I'm Just Sayin' - Did George Orwell recently visit the White House?
If you've been paying attention, you have read or seen the news reports of escalating invasions of personal privacy by government agencies. Some examples would be secret domestic surveillance by the NSA and IRS officials using private information for political purposes. With the advancement of communications and surveillance technologies, the ease of invading our privacy and keeping it a secret from the public has grown exponentially. Well, the "mother lode" of all data collection is about to be heaped upon us as part of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), and it is going to get much worse than anything we have seen or witnessed to date.
As part of Obamacare, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is mandated to establish what is called the Federal Data Services Hub. The purpose of the hub, according to the Government Accountability Office (GAO), is to provide "electronic and near real-time access to federal data and access to state and third-party data sources needed to verify consumer eligibility information." That's a "government speak" way of saying the federal government wants to verify if you have health insurance, who you have it from, what you are paying for it, and how you are using it. This is a big deal and the unintended consequences could be very bad.
This data base, managed by the federal government, will include comprehensive personal information such as income and financial data, family size, citizenship and immigration status, incarceration status, social security numbers, and private health information. The data will come from dossiers developed by the IRS, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Defense, the Veterans Administration, the Office of Personnel Management, the Social Security Administration, state Medicaid databases, and for some unknown reason, the Peace Corps.
The Data Hub will provide a web-based, one-stop shop for prying into people's personal affairs. But, not to fear, the HHS says the Data Hub will be completely secure. That statement alone should make you either shudder with fear or laugh out loud. Does the federal government think we are that stupid? In the era of Wikileaks and Edward Snowden (NSA data leaker), can anything be safe from those who want to steal or gain information and use it for perverse purposes?
An argument can be made for having a central place for important data that can be shared between agencies and service providers. It would streamline the access to that information instead of having layers of bureaucracies complicating the sharing of information. Developing and managing such a system is something Microsoft or Apple could do well, but not the federal government.
Look at the train wreck of implementation that is happening with Obamacare to date. Many organizations now want out of it, even the large unions that supported it. To think that HHS can develop and manage it is beyond comprehension. An example is what the HHS is trying to set up with something called "The Navigators."
HHS wants to hire thousands of people as navigators to counsel and give advice to people on what to do about Obamacare. Well, let's hope they read the bill, which is something Congress did not do before passing it. These navigators will be trained by HHS (that's a problem) and have access to the Federal Data Hub. Who is going to manage the navigators and keep the data secure?
Your personal information and data security will potentially be in the hands of those who can't be trusted, and you will have no control over it. George Orwell's predictions, in his book 1984, are alive and well in Washington, D.C. I'm just sayin'.
"The most terrifying words in the English language are: I'm from the government and I'm here to help." - Ronald Reagan
DuWayne Paul of Alexandria is a regular contributing columnist for the Echo Press.