Dennis Bailey, author of the Open Society Paradox, has an op-ed piece in today's Washington Times (Rethinking personal data woes - The Washington Times: Commentary - March 06, 2005). In this essay and a complimentary blog posting (quoted and cited below), he argues forcefully that the answer to recent privacy scandals is not privacy laws but a system that would provide clear identification of individuals:
The Open Society Paradox: Time for A Paradigm Shift in Personal Data:
"... For a second, let's imagine what would happen in a world with 100% perfect identification. First ChoicePoint wouldn't be scammed through social engineering techniques into giving over personal data because they would instantly realize the false identies of the individuals posing as real businesses. Secondly, if these individuals obtained personal data through another route, such as hacking ChoicePoint's databases, they wouldn't be able to use it fraudently to obtain credit or to commit crimes in another person's name because institutions on the receiving end, be it a bank or a police officer would know their true identity..."
Privacy activitsts are not keen on this idea, fearing that it would lead to the end of the right to be anonymous in many of our daily interactions. Both sides have good points to make and I hope to see an informed debate develop on this idea.