Friday, June 06, 2008

transformational government : where's the no leak model

so here's the thing - governments want to join-up-the-dots
for a variety of ostensibly ok reasons
1/ reduce costs (single database entry per citizen, keyed on biometric id)
2/ increase consistency (e.g. tax and rebate)
3/ tracking trends
4/ catching bad guys
5/ you name it...
6/ if they were really honest, one could make the system transparent
and probably remove most government (reduce the government to "codes"

this is all transformational government

the problem is that the more unified the databases, the higher the gain to bust it
and the higher the loss to people (in value and number of people) if the system is bust (whether deliberately by bad guys or accidentally by HMRC^H^H idiots).

so once you unify this thing how long does it last? how about forever, stupid?

so the probabilty of leaks might be some decreasing small number - e.g. the chance of leaking 1 record in a year might be 1 in a million. so what are the chances your record is leaked in your lifetime (say 75 years)? well, fairly close to 1 actually.
do the math

the only way to do things is to require that noone keeps data for very long at all. and noone has access across all databases - keep the databases seperate (as per the current data protection laws) and delete data permanently and properly as early as possible.

this needs to be done much more carefully than in the past

by the way, recent reports ont he bbc about the tracking of cell phone users
cite a paper in nature, which reveals that the 100k users were in a european country

firstly, while they claim that they've anonymized the data (and the country) It is fairly easy to deduce from the cell tower locations and population mobility (e.g. 3km mean levy walk, with a 1000km limit) which country, which provider, and therefore for authors (and one assumes, the Nature editors and reviewers , since they are supposed to require access to data to check an experiment is valid and reproduceable or falsifiable, even when the data is proprietarty -as in drug clinical trials))

so this paper is unethical and possibly illegal in european law.

oh well.

and follow links to supplemntary data)

its a shame that Nature has lowered the bar for work like this as it should be possible to do this sort of thing in a way that is with consent (lets say you offer the users some useful service based on location !) and is done scientifically
in a verifiable way too...

nevertheless the results are useful (mind you, so were the nazis' medical work on hypothermia in concentration camps......careful...careful...dont lose your cool).

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