Some time ago I wrote about the dangers of developments like child dossiers used by governments. One of the major risks is that people that will use this information use it without knowledge of the context when the information was stored. Information without context is hard to interpret leaves a lot of room for personal biases.
The Rathenau project I am doing deals with how the information anyone can find on the Internet will more and more become the context from which much of the official information in databases like Electronic Patient Files, Child Dossier, Civil Administration and others will be interpreted. This I showed also in the case on the social services. And many will recognize how they are using information found on the Internet as the context of the CV of a job applicant.
In relation to the social services we can debate whether this is a bad thing. After all the government also used special “kliklijnen” where people can complain anonymous about the black market activities of their neighbour on welfare. Not to say I approve of this method but it is legal.
But what about a health insurance company that starts to search the Internet for information on their patients. By law the insurance company has no access to the patients medical record. Are they allowed to factor in the information they can find on the Internet? I would say not but how can we prevent them from using this information. We can not prevent them from finding this information…
An example someone from CBP gave made me think. Say a woman just found out she is pregnant and has discussed morning sickness on a forum on the Internet. A week later she has a job interview where the HR manager has found this information. Even though as a society we have accepted that a potential pregnancy should not be discussed in job interviews we can not prevent people from using this information when they accidentally find it. And due to all kinds of mechanism I will discuss soon it is getting harder to stay anonymous on the Internet.
We can and should not control the information that is on the Internet. But on the one hand we will have to develop laws that govern what institutions are allowed to use and on the other hand we ourselves will have to deal with the fact that much personal information can be found.
Unless of course your name is Jan Jansen…