Saturday, November 06, 2004

Registering vulnerable populations may compound their daily risks

The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development is promoting the use of shared local databases to assist in providing adequate services to local homeless populations. While collecting information on needs such as this can have a compelling rationale, Wired News (Activists Slam Homeless Tracking) is reporting that activists are lobbying against the effort because of fears for the safety of battered women fleeing abusive spouses. The databases contain name, address (if any), social security numbers and information on disabilities. The fear is that databases, regardless of the security, are vulnerable to abuse and could assist in tracking down fleeing spouses.

The media is full of reports of accidental disclosures, either through hacking, social engineering and simple misuse by "authorized" users. Any program that compiles information about vulnerable populations must balance the need for the information against the risk to individuals should the data be disclosed. Mandatory registration such as this can also have the effect of deterring these vulnerable populations from seeking the assistance they desperately need.

See the full article at: Wired News: Activists Slam Homeless Tracking.

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