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Gov't Proposes Massive Homeless Tracking System 808

Chris Hoofnagle writes "The Dept. of Housing and Urban Development is proposing a massive system of tracking for homeless people and others who are served by shelters and care centers. The system will track people by their SSN, and will collect health (HIV, pregnancy) and mental information. Secret Service and national security agents can gain access to the database by just asking for it! EPIC has released a fact sheet on HMIS, and the public can comment on the guidelines until September 22, 2003, but no electronic comments are being accepted."
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Gov't Proposes Massive Homeless Tracking System

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  • by corebreech ( 469871 ) on Tuesday August 19, 2003 @04:13PM (#6736715) Journal
    WozNet suppositories for everybody on Capitol Hill!

  • by SoVi3t ( 633947 ) on Tuesday August 19, 2003 @04:14PM (#6736720)
    Couldn't this money be spent in a better way? Better shelters, lower income housing, etc. We don't need to track them. We need to help remotivate them, and get them back into society.
    • For homeless, increasing the level of their life is better.
      For government, increasing accountability of "unvanted" elements is better.
      PS: Only for homeless, right?
    • by Jeremiah Cornelius ( 137 ) on Tuesday August 19, 2003 @04:18PM (#6736797) Homepage Journal
      You rotten Communist!

      Don't you think that if we had known who the penniless homeless were, we could have prevented the massive attack on 09/11/01? They are begging for spare change, and using it to buy AIRLINE TICKETS!

      • I for one, welcome our new facist masters. May they rule over us with an iron fist.
    • by Bonker ( 243350 ) on Tuesday August 19, 2003 @04:19PM (#6736817)
      I wish I had mod points for the above.

      20-25 percent of homeless people are seriously mentally ill.

      They're sick, get sicker, and cause more problems for everyone around them, including other homeless, because they can't really get treatment for their diseases.

      If we're spending money to try and improve the situation of the homeless, making more free mental and medical help available will do a hell of a lot more than a tracking system.
      • by anomaly ( 15035 )
        My father in law is homeless and it is his choice. He has family that would take him in, but he is unwilling to:
        a) get a job
        b) pay taxes
        c) stop smoking pot
        d) stay sober

        Programs are not a solution for someone who does not want to be helped. He can't wait until he can start collecting SS checks that can help him sustain his "lifestyle." According to the SSA, he's scheduled to collect more benefits during the first year of eligibility than he has paid in taxes during his entire lifetime!

        Free medical and m
        • by miguelitof ( 67742 ) <.miguelito. .at.> on Tuesday August 19, 2003 @05:43PM (#6738056) Homepage Journal
          My father in law is homeless and it is his choice. He has family that would take him in, but he is unwilling to:
          Programs are not a solution for someone who does not want to be helped. He can't wait until he can start collecting SS checks that can help him sustain his "lifestyle." [...]

          Free medical and mental help won't help someone who doesn't want to change.

          So are you trying to create a logical fallacy here, stating that since your father-in-law is trying to scam the system, then every homeless person is trying to scam the system?

          There is good and bad everywhere. Take a group of 100 people, chosen by any criteria you want, and you will find good and bad people within that 100. But that doesn't mean that all 100 are bad.

          Yes, it sounds like programs offering free medical and mental health coverage would not help your FIL. But that doesn't mean it wouldn't help other homeless people.

          • by anomaly ( 15035 ) <tom.cooper3@gmail.c3.14om minus pi> on Tuesday August 19, 2003 @08:23PM (#6739565)
            I just said that some folks like to scam the system.

            I have no problem with provision of treatment for people who want help, but I really believe that many folks take advantage of the system due to low accountability and the fallacy that substance abuse is entirely a medical problem.

            e.g. It's not my fault.....I'm genetically predisposed to [alcoholism,cocaine,crack,other chemical] -

            puhleeze - I have the apparent genetic tendency for alcoholism in my family. This is not an issue for me. I simply don't drink. Problem avoided.
            • by qtp ( 461286 ) on Tuesday August 19, 2003 @09:16PM (#6739910) Journal
              I really believe that many folks take advantage of the system due to low accountability and the fallacy that substance abuse is entirely a medical problem.

