Data Collection Explosion

Today in the U.S. the overwhelming trend is to collect all data on all people. What does this mean exactly? With the increase in computer processing speeds and storage capacities and with the decrease in hardware costs, there are no practical limitations to data collection. As a result, government and businesses are collecting more and more information on individuals resulting in a "collect it if you can" mentality. In addition, with computer networking and the Internet, this information can be shared, sold, integrated and searched with great ease and speed.

A striking example of the increase in data collection is found in the development of the U.S. government-issued birth certificate. In 1925 14 bits of data were collected on a newborn before leaving the hospital, but in 1999 the total is 226.

The change from 1925 to 1999 is important not only because of this quantitative increase, but because of the qualitative difference. In 1925 a birth certificate was a piece of paper that was filed and archived. If you wanted access to that certificate you would physically go to a specific place, talk to a specific person and only then perhaps get access to a piece of paper. In 1999 the certificate is in digital format and you can access it over the phone or the Internet. You can receive the information in database format that is easily parsed, filtered and merged with other data.

And what you see is not all that you get. A birth certificate may appear to have exactly 226 bits of information, but a specialist is able to read more. With so much data, a trained person can read between the lines and make deductions (like if the mother has had an abortion before) that are not immediately apparent to the average person.

Related Matter


U.S. Trends:
Data Collection Explosion
Data Warehouses
Government-Business Connection
Operation Shamrock
Data Accuracy
Fair Information Practices
The MATRIX (Formerly TIA)
Secure Flight (Formerly CAPPS II)
Infragard, TIPS and Cat Eyes
The USA Patriot Act

Canada and Outside the U.S.