A background check simply filters and formats information about a person’s life into a somewhat standard and therefore useful form. Much of the information in a background check is already out there in the public domain. Most of the rest is already controlled and/or owned by the government. What is missing are the filters and formats that render the data useful to humanity.
Anyone that has never done so might be shocked to see what anyone can learn about them at web sites like Pipl.com for free. And anyone willing to pay for it can look deeply into your background without your permission if they are willing to pay a little. To be sure, anybody in the world can pay a small amount in bitcoins to see a shocking amount of information about you. That is to say, check your background without leaving a trace.
US Government agencies like the IRS, NSA, FBI, CIA and ATF; industrial surveillance engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo; as well as banks, insurance companies, retailers and wholesalers and their allied data processors collect giga-scads of data useful to check a person’s background. Ever so slowly they are sharing select bits of this information but so far everyone still sucks at cooperating to render this information useful to humanity thanks to self interests (e.g., profit, criminality, and fear of reprisal, redress or revenge for the shady ways our background information is now used).
I have previously blogged about the US Government Agency’s mandate for unfettered, unquestioned and un-American access to ‘pen and tap’ data in every data center and central office in America. What they cannot take for the asking or with a little coercion, they steal. Government regulations only make the situation worse at this time. HIPPA, for example, sorta standardizes health information and compels health care providers to store your medical records in a supposedly secure electronic form. Combined with the now widely suspected to be compromise cryptography I have little doubt left that government agencies are licking their chops over this data. So why isn’t there a plan to be of service to the people this data is about? That’s all I want to know.
Government data proper can often be classified “public information”. Yet we the public have to know who to ask or pay – and too often it seems the secret word and/or the appropriate political alignment – to see it.
Stores routinely collect video surveillance and purchase transaction data.
Many 24-7 news operations exist at the local, nationalal and international levels.
The data is already out there. What is missing is a standard way of using the already collected and in many cases even already aggregated data so that the right decisions can be made at the right time.
The Business Intelligence (BI) tools now in use and the data already being collected are enough to develop humane algorithms that can determine such things as who should or should not buy a gun – and assist with implementation planning that doesn’t end in a shoot-out.
A background check must add a measure of transparency and accountability to the information already out there about a person. With transparency in background checks you could know as well as anyone the information out there about you and where it came from. You could even work to address any errors – and weaknesses – that show up in your background. People would get a background check every time they create an entry or update in the background data set. That provides an accountable path for people wishing to seek corrections in information is incorrect, inaccurate or inappropriate. Make no mistake, your data is out there now. Right now who uses it and how they use it is completely out of your view. It can easily be used to deceive you and easily manipulated to deceive other’s about who you are. And in today’s world there is not a thing you can do about it.
On the other hand, imagine how anyone might react when they ‘fail’ a background check when trying to buy a gun. Background checks would surely make a bad situation worse if doled out as a pass or fail ticket awarded to one lawful citizen but not another lawful citizen by the government, especially if the ‘fail’ meant that person could not legally buy a gun – perhaps due to a mental health issue the person did know or had not been able to accept they had. Couple that with the fact that most gun buyer’s in the US today are not buying their first gun: they are already armed.
Imagine, on the other hand, how it might affect your vote if you knew which politicians had a history of mental illness or regularly visited porn sites or which – if any – of the judges you are supposed to approve at each election were blatantly corrupt or presciption drug abusers or something worse like child abusers or organized crime bosses. Google can tell you such judges are indeed among us.
Imagine if those responsible for hiring our teachers and police had similar information when making hiring, promotion and teacher retention decisions. And imagine we had the same information about teachers and police as the people that hire teachers and police? And teachers and police had the same information about us. And we had access to that information about our Doctor or car mechanic or date? Shouldn’t everyone be exposed to the same level of scrutiny? NRA spokes person Wayne La Pierre? President Barack Obama? And you? And me! And my sister whom I can assure you is one of the finest people on the planet? It’s way too late to set the sites on who should get such scrutiny. It’s happening now to everyone but not equally and completely without transparency or proper oversight. It’s time to move out from behind the opaque and sound-proof walls of denial. This ain’t no damn game.
