Database Nation – a damned good read

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

I’m just squeezing in some tech light reading Database Nation in between the Nancy Kress Beggars in Spain trilogy.

I have learnt, that in the US, if you default on any sort of loan / credit card is the IRS screw up and even if it’s there fault it stays on file. It only goes off file after 7 years because of the Fair Credit Reporting Act of 1971. In some cases, people get refuse a mortgage and jobs because of their credit status, but the real problem is that as at time of the books writing, once in the system, the three main credit agency sub-sell their data to 117 other companies down the food chain.

The book narrates a real life horror story where one couple were reduced to one credit card company because of moving house twice, paying their IRS billing, the next two IRS offices loosing track of this. IRS serve $10,000 lien (reposs order), the renting tennant of one property is in shit with the IRS, so he’s doesn’t forward the letter. Next Position please, credit rating shafted and nobody actually calls and speaks to the people involved – they were abroad, they paid their tax, the IRS received it, the IRS had fucked up. Family doesn’t get to buy a new house for seven years. It could have cost them their jobs!

When the seven years were up the credit card offers came through like confetti.

They only seem to pass laws when a US politicans get there personal data abused. Example given Judge Bork, because a journalist got hold of Blockbuster records, but he didn’t find him renting any porn – so he was quite disappointed the judge was clean! So when somebody important gets shat on – que the Video Privacy Protection Act of 1988.

Other than that, carry on allowing credit card companies to send out pre-approved credit cards. It all seems a good money making racquet to cc companies, but the misery identity theft is causing there by their completely half baked dependence on the SSN number. Social Security number – completely beggars common sense.

I’ve learnt that DNA matching is only a science – it is not fact, we all share 99% of the same genome. The data set frequencies which determine a false positive could still be in dispute.

1% of the population share exactly the same DNA – identical twins. And in the US, that’s 1 million people. (In year 2000).

Fingerprints are good. So are Iris prints, they are fixed in utero.
Retina prints suck – for women they vary with pregnancy. New arteries and veins branch out.

Why is British Telecom in joint venture with IriScan, who have developed an iris scanner which can “capture an iris print of a person in a car driving at 50 miles per hour”?

Presumably this was pre-privatisation and done on behalf of DERA / GCHQ? I mean, it’s got shed loads to do with making telephone calls hasn’t it!

I’m a quarter way through – but I’ve got a feeling that the mobile phone is going to be the cool state tracking device.

60% of all phones sold in the US by 2001 have to give 911 a position accurate to 150 metres. So if you are Nokia and Motorola, you’re hardly like to leave this out of the chip set and Iraq, China and those other nice friendly regimes will want’em down 1 metre not 150!

It’s easy to work out A to B. And the world ahead looks grim.

Although Simon’s Garfinkel’s book is excellent it is very US, but with not enough rest of the world observations, I had the UK’s one and only photograph encapuslated credit card issued by the National and Provision Building Society. He seemed to think this would help with fraud, the Abbey National purchased the N&P then stopped the scheme, I wrote complaining, they said that credit card fraud represented so little lossage – the photo card wasn’t worth it. This is because in Britain we have a radio based system which distubutes stolen card information on a 3 minute turnaround, even my local petrol (gas) station has one.

I am greating looking forward to the other three quarters to go, because it looks like Britain has been too state regulated to make the same mistakes with it’s citizens data. Or a least just doesn’t flog it off to the private sector for direct mail profiling. Anti-terrorism and fraud I can cope with, but state organisations flogging the data to private companies is just plain bollocks.

In Februrary 1999 the South Carolina Public Safety Department (like DVLC in the UK) sold it’s entire 3.5 million photograph database to Image Data LLC Nashua, New Hampshire. For … $5,000.

The Washington Post subsequently discovered that Image Data LLC had received a $1.46M grant and technical assistance from the US Secret Service in 1998.

They appear not to have been the only other state to have done this either.

In you are into information security and social hacking/engineering – READ THIS BOOK!

Posted in weblog.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *