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    Victoria Times Colonist (Canada): Giant database a risk to privacy

    The Victoria Times Colonist reports on a controversy about a proposed government database in British Colombia.

    The provincial government has announced plans for a computer system that will give its employees unprecedented access to our personal information. The system will combine everything the government knows about us from a wide range of interactions.

    Called file-linking, the project will bring together data from income assistance, employment services, child welfare, family development, child mental health and youth justice. More than 50 databases will be linked.

    In later phases, personal files held by the ministries of health, education and the attorney general will be added. The project is expected to cost $180 million, and take six years to complete.

    Not surprisingly, privacy experts are alarmed. Some of the information to be centralized, like names and addresses and family income or health status, is confidential. […]

    The dangers are obvious. At a minimum, combining huge caches of personal information in one location invites theft. Only a few months ago, police found hundreds of client records on a government employee’s home computer. The man had a prior history of fraud.

    In that instance, the impact was limited by the fact he only had access to one registry — income assistance data. Imagine the damage if an identity thief stole the cradle-to-grave personal file of everyone in B.C.

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