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Privacy - Past, Present, and Future
Tuesday, 3 August 2004

Mood:  don't ask
This is a post I found in usenet recently. I felt it applied so I am posting it here with permission of the author. "on a somewhat related matter, re privacy and civil liberties, i was listening to a CBC radio program yesterday, the host and his guests were speaking about how America has become the 'database nation' where unprecedented amounts of personal/private information are being (electronically) collected and stored on EVERY citizen by various government agencies and private organizations, and using means that you can't even begin to comprehend. it was ironic to hear the guest from the UK speak in warning tones about the erosion of civil liberties in the US, when in his own country, there are cameras on every street corner. but on the other hand, HE should know a thing or two about the matter, given that he lives with invasive video surveillance everyday, at least in his country, the cameras are in-your-face, so to speak... but not so with the clandestine technologies being used (right now) in the US to gather data on its citizens. on the flip-side, there was also the ever-entrepreneurial american guest who saw the collection of private information (on his fellow citizens) as a great "business opportunity" for the buying/selling (commodification) of private information. his rationale was that it was good for the american economy because it somehow enabled and made it easier/cheaper to produce goods/services tailored toward individual needs/preferences, etc. i'm still scratching my head over that one... yeah sure, i'll trade-in my privacy so that i can buy a toaster with my damn name on it! i was sickened by his capitalist zeal and cavalier dismissal of personal privacy, and moreover, disheartened to hear that we, here in canada, are headed down that same road, as we always seem to be, not far behind of whatever way the winds are blowing south of our border. later in the program, the host went on to talk about the 'embedded chip' that goes under your skin, so basically you walk around with your life history and financial information stored in a tiny database on a chip that's embedded in the back of your head, well probably your wrist, for *practical* reasons (i know, 'practical' in this context is absurd). sadly, this chip is being used as we speak, and not just on dogs and cats anymore, nope... there are actually people walking the streets of new york right now who voluntarily had themselves embedded, if you will, blissfully transmitting their data, and daily activities, so that the technology can be *improved*. (actually, these volunteers were paid to participate... for now). by the end of the program, i wanted to wrap myself in tinfoil and go hide in a cave or something."

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Posted by hermes at 6:44 PM CDT
Monday, 28 June 2004
Where is our reasonable expectation for privacy going?
Mood:  down

What is a "reasonable expectation" of privacy for a free, law-abiding individual in the USA? When I was a kid years ago, it used to be that we could travel the roads without worrying or even having reason to think that we would be filmed doing so, or tracked by a satelite from a device in our new car. The picture above is a picture of a wireless camera mounted on top of a street lamp which films the traffic on some busy highways in the US. It IS legal for the government to do this, as the laws governing non-consentual video capturing allow video, but disallow audio recording in the local area of this camera. Their reason or excuse for putting it there (and all the other dozens of identical cameras on lamp posts in the immediate vicinity of this one) is to monitor the flow of traffic through that area. We can be tracked in so many ways as we travel now days! If you put the small device in your car which pays the state toll at all state toll booths for you by just driving past a sensor, the state government can track where you travel. Buy a nice new vehicle with GPS or On-Star or any of those new-fangled systems on it, you can be easily tracked. Use your cell phone in the car much? The technology exists to locate you depending on which cell tower(s) you are transmitting and receiving through. Ever see the cameras they put at intersections to capture records of your driving habits? The cameras at each toll booth that takes a picture of your license plate as you leave the toll booth whether you pay the correct amount or not? The definition of a "reasonable expectation" of privacy for a "free" law-abiding citizen of the United States has changed greatly just in the past 20 years. The FBI is allowed to use most likely any of the means listed here plus many more insidious ways to track us and find out personal details about our lives, especially since 9/11. Our civil rights and liberties are eroding at an alarming rate, and it's terrible. If nothing else, I say we need to put our foot down and stop them at the property line of our homesteads or at the very least at our front doors! Let's fight for and protect the sliver of privacy and personal freedom we still possess in our own homes!

Posted by hermes at 8:22 PM CDT

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