Thursday, August 24, 2006

Threats to Privacy

Via George Buddy, see this for the ACLU take on future pizza ordering. As a long-time ACLU member (though I hasten to add I don't carry the card) I'm going to take this much too seriously and quibble with it.

  • I doubt there'll be a national ID number. Surely we'll have the sense to realize that we already have world identifiers (at least everyone with an e-mail account does).
  • No one would verify the information--by then the information would be accurate enough that verification wouldn't be cost-effective in this scenario. (I realize the verification is a means to emphasize how much info the pizza parlor has access to.)
  • There's no economic rationale for the parlor to link to some of the records shown; the customer is only going to get aggravated by it and a business wants to please its customer. Cui bono? That's always a good question, particularly when there's a cost to doing something. 10 years from now the cost of transfering data will be negligible, but there's still a major cost in establishing means to move data between bureaucracies (like an insurance company and a pizza parlor).
All of which is not to say that we shouldn't worry. It is rational to worry about things that don't make sense, like the Bush administration. Generally I think people like the ACLU and EPIC worry about the wrong things. I was particularly impressed by David Brin's book, Transparent Society, a few years back. To oversimplify, I'd allow public bureaucracies to maintain lots of data, provided they included their own data in the database and made it generally available as well as giving people access to their own data with a detailed audit trail.

But that's another day.

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