Still and all, I do wonder what you would do with those of us who don’t meet your background check sniff test. After living in this society where people prefer not to know their neighbors all my life, that truth could be so disturbing that even greater chaos ensues. So many are now armed with assault weapons and so few police have the skills required to recognize let alone council there probably is not a lot anyone can do about guns for generations without a massive weaponized domestic drone campaign to ‘take away the guns’ from the cold dead droned hands of those labeled “should not have guns”. Intervention will remain a point of friction that requires the minds of our best trained and most skillful scientists, clergy and communicators.
It is beyond belief that the political system has even been discussing a plan that could so obviously end with a “take his guns away” order. That’s just not going to happen but is clearly a place background checks for gun buyers will take us.
That seems to be where the conversation is stuck. Some folks seem to believe background checks are a waste of time and won’t help anything. Another side is saying background checks are not enough and even more rules and regulations are necessary. Meanwhile the politicians provide us the predictable dis-services of misinformation, stonewalling and feckless bullshit in the hope that noting changes other than the number of zeros in their bank accounts.
To get the conversation moving we have to stop singling out any narrow slice of the population (e.g., gun buyers, disturbed individuals, terrorists, tree huggers or religious fundamentalists) as the source of the problem and so aim prevention at the decimation of stereotypical yet otherwise lawful abiding persons as a magical elixir. Criminals, haters and lunatics will find ways to do their deeds whether or not they can legally buy a gun. We need a system that ameliorates aberrant behaviors before there are headlines of death and disaster. Continuous cradle-to-grave background checks and a co-operative of trans-personal counseling to reach out to one another regularly to help us understand what our background check is signaling is essential. Unfortunately, those in positions of power would place too much of their power at risk under such a structure simply because EVERYBODY has a few red flags in their background.
The American public is apparently 90% behind the need for background checks for potential gun owners. Seems to me like everyone in the county is a potential gun owner and can easily circumvent the ATF just like we have been doing all along. Doesn’t that technically make everyone a candidate for a pre-purchase background check? And since anyone can buy a gun at any time isn’t it important to maintain that background check? We can have a system that
- allows anyone to buy a gun anytime they want – if that’s what we want
- doesn’t wait until someone is buying a gun to help them with the issues identified through background check
- does the needful to protect the community from all risks uncovered through background check
All political system of our time may be already too corrupt to even dare give lip service to a solution based upon transparency, accountability and human dignity. That is but one disadvantage of the bought-and-paid-for political system we must suffer and the politically biased media that would quickly loose ratings and credibility if accountability and transparency of background checks were the rule for everybody. A reasonable compromise among elected officials is not possible at this time when everything but wikileaks happens behind closed doors. Background checks must be transparent to be beneficial to humanity.
Background checks are already as much a part of life as death and taxes. The problem is current background checks are sloppy, incomplete, inconsistent and subject to corruption. I bet city cops do get a much different background check than seasonal city workers for example. But not at all am I convinced the cop gets the better check of the two.
What we really need to do is agree on what needs to be in a background check and then go about the business of compiling and checking backgrounds consistently throughout the population. What ever it is, I have no doubt that the US Government already has more than enough access to personal information to do this work. The Generals in charge of this access do not even need the OK of legislators or citizens to do this work. But instead of doing this work we are witnessing a very different militarization of law enforcement in this county. A militarization apparently meant to entertain: to show the people they have nothing to fear. A militarization that has not been instrumental in making us any safer but showcases the impotent law enforcement of shock and awe supported by videographers seeking to compose the most dangerous or scary video among the many videographers covering the situation.
