April 21, 2004

Homeless and Privacy


Cindy Southworth, of the National network to End Domestic Violence, pointed out that there has been an initiative to collect information on the homeless to have a better understanding of the situation of the homeless. While this is an admirable goal, it requires the collection of data on victims of domestic violence who are fleeing their attackers—this collection of data threatens these women.

Southworth questions whether there is ever truly informed consent to the collection of this data and whether there are low tech, less invasive means of collecting reasonably accurate counts of homeless individuals (such as Thursday night shelter counts). She makes an impassioned plea to balance the value of detailed information on the homeless population against the cost of the lives of the victims of domestic violence who are traced through these central databases.

Chance Martin, of the SF Coalition on the Homeless, discussed HMIS. Collection of information on the homeless in HMIS systems are required by HUD—in order to be eligible for federal funding to assist the homeless you need to have such a system in place. These systems frequently require biometric finger scans and a digital portrait to identify the homeless.

There is both support and opposition among the homeless who are subjected to these systems. Some perceive it as a means for identifying criminals within the system and obtaining safer shelters. About an equal number object to such treatment as demeaning and treating all homeless as if they are criminals.

This is an unfunded mandate that promises little to help the homeless.

Chris Hoofnagle, of EPIC moderated the discussion. He pointed out that high technology is being used to monitor the technologically disenfranchisedis frightening new ways.

Posted by amalie at April 21, 2004 10:59 AM
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