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Passport Files of Presidential Hopefuls Snooped

kdawson posted more than 6 years ago | from the now-please-put-real-id-to-bed-without-its-supper dept.

Privacy 204

CNN is reporting on the widening brouhaha that began when Barack Obama's passport file was accessed illegally on three occasions beginning in January. Now it seems that John McCain's file was also snooped; and that last year Hillary Clinton's file suffered the same fate. Ars Technica nails the real importance of these breaches, saying that the Presidential hopefuls are "...currently providing the country with a very public lesson in why the 'privacy advocates' who oppose initiatives like Real ID and the executive branch's domestic surveillance programs should really be called 'democracy advocates.' In short..., the entire incident shows exactly why citizens' privacy is critical in a country where citizens compete with one another for control of the government."

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204 comments

I guess you could spin this into anything (3, Interesting)

The End Of Days (1243248) | more than 6 years ago | (#22832628)

I see it as a reason that all passport information should be freely accessible to anyone who wants it. After all, it's owned by the public already. Full transparency is a more effective solution than full opacity because it's both easier to achieve, and eliminates abuses by making them uses.

Re:I guess you could spin this into anything (0)

ShieldW0lf (601553) | more than 6 years ago | (#22832704)

Why does this illustrate the need for privacy in a democracy again? "I leave it to the reader to imagine the terrible consequences this could have, like if some hick sherriff decided to throw Obama in a cell because he didn't like his progressive politics." is not exactly compelling.

If anything, this article illustrates how insignificant peoples privacy is, how illusional it is, and how inconsequencial it is when it's violated.

Re:I guess you could spin this into anything (4, Insightful)

owlnation (858981) | more than 6 years ago | (#22833030)

One would like to hope that this incident might mean that all 3 candidates now fully understand the importance of protecting everyone's privacy, and will ensure that its kept sacrosanct.

Yes, I don't think that will happen either.

Re:I guess you could spin this into anything (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22833830)

> One would like to hope that this incident might mean that all 3 candidates now fully understand the importance of protecting everyone's privacy, and will ensure that its kept sacrosanct.

Not yet, I suspect; after all, Eric Schmidt lost his appeal to have personal details removed from Teh Tubes. That's why the US desperately needs a another party to run for the Presidency. I hereby nominate Bruce Schneier AND Chuck Norris as the Dream Team Party - cryptographic and physical defenders of the right to privacy.

How about understanding who owns the records? (3, Insightful)

twitter (104583) | more than 6 years ago | (#22833150)

The issue illustrated is that clerks can get anything stored. Governments and companies like to pretend they are better than others when they keep things they should not. Improper access proves the lie, not that passport records are inherently damaging.

The issue is really about what records should be kept and who owns them. The public does not own the record of my travel unless I'm doing public work. I'm the only person who should be able to make that kind of information available when I chose. The state should not waste money tracking things which can only be abused.

Transparency is not a a substitute for doing whats right in the first place. It's not an equalizer when there's a power difference because it only removes one tiny piece of the difference. Your boss can still fire you, your school can expel you and so on and so forth. When someone does not like you and they have information about you and they can make rules that harm you, they will.

Re:I guess you could spin this into anything (4, Funny)

Headcase88 (828620) | more than 6 years ago | (#22832760)

That's awesome, let me try one.

Bribes to congressman should be legal; they're going to take bribes anyway, so if they're illegal it will accomplish making congress look bad, which in turn diminishes the integrity of the government and country which is bad for us all.

Except bribing congress is pretty much legal already, and I'd imagine they came up with a better excuse than that for why :/

Re:I guess you could spin this into anything (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22833838)

Direct cash bribes to Congress should be legal. There are too many ways they can occur for there to be a real chance of completely preventing them. Instead, we need more democratic ways of making sure they don't act on those bribes. If a Congressman accepts a bribe from a contractor and awards them a contract worth $5m of public money, his constituents should be able to vote him out of office that afternoon.

Re:I guess you could spin this into anything (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22832798)

I see it as a reason that all passport information should be freely accessible to anyone who wants it

Yeah, and since people break into houses and steal things, your stuff should be freely accessible to anyone who wants it too.

Re:I guess you could spin this into anything (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22832946)

Speaking of spin,

I wonder what the Ars Technica/privacy zealots who oppose RealID protection will say when the next hijacked airliner is crashed into a building.

Re:I guess you could spin this into anything (5, Interesting)

StillNeedMoreCoffee (123989) | more than 6 years ago | (#22833078)

"I wonder what the Ars Technica/privacy zealots who oppose RealID protection will say when the next hijacked airliner is crashed into a building."

I'm sorry, "RealID protection" I fail to see how having an ID is protection at all. The topic of course is about peoples private information being looked at. We currently don't know if it was given to anyone or what purpose the access was done. But I suspect that the passport information contains things like passport number and SSN and other identifying information. Well identity theft is a serious costly issue to all of us, now isn't it. I would imagine that the information in the passport file would contain some lovely information that could be used for identity theft. That of course would be rather dumb for the celebrities this article is about, but it seems that only some of the more important names were flagged for the type of alert that caused this to be exposed. Who knows how many others have had their information comprimised, illegally I might add.

Now lets all get a database of information on everyone. That will solve the problem, require everyone to have an ID that they will be required to carry, that solves the problem doesn't it. Wait a minute what was the problem, identity theft? If someone has a fake ID that looks good, well then they are that person, if they have the background information like the ssn, address, and those little numbers on the back of the card, well then they are that person. Substituting an external tag for a person, substituting a copyable, forgable, piece of identification for a living breathing person, does not solve a problem, it only says we trust and ID more than we do a person, we trust our information database more than a living breathing citizen. If someone wanted to blow up a building, they can forge the documents, and pictures and the building will be history. Better to find out why anyone would want to blow up a building and see to it that the reasons don't exist. In the case of 911, it was our presence in the Middle East that Bin Laden was pissed about. That presence cost us the trade towers. We (the country leaders) of course wanted to be there and had no fear, because we are the super power, so there, bring it on.

Re:I guess you could spin this into anything (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22833464)

I wonder what the Ars Technica/privacy zealots who oppose RealID protection will say when the next hijacked airliner is crashed into a building.

They'll say "wow, and the government issued the terrorists real RealIDs, just like the rest of the terrorists who were all legally identified.

Meanwhile the people collecting my tax money to make yet another piece of plastic ID card will laugh all the way to the bank while people like you stand around drooling and wondering why their magical bits of plastic didn't save anyone.

JEEEWWWWWSSSSSSSS (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22832978)

Are descendants of David (tm).

Re:I guess you could spin this into anything (1)

gambolt (1146363) | more than 6 years ago | (#22833096)

OK. What's your name, address, social security number, and mother's maiden name?

