Sunday, November 07, 2004

Say NO to ID cards: taking it back to the shop

The Washington Post reports on the use of monster databases to record customers who return or exchange goods they find unsatisfactory, and to refuse returns automatically to people a computer decides do it too often. This is just another example of a worrying trend - using industrial-strength data mining and surveillance systems for trivial purposes, like that Spanish nightclub whose members had RFID chips implanted in their bodies to pay for drinks automatically.

The thing is, once you build the monster database, it gets much harder to prevent it being used for more serious and nasty purpose. If you build it, they will come. Reading down the article, we find a case of a website offering information on patients who have filed malpractice lawsuits against doctors. The purpose was to allow doctors to turn away patients they thought might be likely to sue. Quite a bit more serious.

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