Guest Editorial: Information is Power

  • I actually think theft and incompetence are interdependent because management and Government hires the incompetent who makes theft easy.

    I also think civil liberty organizations talks to ivory tower experts and not implementation experts in the trenches who can say no you cannot do that in SQL Server or Oracle or DB2.

    When you need 26 million people personal data in your box as a data analyst you and your hiring manager needs to be charged with criminal negligence.

    :Whistling:

    Kind regards,
    Gift Peddie

  • It's also relevant for database professionals to warn about database errors. Once, in a live database, I discovered 1600 dead people that were still making hospital visits. That was the result of a long history of database merges, none with any serious integrity checking, and the usual transcription errors.

    R Glen Cooper

  • That happened in Indiana in 2006 the DMV database declared live people as young as teen agers dead and dead people alive. A kid was locked up in the east overnight because the Indiana DMV told the cops who pulled him over his was dead. The parents were not amused, Indiana tried to sues the software development company. The incompetent hired for political reasons.

    Kind regards,
    Gift Peddie

  • Getting a bit long in the tooth now, but these themes were included in my 1994 paper "Privacy in the Information Age", which was subsequently published in abridged form in the New Dictionary of Christian Ethics and Pastoral Theology (IVP, 1995).

    --

    Graham Smith

  • Lynn Pettis (3/2/2009)


    More laws aren't the answer, unfortunately. It seems we have a hard enough time enforcing the ones we already have on the books.

    Unfortunately, the current British government seems to think that passing more laws is the answer to everything. Apparently, someone worked out that in the first 10 years of their current term, the average was one new law every 3 hours!

    Passing new laws (or having strict security controls) is not the answer to stopping misuse of information, since there's always the possibility that someone who is entitled to use the data decides to use it in a way that was never intended. Or simple does something stupid and pointless!

    The best you can do is to try to educate people to try to think of the consequences of their actions and whether what they are doing is really in other people's best interests.

    Derek

  • This topic makes me think of what is going on in Zimbabwe. A corrupt president passing laws to suit his own needs. What stops governments from passing laws to force you to give data that they need. I might be off the topic here but this is a great concern in Africa. One party gains absolute power and then create chaos as they pass laws as they like.

    On the other side of the coin, people get hold of your personal data like identity (Social Security) number, take out a life insurance policy on your life and actually pays for it themselves. After a couple of months get you declared dead (how I don't know but they get it right) and claim the life insurance policy. You haven't lost any money or valuables yet to this point till the day you want to vote or apply for a license renewal or report lost id card/book the they say you are dead. You have to struggle for two weeks to get yourself declared alive again. I think the govt. people sitting on this data knows full well the power they are sitting on and make money from it. That is why this data is dangerous like the atom bomb and people need to know what can potentially be done with it.

    :-PManie Verster
    Developer
    Johannesburg
    South Africa

    I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. - Holy Bible
    I am a man of fixed and unbending principles, the first of which is to be flexible at all times. - Everett Mckinley Dirkson (Well, I am trying. - Manie Verster)

  • Aldous Huxley's -- Brave New World

    A nice read about living in the Technology wonder age.

  • Phil, I'm really not sure what you are arguing for here.

    A friend of mine was mistakenly put onto a government database in the UK because he has the same name as a convicted criminal ...

    It's obviously a Bad Thing if a mistake like this happens . But would you rather the database didn't exist at all ?

    And I don't see what's intrinsically wrong about ...

    the government to obtain and share information with local councils, the DVLA, benefits offices and HM Revenue and Customs

    What is the potential danger that you are worried about ?

  • Phil, I'm really not sure what you are arguing for here.

    A friend of mine was mistakenly put onto a government database in the UK because he has the same name as a convicted criminal ...

    It's obviously a Bad Thing if a mistake like this happens . But would you rather the database didn't exist at all ?

