Many articles have come out detailing multiple increasing formulations of and purposes for the growing surveillance state. We've seen stances from
"don't you want x technology to protect you from Y occurrence" or "if you haven't done anything wrong, you don't have anything to worry about" on the
supportive end of this debate. I'd like to provide a point of view to counter these arguments that is legitimately concerning and has happened to
I have a fairly common name. My first name and last name could both be either first or last names, so it's interchangeable. I know there are many
people in my boots regarding this, like a certain Anderson James or a Grant William.
From government documents to my old blockbuster card, I've had the misfortune of having my name completely reversed various times in my life. Most
recently my medical records had become completely entwined with a man twice my age with the reverse of my name...so, if my name were Douglas James,
his name would be James Douglas. I could see what had happened but it was a total confusing issue for the people behind the counter. I tried to direct
them with hints (because they didn't seem to want me to tell them what to do directly), but it took forever. I wanted to shout at them to just take
James Douglas' scripts and insurance info out of my file. Problem solved. You'd think it was a logic question on the LSAT.
Moving on...Earlier last year I received a notice from toll-by-plate. They were going to send me to collections over unpaid tolls. After realizing
that Florida's wonderfully privatized transportation services, where the private Tag place couldn't bother notifying the computer system that the
private toll company uses that my address had changed on my new license. So, I got sent to collections for some of the tolls I had accrued. What's
worse, it wasn't completely legitimate. Turned out the computer misread my license plate. Rather, it read the license plate of a pick up truck for my
honda (they send you the photos in the mail with the bill).
I had to call them and work my way through a mire of bureaucracy (the aspect of government offices that remains after privatization) to get a nasty
person who treated me with sarcasm and incredulity until I could force him to verify my complaint and remove it.
So, other than ranting, this is to give two concrete instances where the new apparatus of surveillance and file keeping that we are undertaking at the
societal level is far from infallible. Imagine I had my name mixed up with someone a bounty hunter was after. Imagine that pickup had been involved in
an armed robbery?
We all know how long it takes to correct things when there aren't serious repercussions, what about a heinous crime? If I got taken in, I would be
pleading that they had the wrong guy (to a typical response of "yeah, yeah, that's what they all say..."). How long will it take for me to be
vindicated and released? How much anguish will I have to suffer...will torture be allowed then? Will I be beaten until I confess to a crime I didn't
commit...and throw the profit-motive of private prisons in the mix and evaluate the potential, and multiply that by those in my circumstances.
I firmly believe that this will become more common as everything becomes more and more surveilled, stored, centralized, and privatized. Not to me per
se, to any number of Joe Schmoes out there who happen to have a unique name situation, a number misread, a file mishandling, a computer or human
To move the discussion, would anybody like to add their similar experiences? Or local stories that deal with such "wrong guy" scenarios?
on 14-4-2013 by Sphota because: (no reason given)