              And if these people fail your accountability test, what then?

              Even if substance abuse is not a medical problem, how do we handle those who clearly have a problem?

              What about the people who choose to not participate at all? Many people do not hold steady jobs, but do not collect benefits either. Often these are the people who are the most discriminated against, as in "they must be getting over somehow?"

              And how do you determine who is "taking advantage" of the system?

              Are the people who make lots of dough from government handouts, white collar crime, and profiteering from unecessary wars that were fought to defend us from non-existant Weopons of Mass Destruction (Cheney, Carlucci, others) that they advised the president about not "scamming the system" to a greater degree than the homeless?

              How can we claim that universal healthcare is unaffordable when our government not only promisses such healthcare to the Iraqis but also gives foriegn aid in the amount of $2.8 Billion to Israel, which also offers universal health care to its citizens?

              Do you think that your father in law really has paid less than $7,000.00 in his whole life as you claim? The maximum benefit for SSI is capped at $558.00 in most states. Or maybe you are talking about the retirement benefit, which is based on how much Social Security tax that you paid during the years that you worked.

      • by Luscious868 ( 679143 ) on Tuesday August 19, 2003 @04:59PM (#6737377)

        20-25 percent of homeless people are seriously mentally ill.


        They're sick, get sicker, and cause more problems for everyone around them, including other homeless, because they can't really get treatment for their diseases.

        Ah, but therein lies the problem. We can only forcefully medicate people that are either a danger to themselves or others. If a person is neither a danger to himself nor to those around him, but is mentally ill and homeless and we can not force them to take medication. There will always be a percentage of the homeless who are mentally ill and choose to continue living that way and there is nothing that anyone can do about it.

        If we're spending money to try and improve the situation of the homeless, making more free mental and medical help available will do a hell of a lot more than a tracking system.

        I totally agree. While there will always be those that don't want help, the money would be much better spent helping those who want help rather than trying to track them. This just seems like a complete and total waste of tax dollars in addition to a total invasion of privacy. I wonder how many people might refuse to even go into a shelter if something like this was instituted.

      • by fishbowl ( 7759 ) on Tuesday August 19, 2003 @04:59PM (#6737380)
        "20-25 percent of homeless people are seriously mentally ill."

        But they aren't proposing tracking the diagnosed mentally ill. They are proposing tracking the *homeless* which includes a lot more than just "mentally ill" people. There are plenty of people who are homeless by choice. I know quite a few who live nomadic lives. And they are by no means mentally ill or incompetent.

        To suggest that they are not entitled to the same rights as anyone else is downright unamerican.
        • If I weren't married, didn't have a house, car payment, bunch of loans etc, I'd like to take a few years off and be nobody in particular. That's exciting to me -- the whole beatnik lifestyle, urban nomad poets roaming the landscape in search of "truth within the modern, flashy lies." Got to get me some of that, fulfill that wanderlust I never got rid of because I had to go to college.

          And yes, I probably would spend a bit of time in shelters, soup kitchens etc, just to see how they seem to those who have
    • by gantzm ( 212617 ) on Tuesday August 19, 2003 @04:22PM (#6736864)
      They're not homeless, they're residentially displaced.

      Somebody should the track the Politically Correct crowd, they're the ones to watch out for.
    • Well, being someone who actually lives in an urban environment (as opposed to suburbanite /.ers) I can say that these people do need to be tracked for their own benefit. Many of them cannot access social services precisely because they do not have a stable mailbox or other contact system. The government is unable to contact them with important information (such as the death of a family member).

