Choosing To Lose Your Privacy

privacy-1We’ve all heard about the revelations of high-level secrets published in a British newspaper and the Washington Post, that the government collects telephone records and intercepts Internet communications. This has led to a great cry throughout the country and the world. I don’t deny the revelations are shocking, but what is shocking to me is by how surprised so many people seem to be. I think that privacy and secrecy aren’t valued the way they used to be. If we just look around, we can see evidence of this in nearly every aspect of our daily lives.

Do we join frequent flyer clubs? Use grocery store discount programs? Sign up for credit cards that offer small refunds?

I hate to inform you but all of these track every purchase we make and use that information to spit out competitors’ coupons. These aren’t forced upon us; but our customer buying habits are easily bought, and they are directly used to influence us.

Do we buy GPS devices? Cellphones with GPS? How about smartphone apps that help navigate traffic, find nearby stores and hotels, and choose your music and news for us based on your past “expressed preferences”? How about Facebook apps? And what about the Internet searches you do at home or work? The “cookies” planted by every website you visit are not to satisfy your hunger.

These useful services are all keeping close tabs on your every movement. If you read the fine print on the “terms of use” of any of the companies which offer these services it states that the information is available to other businesses that they choose to work with, and to all levels of government investigators whenever there’s a potentially reasonable need for it. The same goes for phone call records, and that should not be news, either. Don’t we regularly read news reports indicating that wrongdoers such as bribed officials or thieves were caught by police or private detectives who searched through their phone records?

Today, we run a light at an intersection and get a ticket in the mail. Two fellows casually put down their backpacks at the Boston marathon and walk away. Within hours, a video of their actions is all over the television screens around the world. Is it a revelation that all of us are similarly being filmed whenever we do nearly anything outside our homes?

We used to be able to choose what aspects of our lives were lived in public. But it has become more and more difficult to even function today without “choosing” to lose our privacy.

I am generally pleased that this tracking technology is able to greatly help our law enforcement officers. I am pleased that the fellow Americans who steal credit cards, rob banks and plant bombs on the street are apprehended. There is definitely a trade-off going on here, and I am surprised that more Americans don’t seem to have realized it before.


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