Identity fraud is a problem for anyone. For high level politicians, it has national security implications.

frist (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22832644)

pist

Re:frist (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22832656)

pist
You've got fail.

3 days old 'news' (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22832652)

I miss the old Slashdot.

Re:3 days old 'news' (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22832788)

I miss the old Slashdot.
You mean when they dupe it in a week? It still could happen, just be patient.

Re:3 days old 'news' (1)

Headcase88 (828620) | more than 6 years ago | (#22832834)

That's another thing, they used to dupe stories within 3 days of the original posting, sometimes on the same day. Sometimes you would see a front page consisting of nothing but the same story by the same contributor repeated over and over again. Ah, the good old days.

Re:3 days old 'news' (1)

Headcase88 (828620) | more than 6 years ago | (#22832800)

Yeah, the rule used to be strictly at least one full week.

Re:3 days old 'news' (1, Offtopic)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | more than 6 years ago | (#22833254)

3 days old 'news'
I miss the old Slashdot.
You miss week old news?

I'm not saying this to be funny, but I've been around Slashdot since 2000, and this was ALWAYS a complaint.

Re:3 days old 'news' (2, Insightful)

leamanc (961376) | more than 6 years ago | (#22833298)

Indeed, it's been a complaint for a long time, even though Malda and his gang don't claim to publish the latest news in the fastest time possible. In fact, they would rather sit on a story and see how it unfolds so that the discussion can have some perspective.

In fact, there's even a FAQ entry [slashdot.org] addressing this topic. If you want the latest news as soon as it happens, there's other sites to visit. Like others have said, go to Digg for the links, and come to Slashdot for the discussion.

Yes, "In Soviet Russia, frist psot runs Natalie Portman's Linux" is more insightful than what you read on Digg.

What's private about passport records? (0, Flamebait)

cdrguru (88047) | more than 6 years ago | (#22832682)

And how does passport records (assuming it is just entry & exit times) relate to Real ID in any fashion? Real ID is an attempt to eliminate the cartoon-drawing Driver's Licenses that some states hand out. Real ID is an attempt to eliminate the Mexican Government from "assisting" in getting Driver's Licenses to illegals.

The government folks are snooping goverment records all the time anyway. Just ask Hillary about the FBI and IRS records for political foes the last time she lived at the White House.

Re:What's private about passport records? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22832694)

Apparently there weren't even entry/exit times. It was just their application. Name, address, DOB, SSN, etc. Fairly uninteresting stuff.

Re:What's private about passport records? (2, Interesting)

sumdumass (711423) | more than 6 years ago | (#22832706)

Don't ask why or apply logic, just accept the fact that we got a blow in for whatever we are supposed to support this week. Haven't you noticed slashdot becoming more of a political "tool" then a place to discuss news for nerds.I guess maybe there wouldn't be enough discusion without the flame though, I don't know.

Anyways, the connection is merely someone's loose opinion.

Re:What's private about passport records? (0, Offtopic)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 6 years ago | (#22832984)

Haven't you noticed slashdot becoming more of a political "tool" then a place to discuss news for nerds
I hadn't noticed it, because I blocked all stories by kdawson from the front page. I unblocked them last week to see if he had stopped posting unresearched crap to back up his political position. He hasn't, so I'll go back to blocking him again. I suggest everyone else does the same until Taco gets a grip and fires him. It's not like there's a shortage of interesting tech news that he could be posting, after all.

Re:What's private about passport records? (3, Informative)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 6 years ago | (#22833072)

Don't ask why or apply logic, just accept the fact that we got a blow in for whatever we are supposed to support this week.
What are we supporting this week?
Stronger privacy protections? Less intrusive government?
My, what an awful political tool /. has become.

Anyways, the connection is merely someone's loose opinion.
Step 1. Government creates database
Step 2. Databse gets abused
Step 3. Reforms are 'enacted'
Step 4. Go back to step 2

The only reason this case of abuse was noticed is because high profile people have a tripwire attached to their records to alert a supervisor whenever those records are accessed. The people who pass laws have built in special privacy protections for themselves and anyone with money, fame, or notability. You think it would be front page news if a contractor was probing through the passport records of sumdumass (711423)?

If you can't see the relationship between a contractors snooping through a Passport database and the potential for contractors snooping through a Real ID database... you must be willfully blind.

Re:What's private about passport records? (1, Insightful)

sumdumass (711423) | more than 6 years ago | (#22833380)

What are we supporting this week?
Stronger privacy protections? Less intrusive government?
My, what an awful political tool /. has become.
But the government isn't intrusive and privacy protections were in place and working with this story. Hence the don't apply logic just bitch and fit in. If you think a non-related story is doing something for your movement, then there is no surprise when you also think nobody else cares.

Step 1. Government creates database
Step 2. Databse gets abused
Step 3. People get caught abusing it because of the protections already in place and no further reforms are necessary
Step 4. Go back to step 2
There fixed that for you.

The only reason this case of abuse was noticed is because high profile people have a tripwire attached to their records to alert a supervisor whenever those records are accessed. The people who pass laws have built in special privacy protections for themselves and anyone with money, fame, or notability. You think it would be front page news if a contractor was probing through the passport records of sumdumass (711423)?
It wouldn't be front page news if they were looking through my records but the same trips would have happened and someone would have looked into why someone accessed my files without associated paperwork and so on. The only difference is that I am not important enough to make the news where the three presidential candidates are.

If you can't see the relationship between a contractors snooping through a Passport database and the potential for contractors snooping through a Real ID database... you must be willfully blind.
It doesn't matter if they can do either. They where caught and punitive measure were taken. It is like you demanding a road block be put up and taken down at every intersection when the light turns red when there is a cop already there giving tickets to anyone running the red light. Measure were put in place years ago, abuses happened and the people who abused their position have been addresses accordingly. I'm not sure if some punishment was hard enough, but it happened.

And even if I didn't support the Real ID (which I don't), I do support the passport database. But this isn't a story about abuse, it is a story about tripwires and safeguards being in place that made it possible for you to know something happened. If anything it is something the government did right.

Re:What's private about passport records? (2, Insightful)

Random Q. Hacker (137687) | more than 6 years ago | (#22833470)

Haha, you just made his point by still having a step 4.

i.e. Even if there is a supposed protection in place, it will still be abused again and again.

To quote WOPR: "The only way to win is not to play."

Re:What's private about passport records? (1)

sumdumass (711423) | more than 6 years ago | (#22833664)

And they will set of alarms and be caught again and again. You see, The protections worked. That's why we know the abuse happened. SO far we know who did it, what they accessed, and any connections to either candidate. There are already laws on the books if they use any of the information to damage anyone. And the government who knew about this before we did, knows nothing has been used so far.

I don't know how better it could have worked. I mean outside discarding the information and not keeping a record of who enters and leave the country, the protections worked quite well.

