Privacy wanes in the hands of government

It may be that the instances the State Department has admitted to -– of breaching the privacy of the passport files of presidential candidates Barack Obama, John McCain and Hillary Clinton –- were an essentially innocent case of imprudent curiosity.

It is worth remembering, however, that in 1992, when then-candidate Bill Clinton’s passport file was breached, the initial explanation was equally innocent, but it turned out it was a politically motivated operation to find something with which to smear Clinton.

More importantly, however, it is, as privacy expert Jim Harper at the libertarian Cato Institute said, a “signaling mechanism” that shows that government cannot always be trusted to keep private information private. And the delay in notifying the candidates until news stories had appeared suggests that government employees are not swift to do the right thing.

Considering how much information the government collects, and the additional information it wants to collect and put in one place through mechanisms like the “Real ID” act, this is very troubling.

Sen. Clinton’s information was accessed last July by a trainee, who put