Database, Privacy, and I.D. Roundup


Questions and issues regarding databases, privacy, and I.D.s have long been interests of mine–here's some recent items in those areas:

* A long and fascinating UK Register article on the UK's just-rolling-out Automatic Number Plate Recognition system, which has

the goal of deploying a network of over 2,000 cameras on motorways, major roads and city centres. The system is claimed to be able to run database checks on 3,600 plates per hour, on vehicles travelling at speeds of up to 100 mph—but there are just a few snags.

The UK ANPR system is intended to automatically alert police if a car is stolen, if road tax hasn't been paid or the MoT is out of date, or if the driver is uninsured. For good measure, it's supposed to check whether there is a warrant for the arrest of the driver, or whether the driver is for some reason under police surveillance. Register readers being quick, most of you will have spotted a few slight snags there, but we'll get back to them; the most immediate problem is the state of the databases being checked.

The nature of some of those database problems is detailed in the rest of the piece, worth reading in its entirety.

* A BBC News story that raises interesting questions about how savvy, or concerned, people are about protecting their privacy. A fake survey team allegedly giving out theater tickets got an overwhelming majority to give "fake researchers…everything they needed to pose as those taking part, to take out credit cards in their name and even open bank accounts."

* John Gilmore, who is suing over the airline I.D. requirements, gives a fresh, detailed, and impassioned explanation of why what he's doing is important for Americans' rights. An excerpt:

No law requires me to have an ID. I don't have one, precisely because I want to be the canary in the coal mine. I want to know how many rights an honest, hard-working, un-documented person still has. The only way to find out is to live that way. I'll tell you what I've learned.

I have many bank accounts; I'm a wealthy man. My signature and my money were always good enough for the commercial purposes of the banks and brokers involved. But now I can't open another account, because the PATRIOT Act demands an ID that the banks don't themselves need. Will the next law require that my banks close all my existing accounts? I won't be able to have a checkbook or a debit card without getting a government-issued ID? I'll have to keep my money in my mattress and my stock certificates buried in the backyard? It's already that way for young people who haven't opened their first account.
The ID demand is justified by checking it against a list of "terrorists". These are not terrorists—they are terrorist *suspects*. No conservative has questioned whether the Executive Branch has the power to make an enemies list of suspects, without warrants, charges, proof, judges, juries, or convictions, and deny fundamental constitutional rights to the people on that list. I question it. Will you?

NEXT: Schiavo And Those 17 Affidavits

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  1. Brian Doherty,

    Sometime ago the British decided to buy thousands of cameras to monitor streets, etc.. They claimed that the cameras would significantly reduce crime, etc. Crime has not been reduced since their introduction.

  2. No conservative has questioned whether the Executive Branch has the power to make an enemies list of suspects, without warrants, charges, proof, judges, juries, or convictions, and deny fundamental constitutional rights to the people on that list.

    Amen John!

  3. John Gilmore is my hero. I’m getting weary of all the unexpected places that expect one to present ID. A local chain restaurant refused to serve my gray-haired auntie an wee glass of wine because she didn’t have a drivers license with her. I had to argue for five minutes at the Apple store when I bought a travel adaptor package using my Visa and they wanted to see a drivers license. A repair service I’ve used for nearly a decade and has my complete goddamned history on their computer suddenly wouldn’t accept my check yesterday without a drivers license. It’s infuriating.

  4. Serafina, my favorite is the big-box chain stores nowadays that won’t allow you to pay for something without entering your name, address and ZIP code in their computers, even if you’re paying in cash. There’s a good computer store down the road here that, unfortunately, won’t even sell you a power strip without printing out a formalized “invoice” with your name and address on it. I wrangled with the help there for a couple of minutes last time, finally convincing them that I don’t need to provide them all my personal data just to be able to return the item if I needed to. I’d just need, and all I want, is a simple receipt, and no, they’re not getting my personal info. Why do the minimum-wage flunkies they’ve got behind the counter always look at you like you’re a troublemaker, a tinfoil-hat-wearing freak, if you actually make their job easier and faster by not forcing them to type in that information? The rank-and-file sales clerks certainly don’t benefit from the collection of lots of marketing data.

  5. Who is John Gilmore?

  6. Zero,

    They probably have some sniveling management type up theirs asses whenever they don’t. Any time the a rule, no matter how frivolous there’s almost someone overjoyed to enforce it. Cut the kids some slack.

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