Re:What's private about passport records? (0)

Orion Blastar (457579) | more than 6 years ago | (#22833124)

Yeah but it seems that Slashdot, CNet, Wired, and many other "technology" news sites often report on a lot of stories via a political opinion that is very left-wing and very unbalanced and has quite a bit of a spin on it. Even worse are Digg and Reddit websites in which most of the links voted to the first few pages are ultra-liberal in their opinions and anything not ultra-liberal gets dumped or moved to last on the list.

The Internet in general has a ultra-liberal bias with a few exceptions like Red State, Little Green Footballs, Conservapedia, etc that have an ultra-right-wing bias. Just for once I'd like to see a moderate or neutral point of view or opinion. One that sticks to facts and the truth instead of hearsay, rumors, gossip, and opinions disguised as facts. This trend has happened after 9/11 and only has gotten worse. Yet the trend did start about 1998 when Bill Clinton was being impeached and MoveOn.Org was formed to get the public to move on away from the fact that Bill Clinton cheated on his wife and start attacking Conservative Republicans on the Internet via blogs they formed which would one day replace news sites. So Slashdot has become a liberal blog of sorts that replaces a true news site. No longer news for nerds, it is more like news for liberal nerds. Slashdot sold its soul to the Democratic party of America a few years ago just like CNet, Wired, The New York Times, CNN, MSNBC, Kuro5hin, Wikipedia, etc have done as well.

I am one of those few people who uses critical thinking to find the biases and flaws in stories on Slashdot, etc and can point out the logical fallacies as well. This story is a straw man fallacy used to attack the Bush Administration for the Patriot Act that allows domestic spying to capture terrorist suspects. The passport files of Presidential candidates are being viewed by their political opponents and the press and media, and not the government, but the bias and spin on this story makes people think that Bush and company are spying on Obama and Clinton by viewing their passport files. They turn a blind eye to the fact that a lot of information is public records and most Internet Detective companies charge $35 to access public records to turn up info on people, and those companies also use social engineering to get access to cell phone records, passport files, medical history, and other things. There exists a Big Brother all right, but it is not the government, it is a series of companies that either sell the information over the Internet, or media companies collect it for stories, or political candidates spy on each other to get information on their opponents.

Heck someone did that to me the past few months ago, and called my house at 2am in the morning asking to speak to me about my medical and work history, and they got the information on me by entering my email address into an Internet Detective database and paying $35 (it emailed me that someone has accessing my personal files but didn't give me an option to opt-out or prevent it) and a few weeks later I start getting harassing calls early in the morning. Most likely because someone doesn't like my opinions on Slashdot or some other web site and decided to give me a hard time about it.

Re:What's private about passport records? (1)

thePowerOfGrayskull (905905) | more than 6 years ago | (#22833306)

This story is a straw man fallacy used to attack the Bush Administration for the Patriot Act that allows domestic spying to capture terrorist suspects.
Or you could be just a little, tiny bit paranoid?

Most likely because someone doesn't like my opinions on Slashdot or some other web site and decided to give me a hard time about it
Maybe a just a bit?

Re:What's private about passport records? (1)

Orion Blastar (457579) | more than 6 years ago | (#22833616)

I'm not paranoid because that really happened to me and forced me to change my phone number as they kept calling at 2am 3am at night every night and waking me up. Maybe you find that sort of thing as normal and if a person gets upset over it you call them paranoid. But what if it happened to you night after night? They spoofed caller ID using an Internet connection to make the calls, so the Police couldn't trace the harassing calls. I have evidence to back it up as well as police reports.

Re:What's private about passport records? (0, Flamebait)

Zeinfeld (263942) | more than 6 years ago | (#22833728)

Yeah but it seems that Slashdot, CNet, Wired, and many other "technology" news sites often report on a lot of stories via a political opinion that is very left-wing and very unbalanced and has quite a bit of a spin on it. Even worse are Digg and Reddit websites in which most of the links voted to the first few pages are ultra-liberal in their opinions and anything not ultra-liberal gets dumped or moved to last on the list.

Or maybe they just print the facts as they see them and your brain refuses to acknowledge any data points that conflict with the right wing alternative reality you live in?

One theory is that Bush has dropped to 30% approval ratings because the left wing press have attacked him unfairly, another is that most people now concur with the left wing opinion that the man is a total incompetent abd that he bears a considerable amount of blame for the current economic situation and the fiasco in Iraq.

One theory is that the surge has succeeded and victory is possible. Another is that the insurgents believe that there is no need to fight as only an imbecile would now imagine that the US is going to continue spending a half trillion dollars a year there. If they are proved wrong for whatever reason they can always start fighting again.

One theory is that the sub-prime meltdown tells us that deregulated finance markets are not the cause. Another is that conservative think tanks would spew out any old nonsense if it provided political cover for their paymasters do to the US what the looters in Iraq did to the national museum.

Re:What's private about passport records? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22833240)

"the entire incident shows exactly why citizens' privacy is critical in a country where citizens compete with one another for control of the government."

Is it me, or that's an argument *against* privacy?

If any of the candidates had private files revealing that they'd be a bad president, I'd like to know that sooner than later.

I'm for transparency.

Re:What's private about passport records? (1)

j-pimp (177072) | more than 6 years ago | (#22833564)

Haven't you noticed slashdot becoming more of a political "tool" then a place to discuss news for nerds.I guess maybe there wouldn't be enough discusion without the flame though, I don't know.

Three words. Presidential Election Cycle. Most US based sites are going to be quite political.

Re:What's private about passport records? (1)

sumdumass (711423) | more than 6 years ago | (#22833756)

Political is fine. A political took presents the stories in a favorable way to a certain side.

The difference would be a neutral story summery that might say something like, "federal employees and contract workers were caught looking at presidential candidate's pass port records." A tool story would be one that assigns opinion as if it was fact to the summery or story itself or attempts to coopt the story to press another agenda. One of these looks like the "currently providing the country with a very public lesson in why the 'privacy advocates' who oppose initiatives like Real ID and the executive branch's domestic surveillance programs should really be called 'democracy advocates.'" in the summery. The fact is that the story has nothing to do with the domestic spying program or RealID.

They essentially took a story about records being accessed inappropriately, the people doing it being caught and punished because of safeguards already in place and working, and turned it into a "remember us whining about something, we are going to do it again because we can skip the details of this unrelated story and use it to our advantage by introducing the shock value out of context". Then in two weeks time, there will be yet another story about why the public isn't as concerned as they are with a few posts moderated as "flame bait" or "trolls" because they essentially say that everyone thinks they are being scammed when shit like this story happens and it is blown out of portion in order to sneak another objective in. So in essence they don't trust what you say because of your tactics."

Now, turn this to anything else like Intel processors, linux or windows and anyone calling a spade a spade will be modded up not down. People will be fighting to make sure the truth is out not someone's marketing scheme. As a tool, the truth gets hidden and the marketing propaganda stays on top. It is totally contradictory to Slashdot's entire style.

