Apr. 15th, 2007

lurkitty: (Default)
I'm beginning to think the American public has reached the point of "scandal fatigue".

The fact that the White House has "lost" up to 5 million emails does not seem to disturb people (as Sen. Patrick Leahy pointed out - it is extremely difficult to completely lose an email). This White House has often been called extremely secretive in its dealings with the press, public and lately, the Congress. Both sides of the political divide are having a hard time swallowing the notion that "losing" 5 million emails was all an "honest mistake" and that no one deliberately used the system to discuss sensitive subjects knowing the emails would not be archived.

The general public seems to be taking this all in stride. This is behavior they have come to expect from the Bush White House, and those that trust the president continue to trust him, while those that don't simply shake their heads at another revelation. We certainly hope that, through it all, the Senate Judiciary Committee is taking note and building a case for impeaching not only Bush, but Cheney as well.

While the White House guards its own information like a rapid dog, information belonging to the public is not afforded the same courtesy. Not does the government spy on own citizens with alacrity, but now, we find a major database of very private information about the nation's students has been left open to mining by the student loan industry.

I thought it was very strange when I received a number of official looking mailings from lenders offering to consolidate my student loans. The problem is that I only have one student loan, a remnant of going back to school many years ago. It did cross my mind to wonder how they got information specific information like the amount of my loan. But the letters were sporadic and eventually stopped coming. Now I know, and I'm not happy about it.

The database was created in 1993 to make it easier for students to determine if they qualify for a student loan. The data-mining problem was first noted by the Department of Education in 2003. I received no notice that my data was being used in this manner; they knew there was a problem, but did not see fit to notify the people whose data had been compromised. In 2005, the department sent warning letters to database users in which the concern was raised that lenders were giving database access to unauthorized users such as marketing firms, collection agencies and loan brokers. Yet still, no notification to the students whose data may have been compromised.

The ugly specter of department complicity was raised earlier this month when it was discovered that an official of the Education Department that oversees both the industry and the database owned more than $100,000 of stock in a student loan company.

Flagrant violations of the public's privacy coupled with a nearly fanatical insistence on
its own privacy makes Alberto Gonzales editorial in today's Washington Post seem more than a bit disingenuous.

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