Let's say I'm tired of carrying around wads of cash. I consider applying for a credit card, perhaps at a bank, or at at some retail operation, like a department store. But I'm paranoid.
I'm worried that I might expose myself to identity theft by giving up my name, address, social security number, and other private information. Mistakes are made, after all. Someone within the company might misuse my information, or the company might inadvertently expose it to hackers.
I can of course go to a large department store, one that (hopefully) uses modern encryption techniques and has a modicum of data security enshrined as corporate policy and procedure. I can eschew the department store credit card entirely, and use a card from a bank. A large bank, in the hope they'll have their act sufficiently together to protect me from the Russian Internet Identity Thieves?
If I'm sufficiently paranoid, I can refuse to get a credit card at all, living "off the grid" and keeping my wad of cash. If all else fails, and my spotless credit rating is exposed, I can find a new bank, shop at new stores, and I can sue the bastards responsible.
But what if the government exposes my identity to theft and fraud? Can I refuse to deal with the government?
Or can I at least shift my business to a new government?
The Social Security numbers of dozens of New Hanover County [North Carolina] property owners were mistakenly published on the county website for anyone to see.
The lists containing the numbers were removed from the site Tuesday so county officials could scrub them from the data, said Chairman Jason Thompson, who learned that the numbers were published from a resident. The Social Security numbers were published in two lists containing property owners delinquent on their taxes.
County Manager Bruce Shell said the list contained 9,845 accounts, of which 163 Social Security numbers were included. The Social Security numbers should not have appeared in the data and weren’t caught before they were published. It's unclear how many people were affected because some numbers are linked to more than one account.
It was an isolated incident, Shell said.
Of course it was an isolated incident.
That's precisely what my bank would say if it published my social security number on the web. "It was an isolated incident, and we've adopted new safeguards to see that this sort of thing doesn't happen in the future. Although the information was exposed for only a limited time, we're offering free credit monitoring service to customers who are concerned about this isolated incident."
And I'd sure as hell sue them once the Chinese Identity Pirates of Wuhan started buying new cars using my name and credit.
Of course, since this is the government, irritated property owners are out of luck. So, for that matter, are injured property owners, those whose identities are stolen and who'll start getting "past due" notices from credit card companies they never dealt with, scammed merchants who will have to swallow some of the charges, and the scammed credit card issuers themselves who will have to swallow the rest.
All they're getting is a subscription to freecreditreport.com:
Shell said the county plans to provide these property owners with credit monitoring for a year to prevent fraud issues from developing.
“We’re on top of it,” Shell said. “We’re trying to do the right thing by them.”
"Doing the right thing by them" would mean indemnifying them for the costs of this fuckup. But if New Hanover County is sued, you can bet its attorneys will raise the doctrine of sovereign immunity ("The King Can Do No Wrong"), an absolute defense to liability in North Carolina. The individuals responsible would raise the qualified immunity doctrine as a defense. And the County would win.
Why shouldn't it? If damages were awarded, it would be the innocent taxpayers of New Hanover County who would have to pay, not the negligent Barney Fifes of the tax department.
That seems extreme. After all, we don't hang taxi cab drivers who paralyze the innocent through negligent driving. Why should we hang the nasty lady behind the counter at the DMV?
Why not just waive immunity for the negligent who work for the government, making them as responsible for their torts as you or I would be if we started publishing clients' social security numbers for all to see?
If they don't want to be responsible for their actions, perhaps they shouldn't be given sovereign power over others in the first place.
Here's a second thought: If past performance is any guide, it will be thirty minutes before one of the lickspittle government apologists (I had to stop calling them "willing serfs" because that upset them) who infest our readership shows up to point out that these victims were tax delinquents. "I have no sympathy!"
On the contrary. These people weren't tax delinquents at all. They were doing what any sensible consumer would do to a corporation that misuses customers' private information. They were boycotting the New Hanover County tax office, just as they'd boycott Wal -Mart if it published social security numbers on the web. Of course, one difference between Wal-Mart and the government is that the government destroys all competition, not with low low prices but with guns. The customer has nowhere else to go in a monopoly environment. Another difference is that Wal-Mart can't throw those who refuse to buy what it's selling in jail.
But given the level of service they've gotten from New Hanover County, can anyone blame these people for refusing to pay their taxes?