It's best for governments not to know too much

Interesting article in the current Economist about the use of information on private individuals by government.

THE internet, argues Kim Cameron, who works as “Identity Architect†at Microsoft, “was built without a way to know who and what you are connecting toâ€. That is bad enough in the private sector, where the only thing at stake is money. For dealing with government, it is potentially catastrophic. Technology can—just about—tell how an internet user got online. It can check the authenticity of passwords and logins, and validate smart cards or biometric checks. But such data, even if encrypted, can be stolen, borrowed, guessed or intercepted.

Internet users have become used to providing personal information to any convincing-looking box that appears on a screen. They have little idea of either the technology that helps to provide electronic security in practice or the theoretical principles that determine whether it will work. According to Mr Cameron, “there is no consistent and comprehensible framework allowing them to evaluate the authenticity of the sites they visit, and they don't have a reliable way of knowing when they are disclosing private information to illegitimate parties. At the same time they lack a framework for controlling or even remembering the many different aspects of their digital existence.â€

Personally I agree with the principle, Government should minimise the information it keeps to that it actually requires and should otherwise f*ck off and stop interfering.
I would agree, on a more general point that today information can be gathered both easily and cheaply so it is gathered because organisations can gather it, many though have neither a reason to gather it or a use for it when gathered. An excellent example of this is the muppet online retailers who will only tell you their shipping charges after you have set up an account. You then find out their charges are silly and b*gger off, leaving them with a wadge of data clogging up their system vowing never to darken their portals again.
Karma, knowledge is power. The business of int gathering is ancient, by both governments and commerce. Even if today lots of the knowledge gathered is of little or no use, it is gathered automatically and stored on the basis it might come in handy sometime.
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