Saturday, January 29, 2005

Big Brother and Blue States

Scientific American's December issue had an interesting article on the various levels of personal information protection US states provide to their citizens. Oklahoma's protections are rated as "intermediate" while every state that surrounds us (except New Mexico and Colorado) is rated as having "low" protection of personal information.

The author, Rodger Doyle, points out that the federal government has been lax in moving to protect citizens from private data theft and exploitation. Federal laws do not shield medical and library records and give only partial protection to financial records.

California has been most active in enacting laws to protect its citizens privacy as well as courts that are vigilant in enforcement. Wyoming is singled out as the worst at protecting its citizens.

Oklahoma used to place everyone's Social Security number right on our drivers licenses but now we have the option of a randomly-generated drivers license number (which I opted for).

In looking at the ratings map in the Scientific American article I couldn't help but notice a rough correlation between red states and low privacy protection and blue states and high privacy protection. Has a historic flip-flop taken place? The John Wayne Republicans used to focus on individual rights but this seems to have become a Democratic issue in recent years.

I'm just speculating here, but I wonder if the Republican states aren't too friendly with corporate interests that want to utilize private data for business purposes. There's also the Patriot Act mentality that sacrifices individual liberty for collective security. Could this be it?

For more information see: Privacy Journal

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