      Many homeless don't want housing - there is little stable work for them, and a house ties them in place, while w
    • by TopShelf ( 92521 ) * on Tuesday August 19, 2003 @04:31PM (#6737018) Homepage Journal
      Believe it or not, but there is actually some beneficial purpose to this endeavor. For instance (from HUD's document):

      "An HMIS offers many benefits to persons seeking and receiving homeless assistance services. Homeless clients can benefit from more effective and streamlined referrals from on-line information and referral and service directories. Clients can benefit from enhanced intra-agency coordination. For example, advanced HMIS software has been developed that both calculates client eligibility for multiple programs and generates ready-to-sign applications for those programs."

      This is a GOOD thing. I suppose the alternative is to maintain "privacy by obscurity" through a lack of coordination and reliance on manual processes to determine eligibility and prepare applications? Yeesh...
  • and perhaps imprint on all those who don't resist a number.

    Makes you wonder what Revelations the department of Home Security will find.
  • Great. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Unknown Poltroon ( 31628 ) * <> on Tuesday August 19, 2003 @04:14PM (#6736733)
    Now that guy on the corner wil be right about the government tracking him.

    I mean, seriously, a lot of these people already wont go into treatment as it is, why give them one more reson not to.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 19, 2003 @04:14PM (#6736738)
    Now if only we could track spammers this way.
  • So, the bottom line here is if you want government benefits you have to give up some privacy in order to get them. Why don't we just ear-tag the homeless with RFID's and track their migration like an endangered species?

    There are a significant portion of the hard-core homeless that will simply stay off-grid, that's why they're homeless in the first place, they decline to participate. Now, these people won't be able to stay anonymous and get fed or get medical care from the government. My suspicion is that the govt. knows this well and is anticipating a reduction in cost while being able to issue press releases about the decline in the numbers of homeless as they stop coming to the clinics and kitchens.

    This is analogous to the reports in the declining unemployment rate reflected in lower numbers of people collecting unemployment insurance. It doesn't count the people that have given up, or have turned to the black/gray market for a living.
    • But I wonder -- if Linux is used to program these ear tags, will Darl McBride own the entire homeless population?
      He could form an army! Oh no!

      (Good for SCOX stock price, bad for us.)
    • by namespan ( 225296 ) <> on Tuesday August 19, 2003 @04:24PM (#6736901) Journal
      There are a significant portion of the hard-core homeless that will simply stay off-grid, that's why they're homeless in the first place, they decline to participate.

      Dead right. And despite the fact we call it paranoia, slashdot paranoia is absolutely nothing compared to real paranoia. I have a paranoid schizophrenic aunt, and for the implication of every program like this, there's a very real chance she'd risk starvation before going to social services agencies.

    • by King_TJ ( 85913 ) on Tuesday August 19, 2003 @04:26PM (#6736937) Journal
      You're exactly right, and I think it's worth taking a long, hard look at just *why* our government feels a need to keep tabs on where its citizens are.

      The "standard" line of reasoning basically says they want your current address because they need to be able to bill you for their services (income tax).

      If, however, you're unemployed and don't have a physical address, you're by definition not a taxable citizen. Therefore, any "tracking" the govt. wants to do to these folks is for their own information-gathering purposes - and doesn't seem necessary to me at all.

      As you pointed out, there's also the (very likely) ulterior motive of trying to skew the statistics in their favor, while saving money on paying for care for folks insisting on remaining anonymous.

      As for the unemployment rate statistics, they're not really useful as anything more than a relative indicator of economic health. Consider this, though. Even those who turned to the "black or grey market" to scrape out a living are aiding the economy. They're providing goods or services (however questionably legal), and collecting money in exchange for those goods/services. Therefore, they cause others to spend some of their cash, which gives them incentive to keep working to earn more money to replace what was spent. The biggest thing that kills the economy is stagnation. The folks who have money are afraid to spend it, so the folks who don't have it find it very hard to get it.
    • by hmckee ( 10407 ) on Tuesday August 19, 2003 @04:30PM (#6737008)
      I fully support a person's right to privacy and their desire to not participate in society, however, getting government handouts and not participating in society are mutually exclusive.

