A Tool, Used Nefariously

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Blogger Jacques Mattheij considers the historical parallels between two government databases of personal information whose security was compromised. Each database was compiled for innocent-enough reasons, but the compromises exposed the individuals to great harm. This was despite the individuals having "nothing to hide". In the one case, a Dutch database containing information on religious affiliation fell into Nazi hands during their occupation of the Netherlands. The other database is that of the the recently-breached U. S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM). Mattheij concludes:

[I]f you're not content with living in a world where all of that data is public then you'd better stop repeating that silly mantra "if you've got nothing to hide then you've got nothing to fear," even if instead of death or identity theft your problems might merely be those of inconvenience or embarrassment when your data gets re-purposed in ways that you could not imagine when you sent it out in the world in a careless manner, and when you helped erode the concept of privacy as a great good that needs to be protected rather than sacrificed on the altar of commerce or of national security (especially from some ill defined bogey man, such as the terrorists). [minor edits]
Mattheij's warning is well-taken, but there's an even greater danger than carelessness with personal information. Consider a recent news story, on a race database the Obama Administration plans on using to attack property rights (among others: read the whole thing) under the guise of racial equality. The story focuses too much on the existence of government databases, and ignores a greater threat that makes all of this possible:
Federally funded cities deemed overly segregated will be pressured to change their zoning laws to allow construction of more subsidized housing in affluent areas in the suburbs, and relocate inner-city minorities to those predominantly white areas. HUD's maps, which use dots to show the racial distribution or density in residential areas, will be used to select affordable-housing sites.
As I have noted before (in the above link on property rights), it is our blind trust in the government, both a frequent source of the "nothing to hide" argument and the cause of so much acceptance of and reliance on such rights violations as zoning. Were we not already so ready to let the government run everything else, we wouldn't need to be worried about losing our last shreds of privacy now. A government with enough power to take enough loot to give us everything is indeed big enough to take it all away. And, to an improper government, everything -- including your privacy -- is loot.

-- CAV

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