William Matthews reports:
Thanks to increasingly sophisticated communications technology and ever-expanding interconnected data bases, even small-town police can run detailed background checks to discover criminals during routine traffic stops.
But there’s a big problem with this instant access to information: A lot of what’s in the databases is wrong, says Marc Rotenberg, president of the Electronic Privacy Information Center.
In a brief filed for a case the U.S. Supreme Court will hear March 21, Rotenberg cataloged the errors he discovered in databases ranging from the FBI’s National Crime Information Center to the Homeland Security Department’s E-Verify system to intelligence data that commercial vendors collect and sell to federal and state agencies.
Read more on GovExec. EPIC’s brief is highly recommended reading.
There are two issues here, it seems. The first is that if you make a lot of data available to law enforcement, they will try to use it and concoct excuses or pretexts for using it. The second is that even if there is a legitimate reason to run a search on someone, the inaccuracies in the databases are so widespread and severe that they result in adverse consequences to innocent parties.
Which is a long way of saying, perhaps, that I don’t agree with the headline of GovExec’s story, as I can think of no reason for the government to need wildly inaccurate data.