Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Small World

A friend of mine has been having trouble finding work. He lives in Florida, and he's been bouncing between various temp agencies without much luck. Suffice to say, he's both smart and qualified, so it was difficult to understand why he was having trouble until someone finally told him: There's a man living just over the border in Alabama who shares his name and date of birth, and that man is a convicted felon and registered sex offender.

In 1995, just as America was being introduced to the World Wide Web, Sandra Bullock starred in a bad movie called The Net. The premise was that computer hackers could erase a person's identity by pressing a few buttons, and that the justice system would trust a computer printout over the objections of a living person without a second thought. It was ridiculous in 1995 and it's ridiculous today — except that we're inching toward it.

How is my friend supposed to fix this problem? There isn't any error to be corrected; it's just an unfortunate coincidence. He has to rely on the diligence of future employers to differentiate him from the convicted felon using his name and date of birth — and every time someone fails to do that and moves on to the next resume, my friend loses.


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