The cut-off date, January 20, 2016, for free drone registration in the United States had passed so as a drone owner, I was required to pay a $5 fee to the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration as part of the registration process. From a public safety viewpoint, drone registration seems reasonable to me, as does the $5, but the process raised a really interesting issue: “Do I trust the U.S. government to protect my personal and financial information?” As I entered my personal details, including my credit card number, the answer was clear: “I do not trust the U.S. government to protect my personal information.” And the only reason I completed my registration is that it was legally required. As a person committed to be a law-abiding citizen, I will continue to do engage the government as required, but I will withhold all information unless it is legally required because they have clearly demonstrated they do not take protecting my information seriously enough. I am not alone in this outlook.
The Office for Personnel Management breach, Veterans Affairs breaches (so many to choose from –, this one near the day of writing), IRS internal breaches, and others have hit the headlines briefly capturing the media’s rapid-fire news cycle before disappearing. But when I talk to people personally impacted by these breaches, especially the OPM breach, the impact of government breaches linger and people genuinely feel distraught about deeply personal information being in the hands of unknown parties and feel it is far more lasting than having credit card numbers stolen. We have all been through the credit card replacement drill by now: Cut up the card, someone else pays for the losses, and we get a new card in the mail. Life goes on. But the loss of deeply personal information carries a worry about not just financial loss; it cuts to the core of…
“Can I uniquely identify myself any longer since unknown others now have every detail about me and my family?”
“Does that mean others can digitally impersonate me in any way they choose, and without me knowing?”
“Do the others who have stolen my data intend harm to me or people I love while I am in service overseas? What are their intentions?”
“Will they use the information for financial gain at some time in the future in ways I can not yet imagine?”
None of us really have the answers, so there is doubt — and with doubt and uncertainty comes fear.
When our U.S. government fails to protect the very persons who literally put their life on the line to protect us from harm and protect our way of life, including the institutions we count on, where does that leave us? Fear and loss of trust is a fissure in our society that we can ill-afford at a time of political discord and division. We all have different opinions about politics, politicians, and our world, but I think we can all agree on “United We Stand, Divided We Fall.” We all, no doubt, recognize our political leaders should be coming together, putting aside their differences, to safeguard the information of their citizens, beginning with those who put themselves in harm’s way: our military personnel and veterans. And this is an urgent matter.
Let’s hope there are real progress and sincere care beyond political theater.
Kurt J. Long