Privacy Lost

May 29th, 2008

Roughly 2 years ago MSNBC.com published a 5-part articled called “Privacy Lost,” which showed the various privacy issues that Americans will have to deal with as well as the steady decline in our privacy. While most articles written this long ago would be faded away with newer and updated information, this article did a great job assessing the way things were in 2006, and showing exactly what the future holds.

The first article, “Privacy under attack, but does anybody care?” discusses the various methods that companies, the government, and criminals could use to slowly chip away at the privacy you think you have. Many of the issues in the article, including giving out personal information to get supermarket coupons or a political consultant contacting you based on the information they bought from another company or person, are still pertinent today. Everything we do can be found somehow or somewhere…anything I type can be found on the Internet one way or another. The article brilliantly states, “The digital bread crumbs you leave everywhere make it easy for strangers to reconstruct who you are, where you are and what you like.” I have written countless blogs about this very subject….today, yesterday…2 years later.

A poll conducted by MSNBC found that 60% of people were fearful that they were losing their privacy and it did bother them. As far as I can see, not that much has changed. More recent polls conducted by EPIC pretty much say the same thing. Awareness has not increased, but the privacy issues have. The article continues to discuss companies and agencies losing millions of peoples’ personal information and the backlash they face, but yet Home Depot asks you for a phone number when you make a purchase so they can keep track of you…and everyone I saw politely gives it up. Why get mad at a reliable organization that misplaces your information, but then give all your personal information for a free coupon?

How should law enforcement approach the privacy issue? Is it OK to monitor everyone, or should you lose your right to privacy for a criminal (or alleged criminal)? Government agencies buy information from marketing companies that buy our information from supermarkets…no one person can assume their information is private. Is it a worthwhile trade off?

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