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Thoughts on Chapell's View

Alan Chapell has some interesting thoughts in “CONSUMER WATCH: Localities put private data in harm’s way:”

As an aside, some might argue that there’s little distinction between “evil doer” and “data broker”. I prefer to view the latter as the poster children for another unregulated industry that is screaming for the Government to step in.

Of course, the trouble with choking off data flow is that it tends to be contrary to the concept of a free society. And since none of us seem to want to live under an EU privacy regime, then what’s a privacy conscious American to do?

First, I think that Chapell is spot on here: The gossip-mongers would love to trade higher costs in the form of regulation for limits on their liability and high barriers to entry.

Second, the industry relies heavily on government subsidies, in the form of social security numbers, and data collected under threat of legal penalties. (Like the property registers in the article Chapell quotes, or DMV records, or voting lists.) In a free society, I can choose to be known by whatever name I like. That is a right long established in the common law. We can impose regulations on the product of government action without making ourselves less free.

If the gossip-mongers work as entities in a free society, they should be free to do what they want. But if they want to touch data issued by, or authenticated by the government, that’s their choice. When doing so, they must accept the societal good of controls on their activities.

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