George Walker Bush [w] Re:What's private records? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22833670)

So GWB BF'ed HS Chart-Off, who BF'ed TAC CEO who BF'ed "Nominal Nothing Employee" ... to do a bit of snooping that any otherwise rational human being with an IQ above 90 (this knocks out GWB and HS Sec) would just laugh at and fart a narly.

I'm looking forward to the CNN live cam on the Mall giving the shots of GWB, Cheney and the other Cabinet Ofcrs being arrested, shackled, and carted off for execution at GitMo.

LOL, what a day that will be!

Toodles

In Soviet Slashdot, groupthink posts you! (4, Insightful)

n dot l (1099033) | more than 6 years ago | (#22833714)

Don't ask why or apply logic, just accept the fact that we got a blow in for whatever we are supposed to support this week.
Christ. This comes up often enough it deserves its own saying. Let's make it this: In Soviet Slashdot, groupthink posts you!

No, seriously, this just keeps coming up and it's retarded. Slashdot readers are anything but a representative sample of American (or any) society. Of course we don't reflect it, let alone the full range of the political (left-right) spectrum.

When the editors post a good story, we get between two and five hundred posts discussing how and why this is alarming, what the possible implications may be, etc. Once moderation is applied we end up with a very high signal to noise ratio. Dissenting views are pretty much always modded up, except when they're trolls or flamebait (and even then, people often take the time to read them and reply). Other sources are often quoted or linked to, and those posts get modded up too. In other words, we get a good, interesting (possibly insightful, or informative, sometimes even funny) discussion.

When the editors post something stupid, we get between two and five hundred posts pointing out the error and ripping on the editor that put it on the front page. Occasionally, a thread or two spawns discussing some tangentially related subject that ends up being interesting on its own merrits.

As far as I'm concerned, the system is working as intended. Seriously, who would you rather discuss politics with? The Digg crowd? The people that leave comments on Youtube? Seriously, answer that question and go there. Then come back and tell us what you find.

Haven't you noticed slashdot becoming more of a political "tool" then a place to discuss news for nerds.
No. Most of us are capable of independent thought. That's why we're all here, sharing our thoughts and adding the insights of others to our own. At the very least we're sharpening our ideas by arguing against those we disagree with.

The fact that we often agree in large numbers speaks more to the fact that we're a self-selected group than anything else. The fact that the editors pander to us says more about their lust for precious ad revenue than their political views. Not all herds are made of sheep. And even if they were, kdawson (it's him everyone bitches about, right? I honesty don't pay attention to the editors' names) sucks at playing sheep-dog.

Re:In Soviet Slashdot, groupthink posts you! (0)

sumdumass (711423) | more than 6 years ago | (#22833804)

It wouldn't be so bad if the politics introduced where neutral in the stories and the users take it from there. But all the stories are Evil Republicans, Baby Eating Bush, and so on.

This story which was originally about government employees and contract workers inappropriately accessing passport records of presidential candidates and how safe guards in place alerted the proper people so no damage was done and those responsible are being punished. Instead it got hijacked and is now being used as a reason for not doing RealID and to blast the president over domestic spying because someone could inappropriately access the information. And it does this only by ignoring that fact that we caught the people doing it relatively close to when it happened, they were punished, and steps are being taken to see how any of the information might have been used.

Now all this and the original article never made it to slashdot until someone could put a spin on it to blast Bush for "anything possible" or "breathing". That is what is meant about it becoming a "tool". The articles are introduced to push an agenda. It isn't that people have an opinion.

Re:What's private about passport records? (5, Insightful)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | more than 6 years ago | (#22832732)

The government folks are snooping goverment records all the time anyway. Just ask Hillary about the FBI and IRS records for political foes the last time she lived at the White House.

And that is why you don't want any MORE info in the hands of the feds than the minimum needed. In my opinion the guvmint should be required to send you a letter every time it looks up your personal information. This would sure open some people's eyes I bet.

Re:What's private about passport records? (3, Insightful)

grassy_knoll (412409) | more than 6 years ago | (#22833200)

In my opinion the guvmint should be required to send you a letter every time it looks up your personal information. This would sure open some people's eyes I bet.


If that's your goal, then push for it to cover private contractors working on a government contract.

Otherwise the FBI, DHS, et. al. could just contract out and never provide any notification, since the government agency in question never accessed a citizens personal information (but their contractor did).

Re:What's private about passport records? (3, Interesting)

cmacb (547347) | more than 6 years ago | (#22833490)

One of the things that got my attention about this story (yesterday when it was actually still news) was the mention of "government officials". Even though the story had it right that it was contractors that did the peeking, they continued to refer to them as "government officials".

As a former government contractor I can say with a fair amount of confidence that we are safe from "government officials" looking up our records in Federal databases. Most of them are doing good to get through their morning e-mail without a call to the help desk. The really technical ones can manage simple spreadsheets (although in my experience this involved a fair amount of hand-holding too).

I'm not sure if the problem here is that the average citizen doesn't know the difference between a contractor and a "government official" or if the reporters involved just weren't sure which one it was. Chances are that if you call the IRS, Social Security Administration, or State Department you are going to be talking to a contractor, not a "government official" or even (if we want to consider a third category) a government employee. They don't do database updates, they don't do secretarial work, they don't write computer programs, they certainly don't make their own travel arrangements (Clinton/Gore's government re-invention program relieved them of this onerous responsibility) and they can sit right next to a ringing telephone for hours without being bothered by it.

So, now, the question remains for those who are in favor of the government doing more and more things for us, all of such things involving the collection of various bits of data about ourselves: Who would you rather have access to that data... (a) a contractor, who as we've seen might use idle time to sneak a peek at their neighbors info, or (b) a government employee (or official) who might also do such things, but in addition might accidentally delete or mangle your records because they don't have a clue how the data is organized.

By the way my answer is (c) none of the above. There is no technology fix for this. If you don't want your data looked at, then don't have it out there. That means you have to take a certain amount of responsibility for your own lives. Tough huh?

Well... (5, Informative)

jd (1658) | more than 6 years ago | (#22832736)

In a twist, it turns out at least one search was performed by a contractor paid by an Obama advisor. It also appears that the records were accessed multiple times, not just the once (with quick reaction) initially stated. Now, I personally think that passport information is personal information and that personal information deserves a very high level of protection. I totally agree with the EU and the UK on that, although I think both have been too willing to compromise on principles in order to get anywhere with the US where there is no meaningful privacy at all.

(I find it sad that in America, private property is often guarded with deadly force, but private property is replaceable, whereas privacy has no protection at all and privacy can never be replaced. Once privacy is lost, it is lost forever.)

