me a cookie
  • Note: A CRLF will be replaced by a break tag (<br>), all other allowable HTML will remain intact
  • Allowed HTML Tags: <b> <i> <a> <em> <br> <strong> <blockquote> <hr> <tt>
Follow Techdirt
A word from our sponsors...
Essential Reading
Techdirt Reading List
Techdirt Insider Chat
A word from our sponsors...
Recent Stories
A word from our sponsors...

Close

Email This