~ conservative former Congressman and ACLU advisor offers thoughtful reflection on Choicepoint and data aggregators ~

The ACLU should listen up and pay attention to its privacy consultants. Former U. S. Congressman Bob Barr is, curiously, advising the American Civil Liberties Union on matters related to personal information. And he argues for a long-term, deliberative approach to addressing the challenge of maintaining open access to information while protecting people from its fraudulent uses. His FindLaw commentary, Can We Protect Our Privacy Through Legal Solutions? Or Is Technology Now Beyond Our Control?The ChoicePoint Dilemma forecasts a more troubling outcome if our government clamps down on information services.

The risk we face if we target all data providers with knee-jerk, oppressive legislation or regulation, is driving them beyond the reach of any kind of control. In other words, making the United States singularly inhospitable territory for data services will encourage new entrepreneurs to simply set up shop in places where they are subject to no restrictions. And, if you think having your personal information on file in a data warehouse in Atlanta is bad, imagine how much worse it would be to have it in India, Bangladesh, China, or anywhere else the prevalence of cheap labor and minimal government control create a hospitable environment.

It may not be on the scale nuclear proliferation but ya gotta admit release of Choicepoint type data to a Pakistan can’t be good. On the other hand, data aggregation brings benefits to consumers and businesses but the data collection companies have to recognize that they have a greater responsibility to the public.

Our message to data aggregators should be simple: if you demonstrate a commitment to fixing mistakes, safeguarding personal data, and playing by the rules, we want to have you as part of the legitimate business
community in America. If not, then we will do everything possible to curtail your operations, including working to stop other nations from offering you safe haven. This carrot-and-stick approach is by far our best option.

Looks like we’re going to have some strange bedfellows in our future.


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