Re:Well... (2, Insightful)

sumdumass (711423) | more than 6 years ago | (#22832772)

Actually, the private information is guarded against inappropriate access. The fact that you now know about breaches means it is being guarded. The problem was a break down in the communication chain and the proper disclosure to the right people wasn't made available soon enough. There was a failure in the system that ended up delaying us from being informed.

Surprisingly, the contractor was fired and the two workers weren't? I'm not sure why this happened, I would hope that they are given the rules of accessing the information Before they are given access to the information. It sounds to me like the Unions might be protecting their jobs. If it where up to me, everyone who access anything inappropriate would have been terminated on the spot or as close to it as possible to know for sure they did it. You won't have too many people sneaking a peak when it will cost them their jobs.

The goat. (1)

iknownuttin (1099999) | more than 6 years ago | (#22832830)

Surprisingly, the contractor was fired and the two workers weren't? I'm not sure why this happened, ... Unions might be protecting their jobs. If it where up to me, everyone who access anything inappropriate would have been terminated on the spot or as close to it as possible to know for sure they did it. You won't have too many people sneaking a peak when it will cost them their jobs.

What you said and the Contractor was the "goat". Hey everybody, we fired someone over this! And I agree with everything else.

You're short some information. (5, Informative)

raehl (609729) | more than 6 years ago | (#22833162)

All three people who accessed the information were employees of contractors. Some were fired immediately by the contractor before the State Department learned about it. The others the State Department specifically asked that they NOT be fired so they had some leverage to get them to cooperate with the ensuing investigation. (If they were fired, they wouldn't have to do anything unless actually subpoenaed.) Apparently if the state department had not intervened, the contractor would have fired them already. (The exception being the trainee who looked up Hillary instead of a family member during the training exercise - that was (probably properly) viewed as a training error and that employee just had the error explained.)

Regardless, while this is private information, it's not exactly SENSITIVE private information. There's really nothing in these files that isn't a matter of public record (when you applied, where you lived when you applied, name, birthdate) or isn't going to be terribly interesting for any political reason (SS#).

It's pretty safe to assume these breaches were merely the result of idle curiosity, as there's really no other reason to even bother looking at these files with such uninteresting information. That would also explain the fairly wide access thousands of people have to these files.

And to the GP:

Yes, an Obama campaign supporter (donated $2,300) runs one of the contractors whose employees looked at the files. But a Clinton campaing supporter (donated $1,000) runs the other one. Pretty much a wash, unless you're McCain.

Re:Well... (1)

jabster (198058) | more than 6 years ago | (#22833484)

Surprisingly, the contractor was fired and the two workers weren't? I'm not sure why this happened

Basically, once the workers are fired, they must be subpoenaed before they can be questioned. If they're still employed, they are basically dragged into the boss's office and grilled for all the hows and whys. For the investigation, it's much easier for them to still be employed.

And I gotta admit, I love the whole egg-on-Obama's face aspect of this story. He plays the Blame Bush(tm) first game, and then it's revealed that that his adviser is (at least partially) involved in the privacy breech!

-john

Re:Well... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22833668)

> You won't have too many people sneaking a peak when it will cost them their jobs.

Lovely suggestion, thank you. That would really help with the lines at the metal detectors when entering/leaving. Just have the rent-a-cops cuff & detain anyone with a mountain, or even a large-ish hillock, on their person instead of questioning them in line for hours and keeping the rest of us enqueued.

Re:Well... (1)

PineGreen (446635) | more than 6 years ago | (#22832964)

(I find it sad that in America, private property is often guarded with deadly force, but private property is replaceable, whereas privacy has no protection at all and privacy can never be replaced. Once privacy is lost, it is lost forever.)

Only that privacy doesn't exist in any physical sense. It is a purely abstract concept and its boundaries are very poorly defined.

Re:Well... (1)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 6 years ago | (#22833336)

i'd say it has very good boundries - anything in a government file with my name on it.

Evidence? (1)

forand (530402) | more than 6 years ago | (#22833544)

Everything I have read states that the names of the contractors who did the search and the companies they work for have been withheld. What evidence do you put forth that an Obama paid advisor was also a contractor at the State Department and was responsible for querying the records? Since you provided no evidence it would seem likely you do not have any.

Re:What's private about passport records? (4, Insightful)

SydShamino (547793) | more than 6 years ago | (#22832776)

What's private about passport records? Passport records contain your name, your address, your social security number, your place of birth, and a photo of you. With a sufficiently-large selection of data from the passport records, you could find someone who looked similar to you and could genuinely steal their identity in a long-lasting fashion.

What galls me is that, apparently, the database has a flag that can be set for "famous people", which causes a supervisor alert whenever the file is accessed. Where is the special alert for the rest of us? We're the ones whose data could be abused to wreak havoc on our lives and finances.

You are soooo right! (5, Interesting)

iknownuttin (1099999) | more than 6 years ago | (#22832884)

What galls me is that, apparently, the database has a flag that can be set for "famous people", which causes a supervisor alert whenever the file is accessed. Where is the special alert for the rest of us? We're the ones whose data could be abused to wreak havoc on our lives and finances.

Oh God Yes!!! I agree so much with that statement.

I don't know about you, but there's no way in hell I could walk into a bank and say that I'm Barak Obama; regardless of the documentation I have (I'm short and all white.) Or Hillary for that matter - I'm male. But, I could walk in with any one of other hundreds of thousands of identities and wreak havoc. My banker told me that she gets at least one person a week trying to steal someone's identity. Hence the endless questions when opening an account. It's also for the (non) PATRIOT Act bullshit - but that's another topic.

Re:You are soooo right! (0, Flamebait)

dlanod (979538) | more than 6 years ago | (#22832906)

Don't let the fact that you're male stop you impersonating Hillary Clinton. After all, it hasn't stopped Hillary.

Re:What's private about passport records? (2, Informative)

xaxa (988988) | more than 6 years ago | (#22832990)

What's private about passport records? Passport records contain your name, your address, your social security number, your place of birth, and a photo of you.
According to the BBC News article
"US passport files include data such as age and place of birth, foreign travel records, and a Social Security number."

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/7309165.stm [bbc.co.uk]

I'd be interested to know if UK passport files include foreign travel records (since I have one).

Re:What's private about passport records? (1)

gambolt (1146363) | more than 6 years ago | (#22833130)

In short, it's one-stop identity-theft. It's everything anyone would need to get a passport with your name on it.

Re:What's private about passport records? (4, Informative)

GodfatherofSoul (174979) | more than 6 years ago | (#22833292)

I was following news coverage of passport records on Friday, and apparently they contain WAY more data than your passport, ID, and travel records. Criminal records, details about your interactions with other countries, attempts to change citizenship, etc.

Re:What's private about passport records? (1)

TheSkyIsPurple (901118) | more than 6 years ago | (#22832860)

Part of RealID is giving access to all state ID records to the Feds.

