Friday, November 05, 2004

The unquenchable thirst for information

The squaliformes are among the most data-thirsty of lifeforms. They have actuaries, statisticians, academicians and computer system experts working hard to let executives make decisions that will maximize profits. They also have public relations professionals diligently working on ensuring there will be no limits to what they are able to collect and use about their victims.

The farcical "protections" now in place are nothing more than window dressing for the benefit of the small minority of organizations representing the views of people who understand the peril they are about to be put into. As the information brokers continue to assemble their networks of data sources and implement database systems without actual oversight or effective controls, the data is being gathered and stored for future use when the industry can leverage Congress into letting them openly use it.

Using credit scoring for auto insurance purposes was the first real test of their power, and while a few states have stepped in and taken the only rational step (banning the use of it) the influencers have managed to get some states to either study it before simply letting them do it or they were powerful enough to just bull their way through and do it. A few took some tentative steps to regulate it somewhat but without an outright ban there is no effective restriction because no one is really watching them while they're doing it.

What most people don't realize, but more will as we age and come into contact with the healthcare delivery system in this country, medical records are an almost un-tapped ocean of personal information from which the squaliformes can make judgements about you.

Demographic profiling of medical records will allow them to analyze new risk factors and develop scores based on things like lifestyle choices, illnesses, even dietary patterns. And the data is already being collected and analyzed for the life and medical insurance squaliformes by MIB (formerly known as the Medical Information Bureau).

So if you go to your doctor and get treated for say, alcoholism, don't you think your auto insurer would be interested in that? You bet your a** they are. And with health insurance reform coming down the pike in Washington this next session, don't be surprised if you wake up one morning and find out they've already started sharing MIB reporting data on you for things other than medical insurance claims fraud detection.

The squaliformes are ready to trade almost anything to get around the limits on actually using the information they already have and continue to collect. It's too late to stop the collection (your medical records are routinely sent to MIB), so now it all comes down to trying to keep them from using it for something other than the purposes they say they use it for.

Believe me, I know a bit about horse trading, and it's gonna be fast and furious!

The Honorable Judge Roy Bean.

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