Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Still stuck in the 50's..

As the Bush Regime's War On Privacy (tm) continues, we're getting the finishing touches on an agreement to exchange large amounts of personal information with European agencies. Or rather, demand that they supply that information to us:

The United States is negotiating deals with European countries to exchange fingerprint and DNA data in criminal and terrorist cases, and in some circumstances to transfer data on race or ethnic origin, political and religious beliefs, or sexual orientation.
. . .
Senior Bush administration officials said the data exchange is crucial for spotting dangerous people before they enter the United States and for furthering criminal and terrorist investigations.
[emphasis added in both cases]

Explain to me how sexual orientation is a useful part of a terrorist investigation. Useful for compiling an enemies list and indulging in some good old-fashioned bigotry? Sure, I'll grant you that. But how is it actually useful for, you know, the purpose it's allegedly being gathered for?

But some European lawmakers fear that, taken together, the accords will lead to a far-reaching exchange of personal data without appropriate safeguards and that eventually the United States will seek access to Europe-wide databases. "We seem to be opening the floodgates, left, right and center," said Sophie in't Veld, a European Parliament member from the Netherlands. "It seems to me there are hardly any restrictions left."
No kidding.

[A DHS official] said the United States has agreed to limit the purpose for which the data are sought, not to share it with other governments and not to retain data if they are no longer useful -- if there is no match on a fingerprint, for instance. He said errors in records will be corrected.

But Schaar, who is independent from the government, said he found no "clear rules on purpose limitation" or on the storage period. "First," he said, "which data are of concern is not really completely clear. Second, who are the competent authorities on the U.S. side? Third, and most important, there is a lack of independent supervision in the United States over data protection." In European states, independent privacy commissions safeguard the privacy rights of citizens, he said.

Exactly. The gummint promises they won't ever misuse any of this data and they'll get rid of it as soon as there's no use for it anymore. And they decide when that is, and whether it should be done, and whether or not they're following their own rules, so there's no need for anyone else to know anything about it.

Of course, every time in the past when they've had the authority to go fishing, it's been misused to after political opponents and people engaging in unpopular but fully legal political activity. And recently the FBI was trying to recruit people to infiltrate vegan potlucks in Minnesota as a pre-emptive move against radical vegans disrupting the Republican National Convention.

So am I supposed to be reassured that they're gathering all this data, but show several signs of incompetence, so they probably won't be successful at any nefarious misuses?

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