Big Brother: A Private-Public Partnership


Cato's Daily Dispatch links to a Washington Post story by No Place to Hide author Robert O'Harrow noting that private information databases with which government agencies contract often fall short of meeting the standards the agencies themselves are supposed to follow under the 1974 Privacy Act. An extensive Government Accountability Office report on the privacy practices of private info brokers was the subject of a Congressional hearing yesterday. Declan McCullagh wrote about the economic benefits of such private databases—and the importance of keeping them segregated from government's—in a much-discussed 2004 Reason cover story.

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  1. I can’t wait to have all of my purchases and preferences shared openly. Privacy is such a quaint notion.

    I have to go plug back into the matrix now.

  2. Do private entities have to deal with annoyances like the 4th Amendment and the like?

    Since our dossiers are passed around so much, it’d be nice if we at least got a cut. A royalty of some sort. Sell my name to a credit card company and I get 10%. I’m sure Congress will get working on it now that they’ve read this.

  3. The Structured Query Language (SQL) syntax varies wildly from one implentation to the next with regard to copying databases or parts thereof. But it all comes down to a statement, a few statements, or short proceedure that says something to effect of SET MYTABLE = YOURTABLE.
    Once that’s done the cat is out of the bag. Whatever was wrong with YOURTABLE will not be readily corrected in MYTABLE.

    You can imagine the problems that might occur if your name is attached to a false criminal record created by a data entry mistake.

    I have kept my copy of the Reason Magazine issue with an arial photograph of my “home”. The photo is correctly oriented over a the site of a private mailbox I rent, not my home. I do, however, live in the same town as my mailbox. The demographic information printed on the inside cover was wrong – stale by a decade.

    No harm done, but the Reason staff should thing twice before bragging about that issue.

  4. Shouldn’t this disabuse ardent libertarians of the notion that getting rid of government and privatizing everything will make everybody free?

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