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Location: California, United States

I am a neolibertarian minded individual who feels that freedom and individual rights take precedence over the wants of government. I believe government exists to serve the people and not to protect us from ourselves. I am an advocate for private firearms ownership, smaller government, reduced taxes and freedom to live your life however you choose, providing you do not directly hurt others.

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Sunday, April 24, 2005

One More Reason Against National ID Cards

Stories like this remind us why it is a bad idea to let the government stockpile information about private citizens and why we should be against national ID cards and similar programs.

Computer-security flaws at the U.S. tax-collection agency expose millions of taxpayers to potential identity theft or illegal police snooping, according to a congressional report released Monday.

Any computer database, if readliy accessible its intended users, can be compromised by an attacker. The more information that is stored in one place, the greater the attraction it poses to unauthorized users, thieves and overzealous government officials. In this case, it sounds like the database and computer system are so accessible that literally thousands of people could easily wreak havoc.

In all, 7,500 IRS employees, law enforcers and outside contractors can access and modify tax returns and financial-crime reports, the GAO found.

A master list of passwords and user names is also widely available, the report said.

"Increased risk exists that unauthorized users could ... claim a user identity and then use that identity to gain access to sensitive taxpayer or Bank Secrecy Act data," the report said.

Identity thieves have used stolen passwords to gain access to nearly half a million profiles of U.S. citizens maintained by data brokers ChoicePoint Inc and LexisNexis, a division of Reed Elsevier .

I don't fear black helicopters in the night and I really don't believe that our government is out to get us. Nevertheless, stories like these prove to me that nobody, our government included, should be trusted with any more information about private citizens than is absolutely necessary. It is bad enough that credit tracking companies such as TRW have a record of people's addresses, social security numbers, financial relationships, etc. At least with a private company, the fear of law suits, angry shareholders, criminal prosecution and other threats make them very motivated to keep their data secure. These checks and balances don't really exist when it comes to government. There is no law enforcement agency to attack a branch of the federal government if they fail to keep our data private. Likewise, it is very difficult to sue the government, and there are no shareholders ready to sell stocks and deprive the government of funding if they make a mistake. Sure, we can vote the current administration out of power at the next election, but for all practical purposes there isn't really that much an individual can do to punish the government for misusing or distributing information about private citizens.

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