Data for those who have the power to request it

Andy Oram andyo at
Sat Jan 13 08:06:01 PST 2007

Because the subtleties of privacy legislation are a popular
topic on your IP list, readers might be interested in a
paragraph buried in today's AP report on the bombing of the
US embassy in Athens (I found it in my local paper):

The paragraph with the privacy implications reads:

   The government said it was seeking permission from the
   courts to view video from traffic cameras, which under
   Greek privacy laws is officially excluded from the police

Although I'd like to see the bombers caught, I'm leary of
the tendency to stretch information systems beyond their
intended uses. There's also an important imbalance of power
involved. If the police and US embassy get their way, it
will show that powerful forces can bend privacy laws--but
other people can't. If I come to my parked car and find a
dent in it, will I pursuade the courts to let me look at
traffic photos?

And even if information is open to all (if anyone could go
on the Web and view footage from traffic cameras) this would
benefit governments and large companies over
individuals--whoever has the power to act on information.

I've written about this before:

in the section "Technology Is Not the Problem--Power Is."


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