      Why not track their benefits? The gov't and private agencies track all of my benefits: SS benefits, income tax, disability insurance, health care status. By tracking the "benefits" the homeless recieve, the gov't will be able to provide better care and make better plans and budgets thereby saving the taxpayer money.

      If they really want to live "off the grid" and not participate in society, screw 'em. They shouldn't get any gov't supplied and organized benefits from my taxes.

      I've chosen to participate in society and will not support an individual who wants to live outside society, they're on their own.

      As to the Secret Service getting the info at their own discretion, I'm against that.

      • Actually, most of the data they want to track on homeless people would be similar to data already available to the Secret Service/CIA/FBI/any PI worth his/her salt in regards to other citizens that have homes. The exception would be the health information.

        I see major problems with collecting and distributing health data on these homeless-to-be-tracked unless they sign some kind of proper consent form. Otherwise you're probably violating some kind of doctor/patient priveledge or somethin or other.
    • Excellent post.

      Alot of homeless people are paranoid. Track them and feed their paranoia even more. Take away their ability to get aid without being tracked, and what are the alternatives? Theft, robbery, drug dealing, fraud, and other types of property crime.

      So then where do they go? Jail.

      I wager that the true cost of this program, both social and financial, far outweigh any benefits. As a tax payer, I protest this as an abuse of my money.

  • Good to see. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by JMZero ( 449047 )
    After all, why do you need rights if you don't even have a house?

    I think they should extend this to people in condos, mobile homes, or with insufficient equity.
  • I hope that no one is actually considering this in any sort of "real" sense. Besides, is homelessness a temporary or permanent thing? Would you be opening these accounts to track on every kid that ran away and stopped by a soup kitchen for some food, or only the "terminally homeless"? Also, how do they plan on tieing an individaul to an account? I sincerely doubt that the majority of homeless people are going to give government officials their truthful name or SSN. Maybe we can implant them with chips
  • hunt them all!!! BWA HA HA *Grabs a shotgun*
  • Great idea! (Score:2, Insightful)

    And how long before they start tracking everyone in this way? Sure, it seems okay when you apply it to faceless masses of homeless people, but soon they'll be tracking all of us like this.
    • Re:Great idea! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by anthony_dipierro ( 543308 ) on Tuesday August 19, 2003 @04:24PM (#6736902) Journal

      And how long before they start tracking everyone in this way?

      What a naiive question. The reason they need to start tracking the homeless and not "the rest of us" is because they already are tracking "the rest of us." Try to buy a home or even rent an apartment without some sort of government ID. Hell, you can't even get electricity where I live without giving the electric company your social security number.

  • I'd imagine a large percentage of homeless people don't. What if they lie about the information they give? Is it going to be mandatory to show some kind of ID?
  • branded and eventually rounded up for "relocation", then the terrorists win.

    Plus it's really good practice for later with potential future enemy combatants (those who don't vote correctly, express non-patriotic views, etc.)

  • by Dr. Bent ( 533421 ) <> on Tuesday August 19, 2003 @04:18PM (#6736790) Homepage
    Fine with me. So long as you also provide the list to Habitat for Humanity []
  • by isa-kuruption ( 317695 ) <kuruption@kurupti o n . net> on Tuesday August 19, 2003 @04:18PM (#6736793) Homepage
    While I understand how Privacy Advocates might go to arms over this, I think there are benefits to the people who are tracked.

    As I recall, there have been instances in the past where mentally handicapped have been confused by cops as criminals and shot or wrongly imprisoned. To be able to determine someone as mentally handicapped would be beneficial as the person may not him/herself be able to notify the officer he/she has a problem. Also, this would help hospitals treat patients they have never seen before, as it could assist them in identifying a mentally ill person that needs a specific form of medication.

    But I guess you could say that the risks outweigh the benefits, and you are possibly correct.
    • by calethix ( 537786 ) on Tuesday August 19, 2003 @04:35PM (#6737081) Homepage
      "Also, this would help hospitals treat patients they have never seen before, as it could assist them in identifying a mentally ill person that needs a specific form of medication."

