One of the many problems with Big Government is that it abuses our privacy. The potential for abuse has been greatly heightened in the information age. The problem is not just that government officials themselves can abuse the vast troves of data that they collect, but that thieves, hackers, organized crime, and other private actors can gain access as well.
Federal bureaucracies are collecting vast amounts of data and storing it in giant sieves. Officials promise to put safety procedures in place, but those procedures always fall short because the government is so large and vulnerable to human failure. Two stories in theWashington Post today highlight the problems.
One story solves the mystery of how Edward Snowden was able to walk away with tens of thousands of secret NSA documents. As a computer systems administrator, he apparently just asked a couple of dozen agency employees for their log in passwords.
Another story describes how a defense contractor in Asia allegedly used moles in the U.S. Navy Department to gain access to sensitive data about contracts, ship movements, and internal investigations. The contractor used old-fashioned tools to prey on the weaknesses of Navy officials: money and prostitutes. The leaks happened “despite past pledges by the Pentagon to strengthen oversight,” notes the Post.
The huge data data collection effort to support Obamacare is another threat. Despite government promises about ensuring privacy, we now know that the administrationskipped crucial security and privacy testing as it rushed to launch the health website.
Politicians and officials will keep promising to fix things, but as long as the government is a giant vacuum cleaner sucking up and storing vast troves of data, sensitive information will leak. Another dimension of risk is the increased proclivity of our government to share tax, financial, security, and intelligence data with other governments.