Thursday, May 24, 2007

Too Much Information

There has been a revival of the 1980’s push to recreate the Australia Card. This would be a single identification card with some sort of biometric security such as a retina imprint or fingerprint which would combine the current:

Centrelink Benefits (social security) card
Medicare (health card)
DIMIA (Immigration)
Commonwealth Senior’s Health Card
Seniors Card
Tax File Number and information
Birth, Deaths and Marriages information
Contact details.

These agencies already speak to each other without us being aware. For example, when ClareBear was at university she qualified for a Student Allowance of $280 per fortnight. This is payable even when overseas but income must be reported on a monthly basis. Since she was gone for longer than a month, I was ‘boned’ up on how to report her income in her absence. I received a letter from Centrelink saying that because she was out of the country, she did not need to report her income. They knew she was overseas because DIMIA (Department of Immigration, Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs) had linked into their systems when they granted her exit visa.

I claim a Family Tax Benefit. An income based tax rebate for children under 20 who are studying full time. It’s means tested so only a small amount. However, again, Centrelink knows when my chidren have left university. Their systems are tied in with the Department of Education.

My point being that all this information exists, is known and collectible but just not all in one place.

Whilst having this information on a government registry is one thing . . . my reservation is what if this information was ‘easily’ available to private enterprise.

My insurance company for example, cannot access these records without my permission or authority. If they could access my medical records, might they reconsider my suitability for Trauma, Income Protection and or Life Insurance? I already have to declare if I have AIDS, a smoker, diabetic, epileptic or any of a number of conditions. What if they found out I carried some obscure gene that made me depressed . . . would I be a suicide risk and therefore not covered, or if I had suffered depression or had some genetic disorder . . . would they still insure me?

I’ve always been a proponent of “nothing to hide . . .nothing to fear”. Until I heard Brian mention that even a traffic offence could cause problems with gun licensing should you wish to become a sports shooter . . . I hadn’t thought of that. Imagine if employers had access to your ciminal record, offences minor or otherwise, which currently, thanks to very stringent Privacy Laws only have to be declared in very specific areas such as child care or the care of other vulnerable people.

When I register my car I can get the mechanic to award a pink roadworthy certificate and forward it electronically to the Roads and Traffic Authority. Then I can pay my compulsary third party online and that is forwarded electronically to the RTA, then all that information is ready when I go online to pay my registration (road tax). This means that the RTA has records from my mechanic about my car, it's age, condition etc. and contact details, plus details from my insurance company who have everything on me from past infringements and claims to all my personal details and credit card information.

I can order everything from health insurance, Mothers Day gifts to my favourite perfume, horse feed . . .you name it. . . via the internet. Straight away they have my contact details, credit card details (which is why I always use a card with a low limit so that if I'm fleeced, it won't hurt as much.) This happens now so why am I so concerned about privacy.

Then there are the direct debits that link into my bank account - insurance, charitable donations, electricity bill, etc. They know what I consume, when I consume it and how I pay for it.

So, food for thought. I’m vassilating between the pros and cons here. Is privacy protectable? Should I fear having everything about me bandied across the universe? I’m a good girl I am, so why should I be worried? I was arrested once for protesting at uni but no charges laid . . but what if they had been . . . would that have prevented me from getting one of the best jobs I ever had with the National Exchange of Police Information? You betcha. Criminal history checks were part of the employment criteria. Would they prevent me from owning a gun? Absolutely. Would it encourage me to be on some sort of ‘watch’ list? Maybe.

I dunno . . . the jury is out. I like the idea of having one card to present when I make a Medicare claim or visit Centrelink. I like the idea of one login and password for everything, or one PIN for all but . . .

Your thoughts?


TheBenchwarmer said...

It could be beneficial to everybody, except you forget one thing... Some stupid chinese hackers will fuck the whole thing up for everybody. And before you know it, your medical record will be filled with spam.

Baino said...

Much like my head I fear . . . nothing new there