      That applies to everyone, whether they're homeless/mentally handicapped or not. Are you ready to be tagged?

      I might end up in a serious car accident some day leaving me unconscious. It would be really helpful if I have some implant so medical personel could find out who I was and see my medical history. That doesn't mean I'm going to volunteer to be tagged and tracked like an animal though.
  • Good luck (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Uruk ( 4907 ) on Tuesday August 19, 2003 @04:18PM (#6736794)
    Well, it's good to want things like this, but I don't think it will really happen. Homeless people tend to be trasients, which means they're going to be hard to track. Additionally, most don't use legal names (preferring assumed names and nicknames), and may invent social security numbers. Others will be illegal immigrants who won't appear in any other record.

    Why can't we take the collective ingenuity that it would take to build a privacy invading system like this and bend it towards helping these people rather than tracking them? By helping them, there'd be fewer to track!

    • Re:Good luck (Score:5, Insightful)

      by kfg ( 145172 ) on Tuesday August 19, 2003 @05:10PM (#6737515)
      "Why can't we take the collective ingenuity that it would take to build a privacy invading system like this and bend it towards helping these people rather than tracking them? By helping them, there'd be fewer to track!"

      We're the government and we're here to help.

      For time immemorial these words have roughly translated as "Run away! Run away!" to the "helped." It's even become a joke cliche.

      Who determines what "helps" them? It seems unlikely it will be they themselves. God protect me from those that want to "help" me in ways I perceive as harmful.

      While many homeless are legitimately mentally ill many have simply fallen on temporary hard times, like the guy who actually has a job but gets locked out of his house by his drunken girlfriend and can't find an apartment in his large city for several months. This actually happens. I have a friend who ran a homeless shelter in SF for a year and he says people like this often made up half the residents. The worthless drunken girlfriend is treated like a valuable member of society and the poor guy is lumped in with the drug addicts and paranoid schizophrenics. Now they want to tag and track him?

      There are also people who simply live, by choice, outside the normal realm of behaviour, but aren't mentally ill. In fact, many of them are simply excesively sane to fit well in our idiotic society. Musashi Miyamoto and Euripides fell into this catagory once upon a time. Ghandi tried to. These people aren't sucking on the government tit. That's the whole point, they want to avoid all of that. They live or die on their own. These people are actually taking care of themselves in the true meaning of the phrase. I belive they make up a fair percentage of the homeless. They also scare the bejeezus out of the government. Round 'em up and track them. Them when something bad happens we can't explain we can just "round up the usual suspects" until we find one we can pin it on the make the populace feel secure and happy.

      In the old days these people would simply aquire a canoe, an ax and head out for the frontier to become a "fur trapper." Many of our treasured national heros, like Daniel Boone, were such people.

      Now there is no frontier and people with real independant gumption, the sort of people who could feed a tribe or conquer a continent are "mentally ill" or feared as criminals and terrorists.

      If humanity is destined to become a race of endentured clerks and marketing managers screw the whole lot of 'em and I'll join the homeless myself.

      Only problem is they don't make caves on the edge of town like they used to and the FBI is poised to track down anyone who deigns not to participate like rabid dogs.

  • Given the percentage of mentally ill homeless, does anyone think this will do anything but drive them from help?

    I don't miss much about Christianity, but the "no questions asked" help for the destitute is sorely lacking today.

  • Hey Mister! (Score:5, Funny)

    by LiftOp ( 637065 ) on Tuesday August 19, 2003 @04:18PM (#6736802) Homepage
    "The government put a tracking device in my teeth!! No, seriously....!!"

    Think of all the money we'll save in mental institutions letting these guys we THOUGHT were nuts back out...