If they already can't keep a cap on the passport data they are responsible for now, why would they be trustable with more of our information?

Re:What's private about passport records? (1)

HiThere (15173) | more than 6 years ago | (#22833044)

Well, if nothing else its everything you need to commit identity theft.

Re:What's private about passport records? (4, Insightful)

Qrlx (258924) | more than 6 years ago | (#22833138)

And how does passport records (assuming it is just entry & exit times) relate to Real ID in any fashion?

The issue is not the records, it's who has access to them, and what they do with that access.

You certainly don't have access, but somebody with an axe to grind might. Nixon had his Enemies List. The TSA has the No-Fly List. According to Newsweek, 1.3 million Americans have their bank accounts under the same sort of "special scrutiny" that noticed Eliot Spitzer moving a few thousand dollars around. (Less than the $10,000 banks are required to report.) The bank account monitoring came about due to PATRIOT, by the way.

The government folks are snooping goverment records all the time anyway

Actually that's not as true as you might think, but regardless, it's irrelevant. As this case demonstrates, now the contractor folks are snooping government records too.

My guess is, as more and more data gets collected, we simply won't have privacy any more. The only fix I see is to simply stop collecting (and storing, and making more available, and organizing so intelligently) so much data.

In the Spitzer case, I don't see how his downfall benefits New York. Why are we collecting all this data about people? Whatever good comes of it (if any, can somebody think of any good that's come of it) seems to be completely outweighed by the bad.

Perhaps I'm okay with collecting the data, but it should be abstracted away from the person's identity. You should probably need to convince a judge to issue a search warrant on the basis that User_ID 136137134 is showing a pattern of suspicious activity.

As I recall this is more or less why we have a FISA court in the first place. To prevent exactly the sorts of abuses of surveillance that Nixon, Hoover, et. al. were so fond of.

Re:What's private about passport records? (4, Interesting)

Stephen Samuel (106962) | more than 6 years ago | (#22833146)

Real ID is an attempt to eliminate the cartoon-drawing Driver's Licenses that some states hand out.
If that was all that realid did, it would simply have to mandate minimum standards for drivers licenses -- and if that was all it did, I doubt that California would mind joining in on it.

What Realid also does, is force states to combine all of their records together where the federal government can access them, and allows the federal government to join that data with private and government data for whatever purpose it wants.

All of that data in one place is a really big prize for somebody wanting to mess with somebody's life -- especially when you consider that DHS has consistently failed security audits for it's computer networks.

Slashdot. Your source for 3 day old news (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22832686)

This was news a few days ago, and there are sites a lot better than AT that can cover this type of thing.

Time to increase the penalties for this (4, Insightful)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | more than 6 years ago | (#22832702)

Government has unprecedented data gathering and search capabilities, and is seeking increases in those capabilities. These capabilities are hard to prevent; even if Real ID and similar programs get turned back increased capabilities are the inevitable result of easy to create networks, increasing computer performance and data storage capacity.

Along with that should go greatly increased penalties for the abuse of these capabilities. Firing a contractor seems hardly sufficient. Anyone performing this sort of act should serve significant jail time, financial penalties, and so on. If repeat offenses occur the company for whom the contractor works should be banned from future government related contracts.

Re:Time to increase the penalties for this (1)

fyoder (857358) | more than 6 years ago | (#22832778)

Along with that should go greatly increased penalties for the abuse of these capabilities. Firing a contractor seems hardly sufficient.

Firing does seem inadequate, but you want go easy on the knee jerk throw all the baddies in jail response, given that the US already has one of the highest incarceration rates expressed as percentage of population. Simpler would be to cut off a hand for the first offense, the other hand for a second, and so on from there depending on what body part they are using to access a computer. I think most would stop with the first amputation.

Re:Time to increase the penalties for this (1)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | more than 6 years ago | (#22832924)

If you you read my posting more carefully, it was a generalized call for stiffer penalties that included jail as merely one option. Amputation isn't something that has cultural precedent in modern America, but surely other options are possible.

What I want to know.. (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22832708)

.. is how terrible Hilary's passport photograph is.

Re:What I want to know.. (1)

lakeland (218447) | more than 6 years ago | (#22833428)

I'd bet it is fine.

The reason most people have terrible passport photos is they're taken by disinterested photographers (or even machines) using cheap equipment.

Having said that, the new laws about not smiling and so on sure don't help.

Did anyone else notice... (2, Informative)

wrfelts (950027) | more than 6 years ago | (#22832718)

...that the actual culprits (of the most recent "oopses") were an employees of a contractor run by an Obama adviser, John O. Brennan [cnn.com] . The previous one was a trainee who was instructed to test the access with a family member's name. I'm neither for nor against Obama, but he crowed the loudest and it was people answering to someone in his camp, not from "the administration". ...interesting...

Must have outsourced their I.T operations to INDIA (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22832774)

Soon Hilary, John and Obama will be receiving precision targeted advertising based on their credit card purchases.

Does it bother anyone... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22832792)

that the program that caught them was one designed to track the access of the records of "high-profile Americans?" Because it doesn't matter if the rest of us have our passport files snooped? What do you need to do, exactly, to be "high-profile?"

Re:Does it bother anyone... (2, Informative)

Samari711 (521187) | more than 6 years ago | (#22832894)

High profile people are more likely to have their records accessed unnecessarily than any of us. The flags were put in place after Bill Clinton had his records searched by political enemies trying to prove he dodged the draft during his first run for president. Hopefully they have an access/audit trail for the records so that if something improper goes on it can be properly investigated but sending up an alert every time everyone's records are accessed would be a pretty stupid idea.

Looking at the wrong records get you caught (4, Insightful)

Bananenrepublik (49759) | more than 6 years ago | (#22832802)

According to the article, if they hadn't looked at famous people's records, they wouldn't have gotten caught. In other words it's common for these contractors to look at various people's passport records, only these few were stupid enough to choose to snoop after famous people besides their usual routine of checking on their neighbors, unfaithful spouses, the girl they're stalking, etc.

Re:Looking at the wrong records get you caught (3, Interesting)

vrmlguy (120854) | more than 6 years ago | (#22833004)

I hope that that statue of limitations in in effect now, but in case it isn't I'll fuzz a few of the facts. A few years back, I was working for a state office that had a disaster recovery aggreement with the department that handles driver's licenses. So, I was alone in their computer room, and there was a terminal logged into the driver's license database. I did a search of my name, and sure enough there were my records. Then I did searches of several other people, including the governor. At the time, the records included your SSN, but this was before anyone had heard of identity theft so I didn't think anything of it. I didn't take any notes of anything I saw, and cleared the screen before anyone got back. I don't think any investigation was done; at least no one contacted me wanting to know why my records might have been the first ones searched.

