Other Campuses: Of data and men – OSU Daily Barometer Editorial

By OSU Daily Barometer

(U-WIRE) CORVALLIS, Ore. – Big Brother is coming our way one database at a time.

The Pentagon’s new 30 million-name recruiting database has been raising concerns in the mind of privacy activists.

The collecting and sharing of personal information is not new in America. It is common practice for companies such as Safeway, Sears, or Wal-Mart.

What is the difference with the newly created Pentagon database? A private company’s sole purpose is to sell you products. The result of showing up in their databases is generally limited to a huge amount of junk mail and some annoying phone calls. The federal government, on the other hand, has the power to throw you in jail or something far worse than inundating consumers with annoying phone calls during dinner.

The simple fact that the government can cause harm to a citizen, either directly or indirectly, through a listing on a database is why any statistical listing created by the government should be scrutinized much more than any commercial one.

Another issue at hand is the potential for mischief. Within the last six months, databases from two large financial institutions were broken into by hackers. Those 30 million names will be a lucrative catch for any hacker with a desire for some hardcore cash. This government database is a virtual gold mine for those with the ability to access it.

The federal government is not stopping at collection of recruiting data. The feds have recently been pushing to gain easier access to e-mail communications at public universities across the country.

Their goal is to be able to access e-mails from remote locations. Universities are balking at these new requirements, not so much due to the civil liberties implications but because of the price tag attached.

The New York Times noted the program could result in a $450 increase in annual tuition. In other words, we the students could end up paying for the federal government to invade our privacy and trample our civil rights.

Why don’t we let them plan our course curricula while they’re at it? Or maybe they should just start installing video cameras in our residence halls. Wait a second …

Staff Editorial

OSU Daily Barometer (Oregon State U.)