thoughts and observations of a privacy, security and internet researcher, activist, and policy advisor

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The Economist on e-Identity and e-Government

The Economist has a special section on e-government around the world in its latest issue. One article is about e-identity in this context. Subtitle:
It's best for governments not to know too much.
Kim Cameron is quoted at length, but they also cover experiences from the UK and elsewhere about how little citizens trust their governments to handle their data with care.
The hard lesson for governments is that citizens will adopt technology when it is both optional and beneficial to them, but resist it strenuously when it is compulsory, no matter how sensible it may seem.
They also have intersting lessons from other experts:
Ross Anderson (...) argues that local systems are far more secure than national ones. Patient data held at a GP practice may be vulnerable to a security lapse on the premises, but the damage will be limited. “You can have security, or functionality, or scale—you can even have any two of these. But you can't have all three, and the government will eventually be forced to admit this.
And an interesting analogy to environmental protection:
Richard Clayton (...) says that personal information should be treated like plutonium pellets: “Kept in secure containers, handled as seldom as possible and escorted whenever it has to travel. Should it get out into the environment, it will be a danger for years to come. Putting it into one huge pile is really asking for trouble.”

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