Tuesday, February 3, 2009

O'Harrow's Paradox

I thought it necessary to revisit an element of our discussion last night. It was noted that O'Harrow's No Place to Hide suffered from an apparent logical paradox. One the one hand O'Harrow contends that the data collection industry has built an omniscient data collection system that is capable of tracking our every move. On the other, O'Harrow points out a number of examples that highlight this industry's incompetence.

On the surface this paradox defies resolution. However, I believe that a more nuanced analysis of this contradiction reveals that both contentions are true. In other words, I believe that the data collection industry is capable of both gathering data on our daily movements but also negilent in its approach to validating and protecting our personal information.

The private sector in general and the data collection industry in particular has built an incredibly efficient data collection infrastructure capable of inhaling our personal information. However, I am not convinced that a similarly sophisticated capability exists to properly analyze, store, and secure this mass of personal information.

I welcome your input on this argument.


Kevin said...

It would seem that the paradox is actually self-enforcing - if the massive amounts of information were to become public (a la ChoicePoint leak), think of criminals crowdsourcing the analysis.

Jason said...

I believe that this paradox probably comes from the fact that these companies have no incentive to properly analyze, store, and secure the mass of personal information in their possession. All the while, these data collection companies have all the incentive in the world to maintain an efficient data collection infrastructure that is wide ranging. This is because the industry is paid to collect information and not to secure the information safely. One might think that making sure personal information is protected is part of the job of data collection, but when there is no financial reward there seems to be a lack of attention in this area. Perhaps this is another reason why it is so difficult for victims of identity theft to seek redress from the data collection industry for its negligence. The private sector might be compelled to store and secure personal information better if there is some financial penalty for mismanagement of data.