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Letters to the Editor

From time to time, a commentary on the world will bubble up inside of me to the extent that I'm forced to write a letter to my local, metropolitan, daily newspaper, The Age. This is where I blow of some steam. Feel like venting too? Add your own comment or visit my homepage.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Smartcards are a Smart Idea

Let's face it: dealing with CentreLink, the Tax Office and Medicare is never going to be pleasant. But a lot can be done to improve the experience through simpler, more convenient and better co-ordinated services. The Government's smartcard proposal could go along way to reduce the endless form-filling and paper-shuffling while ensuring everyone gets their entitled benefits.

It is disappointing then that Liberty Victoria's president Brian Walters has attempted to pour cold water on the whole idea because "there is potential for Government authorities to misuse cross-referenced data" (The Age, 21/4).

How can Government authorities misuse information they've lawfully collected (without breaking pre-existing laws)? Why should people be able to tell one thing to CentreLink and another to the Child Support Agency?

I hope this is just rabid, knee-jerk techno-fear and not a smokescreen to protect tax avoiders, welfare cheats and "dead-beat dads". Liberty does not entail the right to lie.



<    >
Anonymous Anonymous vented ...

Here are some thoughts from a guy you can't really accuse of being a luddite.


Wednesday, May 11, 2005 5:43:00 pm  
<    >
Blogger Greg vented ...

Certainly, no serious person would accuse Bruce Schneier of being a Luddite. Techno-skeptic - maybe.

Which article in particular relates to smartcards for co-ordination of health and welfare services?

There's stuff about the folly of solely relying on ID cards for security, but that's really an entirely different matter.

The point of this letter was that any proposal in this regard should be looked at in terms of costs (risks) and benefits. Specifically, I objected strongly to the bloke from Liberty Victoria who believes - in principle - that these initiatives are Always Necessarily Bad.

I consider this an elitist view: Liberty Victoria is largely a club for barristers. As such, they rarely have to deal with Centrelink or other welfare agencies. As a group, their tax arrangements are notoriously, well, let's just say unconventional. So, of course for them any gains in fairness or efficiency in our government systems doesn't have any impact: they can just selfishly push their anti-utilitarian barrow safely shielded from the actual consequences to real people.

Hmm, Liberty and Utility are not necessarily natural bedfellows. Is it any coincidence that the best argued case against absolute utilitarianism was J.S. Mill's On Liberty?

Sunday, May 15, 2005 3:36:00 pm  
<    >
Anonymous Anonymous vented ...

Recently, in British Columbia, Canada, private information held in trust by the provincial gov't failed to be destroyed properly. This electronic data contained the personal card, d.o.b and full name data for many of the 4 million residents of that province. This data was collected as a part of 1 card program held by the government.

I'm personally relieved that only 1 card, 1 piece of information affecting only 1 part of my life was released publicly. Regardless, I now have to invest $50 every 4 months to fully examine my credit report.

I miss Australia and it's policy of privacy of the individual and compartmentalization. Yes, I yearn for the good old days. The taxation office did not know I wasn't Australian and the government sent me a fine for not voting. It was all fine with me! The less they know, the better I feel.

Working in information technology, I sometimes wish for greater compartmentalization so that when my coworker wanted to find out my age? He would HAVE to look through my wallet and not be tempted to write a 8 word SQL query before knowing not only my birthdate but # of medical claims on my corporate plan, and beneficiary on my insurance.

Human's are more curious than cats and there's nothing wrong with making it hard to get to data as a way fo protecting that information.

It isn't about lying, it's about layers.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006 5:23:00 am  

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