Robert Cringely writes thoughtfully and at length about the numerous vulnerabilities of new governmental info-tracking schemes. Problems are unavoidable, both because of the vast scope envisioned for these databases and because they will be created and administered by government officials who will lack both the incentive and the ability to prevent theft and misuse of sensitive data.
No sane person is in favor of terrorism or lawlessness. But at a time when intelligence agencies are under fire for being not very intelligent, when our leaders are sometimes in too big a hurry to cast blame and take credit, we are building huge information gathering systems that we can’t completely control, we can’t completely validate, that can be turned against us by our enemies, and that can ultimately be used to justify, well, anything.
Of course he’s right. CARNIVORE, CALEA, TIA, etc. have been and are being driven by concerns about organized-crime and terrorism. Most citizens are unaware or unconcerned about problems with these systems, government agencies have lobbied vigorously for them, and legislators have consequently brushed aside concerns in allowing them (though TIA’s status is uncertain). But the existing systems are all vulnerable to hacking — and have been hacked, as Cringely points out — and the proposed TIA system, which promises to be much bigger than the previous systems combined, is likely to be at least as vulnerable to such problems and to false positives as well.
(Link: Don Luskin)
UPDATE: This is encouraging, though I think it’s too early to know if the level of public opposition will prove sufficient to stop the government’s data-mining program for good. TIA legislation has been “killed” at least once before, yet the security bureaucracy and its legislative supporters got it reintroduced in slightly different form. Time will tell.