  • What if the governement makes all this information to spammers and direct-mailers?
  • Too Invasive (Score:5, Insightful)

    by photoblur ( 552862 ) on Tuesday August 19, 2003 @04:19PM (#6736814) Homepage
    "Entities that provide services would collect their names, Social Security Numbers, dates of birth, race, gender, health status (including HIV, pregnancy, and domestic violence), veteran status, and income information."

    This sounds way too invasive. It concerns me because once things like this are manditory for homeless people (it sounds like this system is moving that direction), then it will slowly be introduced to the masses.

    Start with the outcasts of society as to make a quiet entrance. Then work your way up.

    I don't like it.
  • by preric ( 689159 ) on Tuesday August 19, 2003 @04:19PM (#6736820)
    Because one morning I came out to my parking space (I live in an apartment near the beach) to catch a homeless man 'cleaning' his ass crack on the corner of my truck's bumper.

    He quickly ran off... I was still in shock and not sure if I should chase him down, let alone know what to do with him once caught, but now I can track him down and do the same to his shopping cart.

    Sweet revenge!

  • by rot26 ( 240034 ) * on Tuesday August 19, 2003 @04:20PM (#6736841) Homepage Journal
    The Dept. of Housing and Urban Development is proposing a massive system of tracking for homeless people and others

    They're not going to let this go away. This is just ANOTHER back-door version of TIA. We're going to see it introduced, again and again, under various disguises until they get it implemented. You can expect to see tracking systems suggested for the homeless, pedophiles, drug dealers, spouse abusers, bail-jumpers, tax evaders, etc etc and so on and so on, (each one being some particular organizations "most wanted") until it's actually implemented. And like stone soup, once it's in place, it will be "upgraded" to include everything that anybody ever wanted.
  • by Empiric ( 675968 ) * on Tuesday August 19, 2003 @04:22PM (#6736870)
    This is one of the few forms of government monitoring I'd actually be in favor of.

    A large percentage of homeless people are, in fact, mentally ill. Having the government aware of their whereabouts is the least of their problems. And having some historical data available on them could be an aid to helping them; how effectively could you respond to someone off the street if you have no data or contextual indicators on their state or condition? I think the argument can also be made that if someone wants to avail themselves of free support, making note of information on them can be considered part of the bargain. Once their situation improves, the tracking stops, if the source of the data are the shelters and care centers. Dealing with mental illness is profoundly difficult even with the best information available.

    (And I do have some very-near-aquaintance, personal experience with this, so factor that into my comment as you like...)
  • by btakita ( 620031 ) on Tuesday August 19, 2003 @04:28PM (#6736978) Homepage

    I tried helping a homeless Vietnam Vet named Ben. He wanted to see his family, whom he has not seen in 8 years. We were unable to track down his family. Ben was addicted to alcohol, and was missing a leg, from diabetes, a few years after the war.

    His family was looking for him too, a lady called the shelter looking for her father. Unfortunately, we came to the shelter about a day later, and she never called back.

    Such a tracking system would probably have reunited Ben with his family.

  • by siskbc ( 598067 ) on Tuesday August 19, 2003 @04:28PM (#6736979) Homepage
    Nice to know we will be instituting a "tag and release" program for the homeless. Perhaps if the population is too large for its natural habitat, given the lack of natural predators, we can "thin out their numbers" a bit. Perhaps a "homeless season" for hunting?

    What would one use as bait, a coupla 40's or pure-grain?

  • My gawd (Score:3, Funny)

    by hackstraw ( 262471 ) * on Tuesday August 19, 2003 @04:33PM (#6737052)
    So are they going to put tags on their ears and/or homing transmitters on thier backs?

    I can see the "scientists" now with big antenae looking for signals of wild homeless people.

    I mean, if the govn't is that concerned with homeless people, maybe instead of tracking them they could give them some skills training, food, and a place to stay.
  • by JimBobJoe ( 2758 ) <swiftheart&gmail,com> on Tuesday August 19, 2003 @04:38PM (#6737114)
    In the past the Libertarian Party has had somethign called "operation homeless" (at least, that's what I recall) that asked homeless people the questions from the world's smallest political quiz.

