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Re: EU Data Protection

At 7:13 PM 8/11/95, Derek Bell wrote:

>        I think you miss an important point; your opinion is subjective, but
>data can relate to objective facts (e.g. credit records). Would you take the
>same stance if a credit bureau claimed that you couldn't pay back half the
>loans you took out?

Any entity which purports to hold or provide "true" information but which
hold flaky or incorrect information will suffer.

This is true of credit agencies, advice columns, restaurant reviews, movie
ratings, book reviewers, doctor rating agencies, and so on.

I won't get into all of the aspects of reputations, but this is what we're
talking about. And I'll concede that not all of these examples are equally
important, or use the same objective quality of data. A credit rating
agency is no doubt more important than a movie review agency--though
arguably the damaging effects of Siskel and Ebert trashing "Waterworld" can
be many orders of magnitude more than TRW Credit having an incorrect bad
debt recorded.

The point is that we do not have government to maintain the accuracy of
movie reviews, of lawyer ratings, and so forth.

Even if one accepts the "Fair Credit Reporting Act" (a U.S. law which I
think is unconstitutional, as it tells me I cannot report certain kinds of
facts), the European-style data privacy laws are a further step in a wrong

Think about it: the name "data privacy" sounds good, at first blush, but
what it really means is that my records are not private, that my records
are inspectable by government agents to see if I have stored any illegal
facts or correlations.

>        What worries me about the *lack* of some form of data protection
>legislation is that is allows someone to build up a database of information
>which is a mishmash of truth, misunderstandings and lies. How would you feel if
>"Concerned Citizens against Cryptography" compiled a list of all members
>of this list, branding them as `dangerous, possibily criminal subversives'?

Things like this happen all the time. This is just an opinion they happen
to have. Would you make it a crime for "Concerned Citizens against
Cryptography" to do a "who cypherpunks" of this list and to think we are
"dangerous, possibly criminal subversives"?

In the U.S. such judgements are made all the time. Doesn't make the
judgements right, but rightness is not the basis of the freedom to hold and
express these beliefs.

>What if that opinion was spread to other databases? How about the police
>investigating you because of this kind of database?

"Spreading" the opinion to other databases is no big deal.

The police investigating is a separate issue. Many of us think the police
should be very careful about investigating for beliefs and opinions, but,
in fact, it happens all the time. (It's happened to me, for example.)

--Tim May

Timothy C. May            | Crypto Anarchy: encryption, digital money,
[email protected] (Got net?)  | anonymous networks, digital pseudonyms, zero
408-728-0152              | knowledge, reputations, information markets,
Corralitos, CA            | black markets, collapse of governments.
Higher Power: 2^756839    | Public Key: PGP and MailSafe available.
"National borders are just speed bumps on the information superhighway."