    As always, the problems happen when the safeguards are circumvented. I can't remember the exact circs, but I think the matter began to come to light when he had to apply for a CRB check to join an organization. As originally devised, the subject of the check had a copy of what was turned up However, a loophole allows ‘additional’ information to be passed to the organization making the check 'in the interests of the prevention or detection of crime' in a separate letter. You can understand that there has to be an element of discretion here, but there is no way for the subject of the record to know whether a mistake has been made. Fortunately, he got wind of this additional material and used his rights under the DP act to try to clear his record. It turned out that he was subject to police surveillance through mistaken identity.

    Why am I concerned about computer records on individuals? They perform an obvious and useful function. As always, the moral dilemmas lie in the detail.

    In the case I quote above, things seemed straightforward when records dealt only with verifiable facts. However, the police have to rely on supposition, circumstantial evidence, and occasionally inspired guesswork in their work. The deal in 'repute'. Very different data, and perfectly valid information for a suitably protected database --which you and I know can't be mixed with fact.- until some fathead decides to merge two sources of data!!

    There is another, more subtle problem. In western society we cling to the idea that people can redeem themselves, and become worthwhile citizens. Before computer records, society had a merciful way of disposing of, or ignoring, records on individuals after a period of time, particular when the individuals changed their ways. Databases can't do this. They cannot 'actively forget' anyone's past. If you have a criminal record through doing desperate things when alienated from society, the criminal record effectively can prevent your rehabilitation into society, which is in nobody's interests.

    Typically, these integrated systems are usually fine at collecting data from a number of sources about individuals, but the don't pick up the levels of statistical confidence that the data is correct (how likely is an error?). They don't always pick up those subtle circumstances in which the data was originally gained. What looks like a raw fact can be highly misleading.

    Best wishes,
    Phil Factor
    Simple Talk

  • Phil Factor (3/3/2009)


    ... There is another, more subtle problem. In western society we cling to the idea that people can redeem themselves, and become worthwhile citizens. Before computer records, society had a merciful way of disposing of, or ignoring, records on individuals after a period of time, particular when the individuals changed their ways. Databases can't do this. They cannot 'actively forget' anyone's past. If you have a criminal record through doing desperate things when alienated from society, the criminal record effectively can prevent your rehabilitation into society, which is in nobody's interests.

    This indeed is the greatest inherent flaw in data collection. In the United States, financial mistakes can "taint" a person for 3, 5, and even 10 years, but at least has some measure of the concept of "forgiveness", written into law, up to and including various forms of bankruptcy and limit on credit reporting.

    However, when it comes to any other kind of information, the whole of technology seems to be devoid of any pathway to redemption, unless one has great sums of money to "purchase" cleanliness.

    Even with posting nearly anywhere on the web, the statements and actions one posts are in most cases never deleted. Things posted much earlier in neophite innocence, and even those personal revelations intended for private conversation, are recorded mercilessly and can potentially be linked together with other information to harrass, subvert, and control by evil or well-meaning designs. Even the mere association with such chatter can harm the peace and freedom of an individual. (sarcasm) No, I've never seen information used inappropriately... (/sarcasm)

  • The reliability of what goes into databases and files has always been an issue.

    One of my favourite quotes about this (from a suitably cynical British administrator in colonial Inda):

    "Governments are very keen on amassing statistics – they collect them, raise them to the nth power, take the cube root and prepare wonderful diagrams. But what you must never forget is that every one of these figures comes in the first instance from the village chowkidar who just puts down what he damn well pleases!"

    So yes, people who use the data need to be aware of its limitations.

    On your point about computer systems making it harder to leave behind things that you happened a long time ago - not sure I agree with this. Once something goes in to your paper-based files, I think it's unlikely to be removed. But you can set up your database queries to exclude old information if you think that's appropriate.

    And in some cases, it's very relevant to keep things on file, essentially forever. Sex offenders register, for example.

  • I find it hard to completely trust a conscienceless government to keep appropriate mistake-free records. All people as a whole must take some personal ownership and responsibility in a governmental system for the system to work the best. The more people there are that look at government as a handout and/or security measure, the more the people lose freedoms.

    Laws differ from state to state, country to country, and year to year.

