The database at the end of the universe?

Doc’s talking about the “Particulars of Bill”, a plan for the USA to build a super-database, the mother of all databases to store everything that you ever do and any data that exists about you. The full story is in a piece in the New York Times. You’ll need to be registered to read this – I have an account and I don’t remember paying for it so I guess it’s free. Doc quotes this bit:

“If the Homeland Security Act is not amended before passage, here is what will happen to you … Every purchase you make with a credit card, every magazine subscription you buy and medical prescription you fill, every Web site you visit and e-mail you send or receive, every academic grade you receive, every bank deposit you make, every trip you book and every event you attend — all these transactions and communications will go into what the Defense Department describes as “a virtual, centralized grand database.” To this computerized dossier on your private life from commercial sources, add every piece of information that government has about you — passport application, driver’s license and bridge toll records, judicial and divorce records, complaints from nosy neighbors to the F.B.I., your lifetime paper trail plus the latest hidden camera surveillance — and you have the supersnoop’s dream: a “Total Information Awareness” about every U.S. citizen. ”

I don’t think so. Look back to my piece from “Yes Minister” a few weeks ago – they were talking in 1980 about this kind of database and, more than 20 years on, we’re not there yet. Government is not Walmart – it can’t manage the legislation, the technology, the implementation or the operation of anything like this. Not 20 years ago, not today and (I’m confident) not 20 years from now. The procurement wil chew up the next 5 years during which time the requirement will have moved 500 times, the specification required ultimately will be far from what was procured, the vendor who wins will then start to plot the delta, the administration will change, the climate will change (the political one, although possibly the meterological one too by the time this is done – bring on the glaciers, because that’s as fast as a project like this will move). And, net, nothing will be there. And if, by some miracle, it gets built then it won’t work!

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