F.R. Duplantier reporting Behind The Headlines
Week of:
January 23, 2000
We'd Like to Have Some Privacy, Please!

F.R. Duplantier

by: F.R. Duplantier

"Government databases are storing all kinds of personal information about every American."

A large public outcry may have persuaded the FDIC to postpone implementation of a program requiring banks to compile computer profiles of customer activity and report any allegedly "inconsistent" transaction. Adverse public reaction may also have delayed introduction of the "unique health care identifiers" authorized by the Kennedy-Kassebaum Act and scuttled a scheme in the 1996 Immigration Act to turn state driver's licenses into national I.D. cards. But these impertinent proposals can be resurrected at any time, and governmental efforts to pry into our personal lives continue on several fronts.

"The Federal Communications Commission has mandated that all wireless providers be able, by 2001, to pinpoint the location of wireless phone calls," reports Phyllis Schlafly of Eagle Forum. "Cell phones," Schlafly warns, "are going to be homing devices for the government to track our whereabouts." Inquiring minds at the FAA, she adds, have "proposed a regulation that would effectively give the government unlimited access to everyone's personal travel records."

The 1996 Welfare Reform Act, requiring all employers to report the name, address, and Social Security number of every new hire or promotion, has created "a massive database tracking nearly every worker in America," says Schlafly. "In 1999 Congress authorized the linkage of this database with the Department of Education. Meanwhile," she observes, "public schools are requiring children to fill out nosy questionnaires revealing all sorts of non-academic information about attitudes, behavior, health, and family privacy, which is then entered on databases."

The 1993 Comprehensive Childhood Immunization Act, Schlafly continues, "gave the Department of Health and Human Services $400 million to induce states to create databases of all children's vaccinations." She warns that a Centers for Disease Control plan to link these state databases could lead to the denial of school admission or medical care to "any child who has not had all government-mandated shots." The so-called "home visitors" evaluating the living arrangements of first-time parents under the Healthy Families America program will help compile "a nationwide computerized tracking system that can eventually be combined with preschool and public school tracking systems."

Schlafly charges that the Department of Health and Human Services is also "recruiting senior citizens to spy on their own physicians by offering a reward of up to $1,000 if they call the toll-free 'Fraud Hotline' and file a report that leads to a monetary 'recovery' from their doctor." She foresees an inquisition for the medical profession "when 39 million seniors start trying to collect a bonus if the doctor's office enters the wrong code number on a Medicare form."

Schlafly rejects governmental claims that ever-escalating levels of surveillance are "for the purpose of locating terrorists, money launderers, drug kingpins, Medicare and welfare cheats, student loan delinquents, and deadbeat dads." She argues that "only totalitarian regimes monitor the private actions of law-abiding citizens" and recommends prohibiting the federal government from compiling databases of personal information on American citizens.

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