Data…Birthday Data.

Birthday Fun Fact

Photo credit: Rooners Toy Photography via / CC BY-NC-ND

It’s ridiculous, really, how happy this headline made me when I saw the news alert:

“British spies abused powers to look up birthdays in intelligence databases.”

I know, I know, I should not be giddy at the idea of spies “abusing their powers.” Few among us are made happy by the idea of our governmental agencies (covert or not) abusing the databases available to them for their own purposes.

But, c’mon! Looking up friends’ addresses to send birthday cards? This is a generous act. And it tickles me to think of MI5, M16 and GCHQ agents “crossing the line” by treating their super secret spy databases to send birthday greetings.

Plus, I find it hilarious that Privacy International has brought this issue to light via a legal challenge exposing the data collected on British citizens and the egregious misuse of that information. Yes, egregious is my word there, but I can just imagine a Parliamentarian, beefy jowls a jiggling, using this word in debating this case.

Now, there are other examples in the Business Insider story that were actually worthy of upset. For instance, a US intelligence intercepting women’s phone calls or Snowden reporting he saw spies sharing people’s intimate nude photos around the office. Those instances I can see someone getting worked up about.

Still, I simply can’t buy into the slippery slope argument that someone looking up a friend or relative’s birth date or mailing address in the national databases is deserving of investigation.

I’ll even carry this fanciful issue farther and counter that it’s better that intelligence agents conveniently and quickly ascertain details about friends and family so as to free up more of their time to work on issues of actual national security.

Imagine James Bond covertly sneaking into the database to be able to directly mail a birthday greeting to Q or Moneypenny. If anything this report actually humanizes secret agents and for that the British government might be grateful.


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