Tax Dollars at Work

And by work, I mean keeping track of you.

First off, a court recently ruled that the government doesn’t require a warrant to collect information on where you are and where you go each day.  The court determined that since many Americans already disclose this information through their smart phones and the apps and services they use on them, that information is essentially public data, which the smart phone and app makers can share with the government.  The assumption is that we voluntarily share our location data so it’s no big deal.  As the article points out, this is a dangerous assumption to begin with, and it still doesn’t justify the government collecting data on people not accused or suspected of a crime.

Secondly, the FBI is asking that a massive database of biometric information collected on citizens be exempted from public access laws that allow citizens to request to see information about them on file and provide corrections as necessary.  This is the database that the FBI plans to rely on for fingerprint matching as well as other biometric matching.  Data gets into this database from local law enforcement agencies based on arrests, however the data goes to the FBI’s database regardless of whether the arrest resulted in a conviction.  It is also a database that could be used for criminal background checks, meaning that information on an arrest could impact potential employment, even if the arrest never led to a conviction.

What information should the government reasonably be expected to maintain about a citizen with no arrest record and not under any criminal investigation?  For what purposes should such data be collected?  Just in case?  On the off chance that an average citizen will become a serial killer?  Yes, we share a lot of personal information these days – sometimes involuntarily.  Perhaps people would be a lot more concerned when they realize that all those separate disclosures can be amalgamated into a single database, providing a rather stunning view of your life, from your daily commute routine (and notable exceptions to it) to what you buy at the grocery store.  It may not sound like a big deal.  In which case, why would the government want to collect it in the first place?


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