Re:Looking at the wrong records get you caught (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 6 years ago | (#22833510)

I'm impressed that you actually knew who the governor of your state was. You must be some kind of intellectual.

Re:Looking at the wrong records get you caught (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 6 years ago | (#22833284)

Excellent. We wouldn't want the famous snooped on by the wrong sort of people.

Re:Looking at the wrong records get you caught (1)

jpdzahr (1260592) | more than 6 years ago | (#22833684)

Saturday, March 22, 2008 If you can look at records then you have access and so you can also change records. Anyone that can access your records has many opportunities to delete, change, snoop and remark on......it's so detrimental to personal security that you don't realize what the complete implications are to such a breach of data. In modern terms we call this DATA Hacking and it's usually not beneficial to your own personal data. Recently I had to call All State Insurance my insurance company about a billing question over the weekend and when I called a USA toll free 800 number I ended up in Bangalore, India where the phone representative began asking me outrageous questions in a thick traditional English/Indian accent. What is my mothers maiden name, what is my drivers license number and what is my social security number. I could not believe my ears that a USA company would out source and allow the delivery of all my data to a 3rd world country.....KNOWN historically as software pirates, Music CD Pirates, and DVD Pirates and the developers of mass VIRUSES worldwide on Microsoft Windows platform. We all know by reading the News that Thailand and India today are also the number one credit card and identity theft hot spots in world. Our personal DATA can not be allowed to be released to the public or foreign countries as this would cause economic terror within the USA. Not all people in India or Thailand are criminals however with low income countries and countries that don't like the USA due to political reasons Americans need to close the door on our PRIVATE DATA for obvious security reasons. JP http://www.usarealtorsdirectory.com/ [usarealtorsdirectory.com]

Getting the warm fuzzies on Government security (0, Redundant)

DigitAl56K (805623) | more than 6 years ago | (#22832874)

Makes you feel good about RealID, doesn't it? :)

What if these were regular people? (1)

sean22190 (1076889) | more than 6 years ago | (#22832892)

Would Obama be pushing as hard for an investigation if it had been Joe Shmoe's passport that had been compromised? It's nice to know that he's willing to spend the U.S. citizens' money for his own personal interests.

The biggest issue is being completely missed! (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22832904)

At the beginning of the week, Stanley, the outsourcing services providing who employed the contractors responsible for the snooping, was awarded a $600 million five year contract to continue providing services for the State Department.

Am I the only one who finds it a bit convenient that word of the snooping wasn't released until two days after the contract was awarded, over two months after the first snooping against Obama occurred? You'd almost think they had some friends in high places who made sure it didn't become public, since that's the kind of revelation that could have put a big roadblock on their contract award.

I wonder what those involved in suppressing the information will be receiving from Stanley? A cushy job or consulting contract? Campaign contributions for high ranking State Department staffers who might be thinking about a run for Congress in 2010 should the republicans lose the White House?

Re:The biggest issue is being completely missed! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22833704)

It gets even weirder when you add the fact that the CEO of the contracting firm that employed the other snooper is one of Obama's advisors. Source [cnn.com]

Democracy advocates? (4, Insightful)

MikeRT (947531) | more than 6 years ago | (#22832950)

OK, one last time, democracy and freedom have no inherent connection to one another. What you want is a liberal, accountable government which would make you a "liberty advocate," not a "democracy advocate."

I could care less about the "state of democracy" in America. What I want is the state of the Constitution, something that often is sacrificed by public approval.

Re:Democracy advocates? (2, Interesting)

cmacb (547347) | more than 6 years ago | (#22833328)

I agree with the point you are trying to make regarding the two terms, but as a practical matter are there any governments with a significant amount of freedom for individuals that are not also democracies?

It certainly makes more sense to confound freedom and democracy than it does to confound liberty and liberal, certainly in modern use. I'm very much in favor of liberty, which is why I've never considered myself a liberal (in the modern sense). Federal government insertion into every aspect of our lives can't coexist with liberty and it doesn't matter which party is pushing it or what good excuse they have for it.

There are somewhere on the order of thousands of people with access to the data in question here, and some of them (DBAs for example) can probably access it without leaving a trace (since they are the ones coding the tracing mechanisms).

You can't have a universal passport system, or a universal drivers license, voter ID card, Social Security database or the ultimate health care system people seem to fantasize about without enormous potential for abuse and if anyone should realize this it should be the readers of /. (some of them anyway).

Re:Democracy advocates? (1)

DaleGlass (1068434) | more than 6 years ago | (#22833406)

Come again? Democracy works only if the population is informed and in control.

How can you have a working democracy if the population isn't free? Let's see what Wikipedia says about that:

Political freedom is the absence of interference with the sovereignty of an individual by the use of coercion or aggression. The members of a free society would have full dominion over their public and private lives. The opposite of a free society would be a totalitarian state, which highly restricts political freedom in order to regulate almost every aspect of behavior.

Note: I'm going with Wikipedia here intentionally because I expect it to be biased towards the American concepts in such matters.

So for example. Take away the freedoms of association, assembly, press, religion and speech. Quite totalitarian. What kind of democracy are you going to get in a state where citizens can't form associations or political parties, press is restricted to follow the government agenda, the religion is whatever the state says it is and nothing else, and if you say something unpopular you suddenly vanish?

Some things should be kept private. (1)

edwardpickman (965122) | more than 6 years ago | (#22832960)

Guess some one is going to be regretting that little trip to Mistress Mandy's Island of Pain now aren't they.

Outrageous and Unfair (5, Funny)

tomharvey (301998) | more than 6 years ago | (#22833002)

How dare they NOT snoop Ron Paul's passport records? He's still running for president, you know. http://ronpaul2008.com/ [ronpaul2008.com]

Snooping in Passports? Yet we want them to... (2, Informative)

SirStanley (95545) | more than 6 years ago | (#22833084)

So we're concerned about the relatively innocuous data that is found in passport files? Thank god they don't keep track of our health records! Oh wait... that may be coming next.

The Dangers of Prejudice (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22833110)

We should judge a person by their actions and not their words. The fact that Obama choose Mr. Wright as his spiritual teacher for 20 years and included Mr. Wright in his election staff speaks well for Mr. Obama's thinking and actions. Words are easy to manipulate and it is unlikely that Obama's recent speech was written by Mr. Obama anyway. Mr. Obama has a powerful and power hungry staff including his wife that will do anything to get him elected to power.

But clearly this man Mr. Obama is not to be trusted with the future of our great country. And regardless that he is 'fashionably black' and that many of you have some desire to prove to yourself or to others that you are not prejudice and that you like 'black people' with an attitude of 'See, I like black people, I'm voting for a black person,' such an attitude of voting for a person because of their race is the definition of prejudice.

