Why Is Everyone So Interetested in My Sex?


A lot of these forms I have to fill out ask for my sex. Of course there is no reason to ask me this. My sex is basically medical information. As far as I can tell name, birth date, sex, and sometimes place of birth are being used to generate a GUID. But like giving your place of birth for passports, giving one’s sex is ripe for abuse. It only adds on average one bit of information at most to the GUID.

Everyone needs to work together and stop giving excessive information to agencies. Let’s take a page from capabilities and create the principle of least information. A(n) (government) agency cannot misuse information that it does not have.

For example, say you are making a whitelist of email addresses to accept mail from. You actually do not need to be able to retrieve who is on your white list. All you need to know is if some random email address is on the list. So it is sufficient to store the SHA-1 hash of each email address in your whitelist. The same thing would work for a web poll, etc.

It may seem a bit silly to do this work for your whitelist, but you can see how it would be good (for the people) for government agencies, etc. to apply the principle of least information. Agencies are always trying to exceed their mandate, but with less information, they are less likely to exceed their mandate.

Right now I am in the Netherlands, and the Dutch are welcome to have whatever hoops they want for immigration. So I will fill in my sex. But next time I fill in a Canadian form (taxes) I will avoid giving my sex. It is probably better to tick both sexes rather than neither. This will prevent ‘helpful’ secretaries from filling in your sex on your behalf.

Maybe I should start a wiki-site for people to tell their stories about what forms are asking for too much information, and what people have done about them.



Russell O’Connor: contact me