Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Google v DOJ alert to data mining

David Rowan in the Times is thankful for Google's resistance to handing over information to the US government, not because he thinks they are taking an ethical stand on the issue but because he hopes it will alert the masses to the dangers of electronic data mining.

"If the Justice Department subpoena prompts a wider debate about digital privacy, it will come at a valuable moment for British citizens too. As the Government rushes to track us on databases covering ID cards, medical records, children’s development, even real-time movements of our cars by numberplate recognition, we need to question the data security of their systems, their propensity to propagate inaccurate and often damaging personal histories, and the pernicious tendency for information collected for one purpose to be quietly extended to others completely unrelated. Most of all, we have to consider how prepared we are to tolerate the malicious uses to which our private information will inevitably be put. Whether it is 40 million credit card accounts hacked last summer, or the Merseyside council CCTV operators caught training their camera on a woman’s bathroom, the bad guys will inevitably get through.

So no, I shall no longer apologise for refusing a lifestyle-revealing Tesco loyalty card, for registering my radio-tagged Oyster smartcard under a false name and address, and for juggling half a dozen internet search engines to confound their attempts to profile me.

Dismiss me as an eccentric if you must. Though when you do e-mail to trash me, I’d appreciate your not using your Googlemail account."

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