Rambam: Privacy could kill democracy
Forget privacy, open access to information is power, and the government doesn't want you to have it, says Steve Rambam, president of the Pallorium investigative agency and PallTech, an investigative database service that has some a 25 billion records individuals and businesses.
"Two hundred years ago the second amendment was passed because you needed a gun to protect yourself. Now you need information to keep things balanced," Rambam says. He believes that the government is now trying to tip that balance of power in its favor. And privacy is the perfect pretext for regaining control over public information byclosing down access to it.
While you might worry about how much personal information about you is available online, Rambam says that overall, open access to information is a good thing. The more nefarious trend, he says, is how the government is progressively closing its doors to openness and transparency of its data - a turn of events that's also bad for his business.
"The scary thing to me is not that information is open but that the government is trying to use every pretext and every trick to hide information from its citizens," he says.
He points to two developments as evidence: The reclassification of data that's been in the public domain for decades and the use of private contractors to spy on American citizens so that information gathered from polygraphs and background investigations isn't accessible to Americans under the Freedom of Information Act.
"In the way that there are military contractors in Iraq there are now investigative contractors inside the United States. This is a fairly sinister development," he says.
Data aggregators and brokers are responding accordingly. "It is a certainty that any public record is also now in public and private databases because everyone, including my company, is fearful that all of these various government [entitities] that don't want themselves open to scrutiny are ultimately going to close all of the records."
For more of Rambam's views, see the Computerworld Q&A.