Monday, April 9, 2012

By-product of the sex offender registry

In this story, CBC reports that a Brockville man has had to “spend a lot of time and money” to clear his name because he has the same birth date as someone on Canada’s pardoned sex offender registry.

There are approximately 15,000 names on that registry. Assuming an even distribution of birth dates among a population of predominantly 20- to 60-year-old males, that means that anyone born between 1952 and 1992 is very likely to get a “hit” on the registry. This could result in millions of false positives that will then have to be disproved at (if the story is correct) a cost in time and expense to the individual trying to get a security clearance. It’s the classic “guilty until proven innocent” model favoured by the law‘n order crowd, with the onus on the individual to prove himself innocent.

Because of these false positives the police doing the checking are now requiring fingerprints to verify identity. This in turn raises some fundamental privacy questions: What happens to the applicant’s fingerprints after identity is confirmed? Are they deleted? Are they entered into a national database? Who decides?

As this policy could affect such large numbers of Canadians, it’s worth asking and demanding answers to those questions. Unfortunately the reporter was satisfied with a couple of fluffy police quotes and didn’t deem it worthwhile to dig even a little deeper into the story to provide readers with those answers.

No comments: