State databases, the way the European Data Protection Supervisor talks about them in its annual report quickly grow beyond their function and not always with benign consequences for the people they have numbered. The EDPS' 2006 Annual Report, published yesterday, noted (100-page pdf) how the data guardian's attention had been …
Angela Merkel made Sch*iß* pr0n
What about the right to be treated fairly? Do we not get the right to correct false statements passed around as fact?
Do you know that Angela Merkel made dirty Oma (Grandma) p0nr before becoming Chancellor of Germany?
If it's OK for the government to spread false statements about individuals with no recourse, presumably they're OK with false statements spread about them?
And then there's the right to privacy, if they don't like paparazzi with digital cameras, then why should we like polizei with digital computers? If they've done nothing wrong, why do they object to telephoto lenses?
Why lose the checks and balances? Look at the US, it's become like Mafia run Italy since they removed the checks on the President. Absolute power corrupts absolutely, we should remember that the guys sitting in front of the computer is just a person not a superhero.
Just like the BBC caught Barclays bank employees, looking at celebrity bank account details, using bank info for insurance sales, transferring money without permission, and generally abusing the information they were trusted with, the same will happen with government employees.
The biggest threat is f(x)
The biggest threat isn't identity fraud or anything else, the threat comes because once you put that data into a computable, searchable format, companies and governments replace individual judgments with blanket equations.
Think of credit scoring. I have access to this data, I add an equation that says the word 'fraud' in the same record as your name and you'll be denied a loan. Of course that means lots of false positives, but if I have a loan company, I don't care about false positives.
So we need to protect the data from further commercial use. They're simply not entitled to it and will only abuse it for commercial purposes.
Then there's the governments doing the same thing. The USA 'No Fly' list is a classic example of this. An arbitrary broad rule defining which names match a list who will be banned from flying.
So we need to make bad data correctable, and put appeals in place when data is misused.
Then we have the bad cop problem.
They're just people, and some of them like to fire rubber bullets at point blank range into fleeing crowds, while other like to smash TV camera monitors to prevent filming. You may recall the protests in Hide Park a few years back.
f(x,y,z)>0.9 and your a terrorist.
f(x)>0.4 && f(y)<0.1 and we'll tap your phone just in case
f(z)>0.99 and you'll get a visit from former officers of the West Midlands Serious Crime squad and their plastic 'interrogation' bags.
So we need checks and balances in place.
Ok, it's great but...
'Frattini noted how individual privacy was threatened by technology that made "identity theft, discriminatory profiling, continuous surveillance, or deceit" possible.
'Privacy enhancing technologies could do something about this, he said. They would ensure that "breaches of the data protection rules and violations of individual's rights are not only something forbidden...but also technically more difficult".'
The question is, though, whether our great and noble leaders and security services are going to be willing to allow us such "privacy enhancing technologies" or assume that because we have "something to hide" we must "have something to worry about" and consider us potential criminals and terrorists...