Snooping at the passport records of Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and John McCain by the government a private company contracted by the government is a big deal, but it's the kind of thing that some politicians are pushing to make easier and more widespread. How? With "Real ID" -- the national ID card program that, once upon a time, was the kind of thing that Republicans and Democrats opposed, but now is the greatest new Big Brother kool-ade flavor favored by Republican politicians and neoconservative "thinkers."
From Ars Technica, we get the quote of the week:
As I've reported previously, the major problem with Real ID is that local DMV and law enforcement officials will have access to an unprecedented amount of sensitive information on anyone with a Real ID—scanned copies of any documents used to establish identity, like birth certificates, bank statements, pay stubs, property tax bills, and so on, not to mention driving histories from other states. Now imagine all of that data in the hands of a crooked sheriff who's fighting off a reformist challenger in a hotly contested election. Do you really want to live in that world?
And maybe we should add to the scenario Jon Stokes paints: private companies contracted by governments. After all, the passport breaches were not done by government employees, they were perpetrated by private individuals working for a private corporation.
In this day and age where our government "outsources" (read: privatizes) so much of its own business, from school lunches to prisons to heavily armed mercenaries in Iraq, where is the line drawn on privacy in a Real ID world?
Time was that this was a country of people free to live their own lives. Now we have a government that seems bent on controlling and tracking us in all we do, as though we were guilty until proven innocent.
The tipping point for this political agenda was 9/11, when foreign nationals already on CIA watch lists managed to sneak in and skyjack their way into murderous infamy. The Bush Administration, with general Republican enthusiasm, reacted by pushing for radical new powers to spy not on foreign threats, but on Americans -- none of whom had anything to do with 9/11.
The telescreen received and transmitted simultaneously. Any sound that Winston made, above the level of a very low whisper, would be picked up by it, moreover, so long as he remained within the field of vision which the metal plaque commanded, he could be seen as well as heard. There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment. How often, or on what system, the Thought Police plugged in on any individual wire was guesswork. It was even conceivable that they watched everybody all the time. But at any rate they could plug in your wire whenever they wanted to. You had to live -- did live, from habit that became instinct -- in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and, except in darkness, every movement scrutinized.
-1984, by George Orwell (Chapter 1)