    For example, a Senior in High School falls for a Sophmore... they make mistakes... the senior graduates, ages over 18, but they continue to be a couple. The parents of the younger find out about the serious relationship, and decide to press charges for statutory rape. Older person in this case is in many states permanently tagged with "Sex Offender" status, and force to register in every place he lives for the remainder of his days. The two participants still get married after the younger one is an adult. They have children. They both struggle for years unsuccessfully to get the label removed.

    In another case, another 18 year old falls for a 14 year old, but these parents give consent at 16 for the two to be wed. No charges. No label. They have 3 babies by the time the younger is 20 and the elder is 24.

    I have friends that marry as far as 12 years apart. My own parents are 6 years apart. In some contries, arrangements are still legal much younger than this.

    What about a case where a younger person intentionally mis-represents age, complete with fake ID, and actively pursues a life-style or actions that end up getting an adult in trouble.

    Yes, there are examples of circumstances where I'd like to know: we had a convicted male pedophile nearby trying to hire Boy Scouts to clean his house and yard. We took immediate action and got his parole officer involved. I have no idea what he was actually convicted of, only that it worried us enough that we felt we needed to guard against it.

    I have seen all of these examples happen.

    I am not against a registry, or the collection of data. However, the point of the problem is, no matter where you draw a merciless line, people will be affected. And currently, I feel the ability of any public body to forgive and forget is swung very far in the merciless direction, to include more and more aspects of our digital lives. Online ad-trackers and ID theives probably know more about individuals than any governmental body. There really are no secrets. But there comes a time when the eyes of necessity should be half-closed.

  • dphillips (3/4/2009)


    I find it hard to completely trust a conscienceless government to keep appropriate mistake-free records. All people as a whole must take some personal ownership and responsibility in a governmental system for the system to work the best. The more people there are that look at government as a handout and/or security measure, the more the people lose freedoms.

    quote]

    "personal ownership"? "responsibility"? You must be living in some sort of fantisy land with little ferries and leprachauns. Not wait, you traveled here from the future on the Enterprise, right?

    Seriously, this is the basic premis which founded the U.S.A. George Washington himself said government was not to be trusted. I personally don't trust ANYONE/THING that wants to collect data on me who/that I have not initiated a relationship with.

  • Bert (3/5/2009)


    ...I personally don't trust ANYONE/THING that wants to collect data on me who/that I have not initiated a relationship with.

    Do you pay taxes in the USA? Do you vote? Do you buy building permits, clean water, trash pickup, sewer hookup charges? If any of the above is true, I'd say you have initiated a relationship. If you flush the toilet and expect it to empty down the drain and not overflow, I'd say you have some trust there, too. What do you NOT trust the government to do? Prevent Canada from invading New York? Stop salmonella-infected spring mix at the Mexican border?

    There is no "i" in team, but idiot has two.
  • Dave (3/5/2009)


    Bert (3/5/2009)


    ...I personally don't trust ANYONE/THING that wants to collect data on me who/that I have not initiated a relationship with.

    Do you pay taxes in the USA? Do you vote? Do you buy building permits, clean water, trash pickup, sewer hookup charges? If any of the above is true, I'd say you have initiated a relationship. If you flush the toilet and expect it to empty down the drain and not overflow, I'd say you have some trust there, too. What do you NOT trust the government to do? Prevent Canada from invading New York? Stop salmonella-infected spring mix at the Mexican border?

    I pay taxes - I didn't initiate that relationship, the government did. :angry:

    I vote - And I happily allow the voter registration to record that fact as prescribed by law. (Also fill out a census when it rolls around. Gotta keep 'em drawing the district lines fairly)

    Don't think I ever bought a building permit, but I do like my clean water, trash pickup, and sewer service. Not sure how much data they get from my drinking, disposal, and "bathroom" habits though. I don't "trust" the government for these services, I EXPECT IT! I'm paying for it after all. (these services are actually cheaper from non-governmental resources):cool:

    Truth is, the government needs very little information about me for me to live my life or they theirs. They TAKE a helluva lot more than I'm comfortable with.

Viewing 15 posts - 31 through 45 (of 46 total)

You must be logged in to reply to this topic. Login to reply