If Mr. Obama had a lighter skin tone, there is no way he would be tolerated in as much he is aligned with a violent religious group, and never says anything substantial. He is partly running on 'a premise of guilt' that if you don't vote for him, it is because you don't like black people. A manipulative premise that is certain to have disastrous consequences for America and the world, for we should have as our country's leader someone with wisdom and knowledge, not someone hungry for power.

Special Treatment for Special People (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22833132)

When it happens to Commander Taco or Cowboy Neal, nobody even notices.

The Real Question... (1)

Nom du Keyboard (633989) | more than 6 years ago | (#22833152)

The real question to me is, what is actually in there that is so helpful, or harmful, to other people besides idle curiosity? Unless some candidate outright lied on their application, how useful really is this information in the first place?

Real ID iots. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22833156)

My current license is RealID-compliant, the old one was 10 years old, had a renewal sticker that had worn off the renewal date, and I only got a new one because a store return clerk refused it. DMV accepted it, though, and now my portrait resides in some computer database. Wonder if they run these things through a facial recognition thingy to find the bad guys.. Guess they didn't knock my door down, so I must be a good guy, or never posed for pictures during my misdeeds.

Much Ado About Nothing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22833158)

The passport file only contains basic biographical information name, address, country of origin, etc.

What these contractors looked at was hardly "sensitive".

Again the media and politicians blows this stuff out of proportion.

Minimum-wage clerks at any credit bureau have access to far more.

Re:Much Ado About Nothing (1)

skoaldipper (752281) | more than 6 years ago | (#22833332)

Well, just looking at my passport, one might also extrapolate from my itinerary that I was selling secrets to the whole eastern Chinese seabord. Or, at least a political enemy might attempt to do so. Or, might just brute force demagogue me into answering media charged questions at the bare minimum.

End Transmission. Over?

OK, so you don't care about privacy... (4, Insightful)

hyades1 (1149581) | more than 6 years ago | (#22833260)

The single most elementary premise upon which a free society is based is that the state has absolutely no right to interfere in any way whatsoever with a citizen who is going about his legal business. None. Any infringement on this standard is the beginning of the end, because it places the welfare of the state above the welfare of the people who are supposed to be its masters.

Yes, sometimes terrorists and common criminals will take advantage of this freedom to inflict damage. That's part of the price you pay. If you aren't willing to pay, or even have your children pay, then pack up and move to Communist China. You and your children will be safe there, as long as you keep your mouths shut.

I can go on for ages with reasons why people who are supposed to be your servants, like politicians, cops and bureaucrats, are always so anxious to persuade you that just a little tiny surrender will save the children and kittens and puppies. It won't, and they'll want more. And more. And more.

And never forget that this one of those cases where mutual accommodation is possible in only one direction. If I impose rigorous privacy laws, I can agree that you don't value privacy and leave you to whatever lifestyle pleases you. You aren't affected in any way, because you can still give as much information as you want to anybody you want to have it. On the other hand, when you impose your anti-privacy laws, there's no room for me to be left alone with my choice.

Re:OK, so you don't care about privacy... (1)

icebike (68054) | more than 6 years ago | (#22833408)

> the state has absolutely no right to interfere in any way whatsoever with a
> citizen who is going about his legal business.

What part of looking constitutes interference ?

They have to present this passport to government officials upon arrival in every country they visit.
Why should they expect privacy in this matter?

Your argument is more valid with regard to the requirement for passports in the first place, but seems wide of the mark for those expecting privacy once they have bought into the requirement to hold a passport.

Why the assumption of privacy ? (2, Insightful)

icebike (68054) | more than 6 years ago | (#22833386)

Why should anyone running for a public office (or holding one) have any assumption of privacy for a US passport?

I would think entry/exit data should be public information, as well as each country visited using that passport, which after all, was provided at public expense, backed by the tax payers, carries with it an expectation of the US government using its influence to secure the safe travel of these people who are de-facto targets of people who would harm the US.

I could make the same case for anyone, really, why should you expect your world travels to be a private matter? What could be more public than world travel?

At most these workers would seem to have violated an unauthorized use of computing resource rules. The fact that it was a political candidate LESSENS the infraction in my opinion.

The fact that they WERE ABLE TO access the information means heads should roll, but not their heads. Why aren't the IT folks being keel hauled instead of these drones? What kind of security does this agency have where the biggest impediment to access is a "thou shalt not"?

Or the exact opposite, domino-style. (1)

shyberfoptik (1177855) | more than 6 years ago | (#22833402)

This could give people more reason to want private information stored centrally.

We've got three candidates for Presidential candidates with, as far as opposing voters are concerned, questionable pasts. It's media-fueled. Barack may be a closet Muslim, Hillary has a role in Clinton administration conspiracy theory, and McCain could be fudging his military service ala Kerry and Bush. The more info, the better, right?

"Transparency" is a hot issue. People may welcome this, especially since it's not their information being mined. Why should Presidential candidates have anything to hide? I'd bet most people think they should be scrutinized more than regular citizens are. People will accept, then demand, that candidates should have less privacy than average folks.

Then they'll think that about anyone running for office. Then teachers and anyone working with children. Then doctors, power plant employees, stock brokers, garbage collectors, and finally all the way down to you and me.

Better to know who's living next door, right?

The real lesson here is... (5, Insightful)

tiqui (1024021) | more than 6 years ago | (#22833474)

I do not want some bloated, mis-managed, government agency to have all of my medical records, employment records, or business records. If anybody thinks some sub-contracted flunky at a keyboard will be happy snooping through the passport records of his fellow citizens after their medical records become available as part of some similarly unsecured, poorly engineered, unsupervised federal bureaucracy, you're kidding yourself. This stuff is rapidly spinning out of control and the only way to put the brakes on it is to head back toward what the country started with: a small, tightly focused federal government that keeps records on its citizens to the minimum degree practical.

This situation was bad enough when the idiots in government had our data. It gets worse now that government is outsourcing work to non-government people who will never be properly held to account; it opens the way for outside entities to gain access to the data by hiring people to do temporary data harvesting jobs, injecting those people into those outsourced government positions, then acting shocked and "firing" them when they get caught (with bonuses and options to be re-hired later by another division...) That may not be what happened here, but it will happen as the government gets more of our data and that data becomes more interesting/valuable to outsiders.

Your privacy, like your reputation, is not a physical thing; once you hand it over or damage it, you can never get it back.

I wonder... (0)

kir (583) | more than 6 years ago | (#22833778)

I wonder how many times Brittany Spears' or Heath Ledger's passport record was 'illegal' accessed?

Let's not take our eyes of the ball people. Don't forget the real problems here. Barack is a racist (quite possibly a Marxist). McCain simply has no balls (yes... much respect for Vietnam) and is directly tied into BAU. Hillary is a socialist (not bad if you like that sort of thing) and may be even more tied in to BAU than McCain.

We Americans are screwed.
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