Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Just a small diversion - right!

[Note from the clerk: What was supposed to be a short-lived project to assist someone turned into a marathon event of unexpected proportions, such that this Court has been passing off cases left and right. No longer.]

Things have only deteriorated as the Squaliformes advance their agenda in Washington, and evidence of their ever-growing power means those of us who seek to expose them for what they are are just going to have to find more hours in the day.

So, in recognition of his abject disregard for the privacy of average people, Derek Smith, the CEO of ChoicePoint is this month's poster-child for slime as he swore before a House committee that there was some "soul searching" going on at the company.

Mr. Smith, don't bother searching. You're not going to find one in the company you operate to secretly gather information about everyone and sell it for specious purposes.

The myth Mr. Smith and his PR flacks have spent months concocting (that the company was somehow scammed by crooks who posed as "legitimate" businesses) doesn't hold water in this court.

ChoicePoint is the tip of the supposedly newly discovered iceberg of congressionally-protected corporate invasion of personal privacy. If they can come up with a customer to buy it, they will find a way to get it (legitimate or otherwise), package it with other information, sell it and then find more of the same kinds of customer to repeat the process.

Then they'll point to their customers as the problem and hide the real issue - their insatiable thirst for more knowledge about everyone.


And of course, no one will be prosecuted. A lot of hand-wringing on the part of their pals in Washington will provide political protection for the sleeping watchdogs in Congress, namely the committee chairs who have been more than happy to keep taking the Squaliformes money while exposing citizens to these risks and ignoring the calls for legitimate limitations.

And let's not forget the PR opportunities for people like the AG of Texas, who jumped on the fast-moving bandwagon and said:

"Recent events in California, New York and elsewhere involving ChoicePoint, DSW Shoe Warehouse, LexisNexis and other companies that store sensitive data show an alarming breakdown of security that has compromised consumers' sensitive personal information," said Attorney General Abbott. "Names, Social Security numbers, driver's license numbers and financial information of hundreds of thousands of consumers, many in Texas, may have been compromised or even unleashed to identity thieves. This trend must be halted now and the perpetrators brought to justice."

And where was Mr. Abbott when consumer groups were warning of the dangers of unlimited personal information mining? Nowhere to be found.

And why are these sleepy supposed consumer watchdogs still refusing to see that the problem isn't in the protection of the data being held, but in the whole concept of collecting it without the permission of the consumers?

Protection of data is meaningless, hopeless and merely window-dressing. It's like treating gunshot wounds without realizing the guy with the gun needs to be put away after his first killing.

Don't count on firm and effective prosecution and punishment; the corporate death-penalty isn't available for malfeasance as long as big business is in charge in Washington. And the miniscule fines (if any) aren't going to impact anyone's decision-making.

As far as this court is concerned, Derek Smith should be behind bars and ChoicePoint and other similar business spies should be put out of business.

Wish they were here on this side of the Pecos. We'd have a grand ol' time. Now, where's that cattle prod? Somebody's been moving things while I've been gone!

The Honorable Judge Roy Bean.

No comments: