DEBATE WORKSHOPS 2000

Resolved: That the United States federal government should significantly increase protection of privacy in the United States in one or more of the following areas:

EMPLOYMENT, MEDICAL RECORDS, CONSUMER INFORMATION, SEARCH AND SEIZURE.


Case #1: Repeal laws that centralize and universalize government data collection

Case #1: 
Repeal laws that centralize and universalize government data collection


Case #2: 
Privatize Social Security


Case #3:
 Deregulate strong encryption


Case#4:
Protecting Medical Privacy with Medical IRAs


The United States has moved steadily toward mandating that each American carry a National Identification Card with a number to which all government data on citizens is keyed. Until repealed last year, a provision buried in a 1500-page Act of Congress (Public Law 104-208) pushed states to make the collection and use of large amounts of personal data much easier for the federal government. This provision mandated states standardize driver's license cards by linking them to Social Security numbers and further mandating this card (or a non-driver's equivalent) be presented any time a citizen wishes to receive a service from the federal government. It also mandated that states develop technological innovations to make the card more "secure."

Legislative opponents of PL 104-208 have pointed out that the offending section of the law "greatly expand[s] the dissemination and misuse of the social security account number at a time when the Congress, the States, and the public are actually taking measures to reduce the use of Social Security numbers as drivers' identity numbers.8 " But the law turned the tide in ways that its recent repeal has not undone. According to Claire Wolfe, "Some 28 states have begun, or are proposing, to change their drivers' licenses since the federal law was passed. Changes and proposals include digitally encoded fingerprints; digital, computer-readable photo; digitally encoded retinal scan; and other forms of biometric ID.9 "

Other recently passed legislation ensures that there is plenty of new data to be linked to with this high tech ID. A law ostensibly passed to aid enforcement against "deadbeat dads" mandates the creation of a massive database of every newly hired person in the country. The text of the law does not make clear why the database doesn't catalog individuals against whom child-support claims have been made, but it certainly will be useful for tracking the job history of law-abiding citizens. There is no good reason why the government should have ready electronic access to this kind of information about ordinary Americans, but its capacity for social control is significantly enhanced by it.

Questions and comments welcome: Send to adc@mackinac.org

 

 
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