    They were overwhelmingly libertarian. The party marketed this by saying that the homeless know that the government is holding them back.

    I believe (and I happen to be an employee of the party in some capacity, so keep that in mind) that this was the wrong conclusion. The real reason is that the homeless don't like to be entangled, don't like to make agreements, and really just want to be left alone with no responsibility, no registration, no contractural obligations.) There is so much financial help that one can get in the form of welfare, food stamps, et cetera...and they choose not to do it, sometimes it is pride, but often it's this amazing resistance to being registered (and i should also think dependent on one entity.)

    Being homeless is the ultimate form of freedom (though the quality of life leave much to be desired.) I dunno if homeless in other countries are like this, but this often appears to be the case here. Nothing better than making your living "anonymously."

  • Out of hand.... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by MoeMoe ( 659154 ) on Tuesday August 19, 2003 @04:38PM (#6737117)
    First we have RFID tags on food [] because we are afraid Saddam might steal our bananas. Now this?!

    Why don't we just throw tracking collars on them while we're at it and see how they progress through nature "undisturbed"...

    The sad part is that I'm sure that this kind of thing will be paid for through tax payers' dollars... If we have money to blow, why not blow it on something more useful.... Like supporting /.'ers caffeine addictions!
  • by CyberGarp ( 242942 ) < minus bsd> on Tuesday August 19, 2003 @04:48PM (#6737257) Homepage

    Year ago I was homeless for a period of time, due to the fact that I was a teenager, my parents were dead and life is harsh. I fought my way back into society against it's better wishes.

    I actually managed to put my first year of college on credit. Then they figured out I was a bum without a job. Later I paid it back, got scholarships and managed to finish. It wasn't easy, but all this sob story has a point and it ain't for sympathy.

    I was hanging out in a particular location on a regular basis. I'm walking along and a payphone rings. Being bored and curious, I answer it. It was a bill collector! They had tracked me down to a payphone I frequently passed. Now tell me the government needs a new system, just give the homeless a credit card good for a nice sized bad debt. The bill collectors will track them for the government, no new system needed.

  • Isn't it funny (Score:3, Insightful)

    by praedor ( 218403 ) on Tuesday August 19, 2003 @04:58PM (#6737376) Homepage

    the reaction from /.ers. If this were a new plan to track "normal people" then the mass of posters would be up in arms and screaming to kill it before it even gets past the brainstorming phase. As it is, it merely refers to lessor humans, those disgusting, lazy, dirty homeless creature sub-humans who are where they are because they either chose to be there or otherwise deserve their lot. You can make equally strong suggestions as to the benefit of tracking "normal people" as you can for the homeless. It is just somehow more acceptable if you are a defenseless loser homeless person rather than a superior "normal".

    I was shocked at the number of posts that either say its cool or not much of a big deal. Obviously, it is because the target of such tracking is less than human and less deserving of privacy and the right to anonymity.

  • by dr bacardi ( 48590 ) on Tuesday August 19, 2003 @05:02PM (#6737418) Homepage
    I *knew* I had seen this before... From an article [] in the August 1997 Harpers:
    One of the key provisions of the bill is its five-year lifetime limit on welfare, the enforcement of which will require a vast investment in technology to track individuals, through name changes and geographical moves, for decades on end--creating a veritable Foucaultian panopticon of surveillance and a growth industry for the finger-imagists and information technologists.
    I had remembered the "veritable Foucaultian panopticon" phrase most vividly. I would not be surprised to find Lockheed and/or EDS behind this now as they were then... sounds too similar for mere coincidence.
  • by Embedded Geek ( 532893 ) on Tuesday August 19, 2003 @05:18PM (#6737659) Homepage
    Avoiding the obvious (and questionable taste) jokes about malt liquor and cardboard shelter focus groups, I really have to wonder about this. I mean, whenever there's a list of potential customers, someone in the marketing industry winds up using/exploiting it to go after the "next big demographic."