Consider the Boston Bombing. Authorities failed to identify the threat or the bombers as a risk before the event. There was no preparation or screening for such bombs. They relied upon video from local businesses previously compelled to install surveillance camera’s for self protection against [lesser?] crimes to identify the bombers. It took all the next day for authorities to filter the data and come up with a couple of freeze frames of video ‘safe’ enough to release to the public. Then authorities had to rely upon the transparency of crowd sourcing to turn the images into a name – but just enough pictures to get that name. All the while, authorities maintained a clear strangle-hold on the media covering the event. This demonstrates once again – and without any doubt – that the government has the technology and the data access to quickly and extensively check any person’s background once they have the person’s name. Unfortunately the late and well orchestrated photo release backfired when the bombers knew their cover was blown and decided to make a run for it. duh. That could have been the end of it but one of the two escaped after a 200+ round + two bomb battle with police instigated by the criminals en route. The authorities continued with a heavily armed show of force as they spent a long hard day searching door to door in riot and combat gear. The camouflage uniformed automatic weapon toting combat cops and armored and camouflaged vehicles in Boston were all over the TV, all day. I was certainly hypnotized to and horrified by the media coverage. Finally the authorities called off the search empty handed at the end of the day and vacated a ‘sheltering in place’ order for a million people in Boston – even though it was not known to be any more or less safe. But involving the people with that little flash of transparency was all it took. A citizen found the bomber in his back yard outside of the search area. Hours later the bomber was finally arrested – only after they had unloaded a couple of many round clips from police assault weapons on the hiding place of what turned out to be an unarmed and badly wounded criminal. All the next day the commanders of the various authorities took turns telling the people what a great job the authorities had done. Now that the event seems past I can only wonder how much faster this tragedy could have been brought to a conclusion if the police were transparent and accountable instead of operating as splintered secret military and para-military operations? Or will now do anything that might improve their chances of preventing bags full of bombs from being spread around the finish line of the Boston Marathon.
Imagine if before-the-crime background checks helped us become aware of people when they drop out of college or lose a job or get divorced. Imagine if we used this background information to reach out to people and help in those ways others can help in such matters. This happens now, sometimes. But mostly in small towns. Even in small towns, too many people are left to their devices to find a way through the most difficult events in modern life. That’s not good enough.
I am certainly not trying to defend the Boston Bombers. I am saying that background checks for everybody just might work if we did it right. And I’m saying that already everyone does get background checks that they are no aware of. I’m talking about a background check with complete transparency and complete accountability. The government would get to stop pretending they do not invade the privacy of citizens inappropriately. Technology leaders like Microsoft, Amazon and Cisco that are desperately looking for recurring revenue streams just like this and have infrastructure to support the communications and processing power needed would find a revenue stream – and would not have to make much a change. I;m not going to give Facebook any credit as a technology leader, but Facebook is a very popular place used by professionals and criminals around the world when checking backgrounds. You’d think the capitalists would jumped on the market potential big time! The recurring revenue potential for universal background checks has to be one of the greatest technology concessionaire’s opportunity of all time!
Neither am I advocating for a Big Brother state. I’m talking about using the data already being collected and aggregated – and so therefore already mandated in accordance with CALEA to be available for the pleasure and [mis]use of law enforcement. I want only to extend the access and knowledge of these agencies and corporations about my background to me and others with a bona fide reason to peer into my background And of course, I want to know who looks at my background. I believe that the right way to ‘enforce’ background checks is through trans-personal counseling.
I am suggesting that maybe all we have to do is turn giving a shit about each other into a guaranteed revenue stream and capitalism will protect us from homegrown terrorism. But I admit, there is still something about the idea that does not fill me with hope.
The time to make contact with a person that has done something – or enough somethings – that might disallow them to buy a gun or bullets or even a weapon repair part is at the moment they should no longer be allowed to do such a thing. Waiting until someone wants to buy a gun to tell them they cannot does not address the problem. Instead it creates a new problem.
I for one would much rather see the cops equipped with the truth as born by my background than the arrogant and highly militarized uniformed haters that I see in the news clubbing and shooting our unarmed children who gather in protest of blatant injustices of the time. I also note that the cops have an impressive kill rate for angry old men that barricade themselves in their own home so I work hard to remain civil and keep my mouth shut. Perhaps I am just frustrated to see these secret militarized agencies only ever able to arrive on the scene after the evil ones among us have acted with such terrible consequence to innocents.