Since the introduction of www.Healthcare.gov, used for enrolling people into the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, most Americans have been underwhelmed and frustrated with its poor performance. This failure has fueled renewed attacks by the GOP and tea party members who have opposed the ACA it since it’s inception, even after the Supreme Court upheld its constitutionality.
Whether you agree with the underlying legislation or not, let’s get one thing straight: the failure of the technological aspects of the website are not peculiar to the government. Critics charge the federal bureaucracy is incapable of setting up such a highly advanced website. Let’s stop being naive or so ideological that we overlook the fact that even the biggest high-technology companies have had their share of technology snafus, often hiding the damaging effects on the public. This is true even though they were not under the pressures of strict deadlines and reduced budgets faced by the government.
In case you think the private sector is any better at avoiding these high-tech snafus:
1. In 2011, Sony suffered a major security breach of its PlayStation Network on April 19. The company didn’t even disclose it until April 26 and apologized on May 1. In the days leading up to the outage, its network was hacked. Worse, the personal information of some 77 million customers was exposed. A week later, according to Japan’s Nikkei news, another breach involved the theft of 12,700 credit card numbers and data from over 24,000 users. This was the second worst security breach since the TJ Maxx and Heartland attacks.
2. In 2007, the parent company of TJ Maxx, Marshalls and HomeGoods chains admitted that its network had been hacked, and personal information for more than 45 million customers had been stolen. Although first detected in December 2006, it later admitted a breach as early as July 2005, a year after a security audit revealed “serious deficiencies” in its network—with over 100 million credit cards compromised.
If you think these are the exceptions…think again. These events are far more common than we may ever know, involving millions of credit cards or other pieces of our so-called ‘secure personal information.’ You can Google “technology errors” and come up with multiple disasters for Apple, Intel, Iomega, Dell, Amazon and Sony, our technology giants.
Computer and network security is big money, from the hacker’s, as well as the security analysts’ perspectives. My son just received his PhD in computer/network security and is being paid big bucks to help prevent these kinds of problems.
Let’s stop looking to pin the blame on the Obama administration. These websites are not simple templates; they need lots of excellent programmers and code-writers to get it right. Even then, as we’ve seen, the end result is not always predictable. Pitting the private sector against the government sector will end in a futile attempt at finger-pointing. Perhaps the technologies and abilities needed in the high-tech arena are just as much an art as they are a practice of engineering. Let’s give the government kudos for its intentions and some time to get it right before trying to show that “all things government related are fallible.”