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.


Secret Birthday Bill in Texas

I have great respect for our elected officials — even the ones I didn’t vote. That said, I have to question whether Cindy Burkett, a Republican in the Texas Legislature, is doing her utmost to look out for her constituents by proposing a Secret Birthday Bill.

Image source:

House Bill 2766 was filed, per columnist Bud Kennedy, in response to a request from the city of Mesquite, TX. Apparently a stalking suspect tried to access women’s birthdays from public records…so they asked Burkett to address the legality of public workers disclosing birth dates.

I used to write about identity theft, so I recognize the use of birthdays in public records is a concern. Nevertheless, Kennedy reports, “As written, the bill would make a schoolroom birthday party a crime with a fine of up to $1,000.”

Fortunately, Kennedy appears to be taking creative license. There’s nothing in the available text of the bill mentioning schoolroom birthday parties or any fines. In fact, the law seems to be looking to rid county clerk officers of liability for disclosing a birthday that is already in the public record. In this litigious time that makes sense.

Making birthdays secret? I would never vote for that. Giving public officials a little more security when they’re doing their job? I could understand voting “yeah.”

Birthday tracking?

I’ve encountered a birthday-related idea that I can’t get behind. Sorry. It’s an online database of people’s birthdays. wants to let you enter the first and last name of a friend, co-worker, or relative, as well as their approximate age, and find out on what day their birthday falls.

I’m not against someone wanting to celebrate me — uhm, I mean with me — but couldn’t they just ask me when my birthday is? The idea of someone going online to track public records to find out my birthday is creepy to me.



Fortunately, the database didn’t find me. Zero public records found. I’ll worry about what that means on another day. No need to get all existential about it, right?