According to the AP, emloyees of Stanley, Inc., have beed fired for reportedly viewing the passport records of Sen. Obama.  The New York Times reports that the passport files of Senators Obama, Clinton, and McCain have been accessed inappropriately. Whether they revealed more than name, place and date of birth, and social security number remains to be seen.

No doubt this will result in a flood of rule making and billable hours for consultants. It seems to me that there is an alternative to devising higher security for government records.  If the government collected a lower volume of sensitive information, then there is less information that can be inappropriately viewed. 

The gov’t collects a good deal of information from people who fill out forms for some service or consideration. The question is, just how many different data fields are really necessary for a given service? In other words, how much excess information is being collected to satisfy the just-in-case doubts suffered by the gov’t form designer?

Passport information may be a bad example on which to raise this question owing to the gravity of passport issuance.  But the larger questions still exists- Just how much information about citizens is truly necessary to run the government?  Are there any checks and balances here?