    And, yes, I know the story indicates it would be a restricted government database, but I have to wonder if someone on Madison Avenue is already working on a privately held equivilent.

    Just an idle thought (or as George Carlin said, "These are the thoughts that kept me out of the good schools")

  • by macdaddy ( 38372 ) on Tuesday August 19, 2003 @07:05PM (#6738986) Homepage Journal
    Hasn't anyone else noticed that this would violate the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996? For those that haven't heard of HIPAA, let me explain:

    The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) was signed into law on August 21, 1996. This law includes important new protections for millions of working Americans and their families who have preexisting medical conditions or might suffer discrimination in health coverage based on a factor that relates to an individual's health. HIPAA's provisions amend Title I of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) as well as the Internal Revenue Code and the Public Health Service Act and place requirements on employer-sponsored group health plans, insurance companies and health maintenance organizations (HMOs). HIPAA includes changes that:

    limit exclusions for preexisting conditions;

    prohibit discrimination against employees and dependents based on their health status;

    guarantee renewability and availability of health coverage to certain employers and individuals; and

    protect many workers who lose health coverage by providing better access to individual health insurance coverage.

    Here are some useful links:

    HHS - Office for Civil Rights - HIPAA []
    What is HIPAA? []
    HIPAA.ORG []
    HIPAA - Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 []

    The dissemination of medical information without the explicit permission of subject. I don't have a problem with tracking information about how social services are used; that's expected of any service to maintain reliability. However providing medical information to law enforcement violates even the most basic principles of the doctor/patient privilege.

  • Misrepresented facts (Score:3, Interesting)

    by EricTheMad ( 603880 ) on Tuesday August 19, 2003 @07:06PM (#6739009)
    I work with a non-profit organization that provides services for the homeless. We are currently deciding on which HMIS database system to implement for the entire state. And from what I know of the HMIS requirements I can tell you that this arcticle is wildly misrepresenting the facts, and coming to conclusions that just aren't there.

    First of all, the HMIS database isn't meant to track the homeless at all. The government believes that the number people being reported is double the number of homeless that there actually are. So the reason for the databases existance is to get a more accurate count of the number of homeless and to track statistical information.

    Each persons is given a unique identifier that is associated with their information. They are not tracked by SSN. Every 6 months (I believe thats the time frame) a report is sent to HUD that contains the statistical information. There is no way to identify a specific person by looking at this information. HUDs guidelines are very strict on the matters of the persons privacy.

    Also, there is no central database. The state of Utah actually has 3 different sections that would be required to run their own databases. However, we have decided to run the system as a state.

    A person can refuse to give the information or not allow it to be shared with HUD. They can't be denied services if they do so. The majority of these databases are also encrypted to help ensure privacy.

    The suggestion that the Secret Service would have easy access to this information was an assumption on the part of the author of the arcticle. Even if they did have access to it, they wouldn't be able to track the information back to a specific person so it would be rather pointless.

    This could be a great tool for those organizations dedicated to helping the homeless. It will help point out locations and programs that need the most money.
  • by ralphclark ( 11346 ) on Tuesday August 19, 2003 @08:37PM (#6739654) Journal
    Looks like everybody's missing the point here. What is the major roadblock for government when they want to trample on somebody? Their legal rights. Do they like this? No.

    So, what they do is start by eroding the rights of a group nobody cares about.

    (We all know by now surely that the so-called logical fallacy of the "thin end of the wedge" isn't a fallacy at all, it's just a description of a well-worn strategy that always works when your enemy is sufficiently complacent.)

    Already, if this becomes law, the homeless will have virtually no right to privacy. And if the state wants to track you, and they think it will be difficult to get permission, all they will have to do is make you homeless. Easily done.

    Eventually, when the homeless have altogether become "non-persons" in the eyes of the law, the next small step will be to extend this category of non-persons to include the unemployed. And it's even easier to make somebody unemployed.

    It's anybody's guess where it will go from there.

I've noticed several design suggestions in your code.