Top 5 technology failures of government

The United States faces difficult problems, but these five threaten to derail the nation's technological and economic leadership

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Failure No 4: Abysmal data security

As I discussed here last week, we live in a time in which data about us is being collected almost everywhere we go and whatever it is we do -- shopping at any store with credit or debit cards, driving down the road, walking through a mall, browsing websites. Databases are being populated with all manner of information on us, although we have never been given the option of refusing that data collection. In many cases, the companies collecting that data have never disclosed that it's occurring.

Many people consider this to be a non-issue, because they believe they have no reason to fear such data collection. That, however, implies that they trust the companies collecting that data won't do any harm. Some of those companies may indeed not wish to do harm, but once their security has been breached they are complicit in the use of that data for illegal purposes.

Target's breach highlights that fact. Simply by shopping at Target before last Christmas, people put their financial security at great risk because of Target's lack of security -- yet Target won't suffer any significant consequences for it. We need to be able to opt out of such data collection and be free to pursue significant relief against damages caused by the failure of companies to secure data that was collected against our will and without our knowledge. Target's breach won't be the last. It probably won't even be the biggest.

Failure No 5: Privacy violations

Then there's the NSA. In its zeal to "protect" the United States, it's run roughshod over the constitutional rights of just about every American and angered allies far and wide. The NSA doesn't even appear to realize why its clandestine data collection efforts are so appalling.

Although we are discussing the personal data that was lost to thieves at Target, Neiman Marcus, and a host of other companies, we aren't talking about what would happen if some or all of the data the NSA has collected were to fall into the wrong hands. An NSA security breach could result in blackmail material for major business and world leaders, among numerous other grim possibilities. And you can be sure that if such a breach were to occur, it wouldn't be publicized like the Target fiasco was.

It's not lost on me that many of the same people defending the NSA are in the same breath claiming that the government can't do anything right. If the NSA is part of the government, and the government can't do anything right, then forgive me if I don't have the utmost faith in the security of the data it collects.

It couldn't be more obvious that we are heading toward a more technology-centric future with every passing moment. Artifically hamstringing the usefulness, effectiveness, affordability, and security of that technology serves us no long-term good and in time will prove to be extremely damaging to our nation as a whole. If we can address these problems now, we will not only improve our lot in the short term, but also prevent a multitude of deeper problems and failures later. 

This story, "Top 5 technology failures of government," was originally published at Read more of Paul Venezia's The Deep End blog at For the latest business technology news, follow on Twitter.

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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