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Friday, September 09, 2005

The Mysterious Provision in the Highway Bill

They’re at it again. Spending our money needlessly and skirting the real issue of protecting our names and personal data. It’s the new Federal-Aid Highways law that took effect May 17. It was passed, “To authorize funds for Federal-aid highways, highway safety programs, and transit programs, and for other purposes.” It’s the “…and for other purposes” that worries me.

An obscure provision (Section 7139), will force state motor vehicle departments to use the very data brokers that have had recent breaches, and who we now know to have inaccuracies in their records, for the authentication of commercial driver’s licenses. You can read the complete article, “Highway bill has identity check provision” by Shaun Waterman on Monsters and Critics.com. The question arises, are we trying to prop these companies up now after their fall from grace?

Two immediate reasons for Section 7139 come to mind: one, to get the monkey off the back of Congress so if something else does go wrong they can say they tried. Two, another gift to big business by this administration, which, apparently, the Democrats fell in line with.

The provision is very expensive for the states, and all but promises that the imperfections in data being used will produce unlimited problems. Situations like wrongful license denials and abuse by illegal immigrants, possibly terrorists. But, as the article points out, “…a huge windfall for the databrokers…” and further, “…a cost that would have to be borne by state authorities, or passed on to applicants.”

And, of course, the data brokers had their eye on the new information that would be produced as a result of the state queries, which they could re-sell as a new commodity. Anything to add to that $4 billion that the junk mail industry is reaping annually from the sale of our names and personal data. However, a Democrat, Senator Russ Feingold from Wisconsin, stepped in with an amendment to disallow the sale of this new, private information. At least that, and, perhaps, a forecast of more restrictions on the sale of private information in the future.

Waterman points out in his article that the REAL ID Act passed earlier this year supposedly provides the authenticity that Section 7139 requires in the new bill. He goes on to cover another method of confirmation that has existed since 1992, using the applicant’s Social Security number and date of birth. With all these restraints already in place, the mystery of Section 7139 just gets deeper. This is an excellent article and a must read for anyone sick of Congressional incompetence and favoritism.

I did a piece on the REAL ID card back in May: BLOG Bulletin : National ID Card Promises to Expose Largest Amount of Personal Data, Ever, In One Location. There are two major points in that post: one, by linking all state databases, this provides one-stop shopping for identity thieves. And two, in keeping with the latter, skepticism that the Homeland Security Department could keep the data secure, with four scores of “F” in a row from the Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA). Of course, we now have experienced HSD’s performance in the wake of Katrina.

It’s all very discouraging and just seems to be getting worse, with no improvement in sight. Unless…the American public takes a stand on the issues they feel are important to themselves and this country. This is not a partisan thing, and we just may be in the throes of spawning a new independent political party that will provide those solutions.

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

35 years of benefiting from the junk mail industry and then you have an epiphany ? That is a lot of bad karma. Perhaps more is called for than merely publishig a BLOG. Think of something a little more effective. Something dramatic if nothing else. Start the second American Revolution, become a gorilla ( joke ) , whatever. It seems BLOGs and the internet are making people MORE passive. Feel free to flame if it makes you feel better. I can't be more depressed than I already am.

Gus Calabrese
an.asshole@oh-god.com ( real e-mail )
Denver CO

Jack E. Dunning said...

Actually, it wasn't a religious event. Just the realization that people like yourself were getting screwed and I wanted to do something about it. The BLOG is only the beginning. Why don't you join my grass-roots effort to pass legislation that would give you 100% control over your name and personal data. Then we can both become a gorilla.

Jack E. Dunning

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