TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Re: Book Review: Goodbye to Privacy

Re: Book Review: Goodbye to Privacy
13 Apr 2005 09:45:35 -0700

Marcus Didius Falco wrote quoting the book review:

> Goodbye to Privacy
> By Robert O'Harrow Jr.
> Dispatches From the Secret World of Global Eavesdropping.
> By Patrick Radden Keefe.

> In the past five years, what most of us only recently thought of as
> 'nobody's business' has become the big business of everybody's
> business.

This has been going on much longer than merely "five years" -- more
like at least 30 years. The big three credit bureaus have been around
a long time.

> The computer's ability to collect an infinity of data about
> individuals -- tracking every movement and purchase, assembling facts
> and traits in a personal dossier, forgetting nothing -- was in place
> before 9/11. But among the unremarked casualties of that day was a
> value that Americans once treasured: personal privacy.

That statement is greatly inaccurate. Yes, things changed on 9/11,
but those changes must be reviewed carefully in context. Other
incidents like Columbine have affected our privacy just as much.

> The first civil-liberty fire wall to fall was the one within
> government that separated the domestic security powers of the
> F.B.I. from the more intrusive foreign surveillance powers of the
> C.I.A.

That change did not really affect personal privacy. From a national
security point of view, that change was needed. The wall between the
CIA and FBI was relatively recent, put in because of dislike of Nixon
and Hoover and in disregard of the bigger picture. It is known now
that so-called "political dissent" of the 1960s was not merely speech,
but planned and coordinated revolutionary activity purposely designed
to disrupt the country as much as possible -- for the goal of
disruption. A number of former activists in that movement have
admitted this in their memoirs, collaborated by former FBI agents and
long time news correspondants. I personally heard activists of those
days squirm out of tough questions about their goals and lash out at
anyone questioning the "party line" they espoused.

> But the second fire wall crumbled with far less public notice or
> approval: that was the separation between law enforcement
> recordkeeping and commercial market research. Almost overnight, the
> law's suspect list married the corporations' prospect list.


Whenever the subject of "privacy" comes up, most people think of
"big brother" as the govt, not the private sector. The govt really
doesn't care much about you and has enough trouble linking up its
own collections of data. The real threat is from the private sector.

> Robert O'Harrow Jr.'s "No Place to Hide" might just do for privacy
> protection what Rachel Carson's "Silent Spring" did for environmental
> protection nearly a half-century ago.

ABC talked about this book and it sounds like a good one.

> O'Harrow notes that many consumers find it convenient to be in a
> marketing dossier that knows their personal preferences, habits,
> income, professional and sexual activity, entertainment and travel
> interests and foibles. These intimately profiled people are
> untroubled by the device placed in the car they rent that records
> their speed and location, the keystroke logger that reads the
> characters they type, the plastic hotel key that transmits the
> frequency and time of entries and exits or the hidden camera that
> takes their picture at a Super Bowl or tourist attraction.

I don't agree. People do like the convenience of having their
preferences ready for convenience. However, almost everyone is NOT
aware of rental car monitors, keystroke loggers, or hidden cameras
everywhere. If people really knew how much of their life was tracked
in detail and readilly available, they would be quite upset.

What is disturbing is that the data collection industry fights hard
and won all sorts of exemptions from laws trying to regulate their

Don't forget the news media is inherently anti-privacy and thus not
too supportive of regulations. They make use of such data for their
news stories. From the point of view of a newspaper, a person has no
privacy whatsoever -- it's all "the public's right to know". An
adverse story about you in a major newspaper would do far more damage
to you than an obscure entry in some big database, and there's nothing
you can do about it -- even if the story was wrong. (It is extremely
hard to prove libel against the news media, and even if you could, the
story is still out there, stored in libraries and computers, while a
correction is buried.)

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