In the movie “Minority Report” people could be arrested before they commit a crime by the “Precrime Unit”. The US hasn’t reached that point yet but the government is working to acquire two new powerful profiling tools to increase it’s surveillance of US citizens: biosurveillance and student databases; along with the FBI facial recognition database to support all tracking programs.
Let’s start with what they already know. Thanks to the IRS they have a complete financial picture of you (unless you’re involved in illegal activities), and they will now know you have health insurance. They have your military records and criminal records if you have any. They can track your purchases with credit cards, cell phone activity, internet activity, foreign travel, and driving with toll transponders. Since the US Post Office photographs all mail they could watch where your mail comes from and goes to. They also know when you die. That’s a pretty complete picture of your adult life, but for complete profiling some dots are missing. Here are the two big dots.
The first is biosurveillance, a plan outlined in a 2012 White House Memorandum (which has the same authority as an Executive Order with less publicity). The concept is to give the government access to all medical records (which conveniently must be digitized by 2015) in order to track “health threats”, i.e., disease outbreaks and large scale accidental or deliberate releases of toxins, to a greater extent than is now tracked by the CDC. While it sounds reasonable, the problems are that the access is unlimited (and therefore subject to abuse) and a “health threat” is whatever the government defines it to be. Every diagnosis, lab test, and prescription would be available to non-medical people. With the administration wanting gun ownership to be in medical records, those records would be a form of registry. Your complete health picture would become part of your profile thanks to biosurveillance. Oh, he got a pain killer prescription so put him on a list of suspected drug dealers, she got referred for counseling so send a sheriff to make sure she doesn’t have a gun, etc. Where does it end?
The second is the national student database (actually interoperable state databases) of identifiable student information which is seen as an adjunct to Common Core, that will extend individual tracking to a younger age. There is no educational need for individual student identification including health issues, disciplinary actions, family income, religious affiliation, etc., to statistically evaluate learning trends; this is about cradle-to-grave tracking of citizens and possibly data mining for commercial purposes. Your kid gets suspended in 3rd grade and it’s part of a lifetime record. Add to that a couple of high school detentions and your kid might be labeled a “potential troublemaker” for life.
The FBI facial recognition database will support all surveillance programs. As long as it only contains photos of criminals it is within legitimate law enforcement bounds, but once it adds photos of innocent civilians, as planned, it becomes another tool of “Big Brother”.
The solutions are obvious. Restrict biosurveillance access to communicable diseases and toxin releases, not anything some bureaucrat decrees. Also prohibit information obtained through biosurveillance from being used for legal prosecution (to prevent “fishing”) except in cases of terrorism involving WMDs. Outlaw identifiable student information in any state or nationwide education databases. Finally, restrict the FBI database to photos of convicted criminals. This would allow the intended purposes of the programs to continue while protecting individual privacy.
It’s unbelievable that a government that is so concerned with tracking US citizens is so unconcerned about the health or criminal backgrounds of millions of illegal immigrants.
Update: The FBI facial recognition database now contains over 400 million images. These aren’t just criminals or suspects, they’re anyone with a passport and, in some states, a driver’s license.