Privacy in America

January 18, 2011 • Dear Editor

Dear Edi[auth] tor,

Social media alone is now consuming a major portion of Internet bandwidth and there is no end in sight. All this information, believe it or not, is scanned by government and corporations to find “tidbits,” significant or not, about people. So what happens to all these “tidbits” of information? Basically they end up in computer fields which in turn are scanned again and again (as information is added) to build your life story.

Seriously speaking any American, including you, can have literally dozens of information files spread over many corporations and government agencies. The bottom line is your being watched far more closely than realized. You’re buying habits, your political views and even your sexual preferences are now a matter of record (actually many records.) Talk about the days of “Big Brother” … well not exactly. It is more like a bunch of little brothers and sisters who know personal information is a very profitable business.

Sure “Big Brother” is watching, but then, as I said, so are a lot of other people. If all this make you uneasy you are not alone. In America we have gone, in less than a decade, from a somewhat reasonable degree of personal privacy to nearly no privacy at all. In fact, if you have been to an airport lately you are aware your private parts are now being scrutinized by X-ray machinery. Even public bathrooms are scanned with video for God knows what. Somehow all this surveillance reminds me of the children’s book “Alice in Wonderland.”

A very delightful yet black broadside on the inequities of Victorian England. Remember the Red Queen. What a bitch she was. The Queen and her court made life miserable for everybody … especially Alice who understood there was a great deal of insanity being imposed upon the English people. Unfortunately the story does not end with how the Red Queen and her court collect information.

The more important story is how this information is used to control social endeavor. Health insurance companies, for example, can wheel and deal when they have access to all your medical records. Where do you think those $10 million executive bonuses come from? They come from having all these “tidbits” of information.

Another, less obvious, form of information profitability comes from stealing ideas. The Internet, as far as I am concerned, is America’s biggest brain drain … that is by scanning all e-mail it is possible to determine who has the best ideas. For example, If I can intercept all e-mails sent daily by all scientists in the drug industry sooner or later I am going to find out which drug company has a new miracle drug. Sounds silly I know, but if you were a professional hacker you would understand completely what I mean. Consider knowing which drug company has developed a new drug which can extend human life by 25 years. That would put you on the inside track to say the least.

My last point about the profitability is this. Have you ever wondered why there are so many millionaires and billionaires in this world of ours? Well you can quit wondering. The answer is, anymore, they who have the best information win. “Inside trading” in the stock market would be a perfect example. To put a real edge on information gathering be aware there are tens of thousands of people around the world who are employed strictly for the purpose of tracking your lifestyle and ideas. These people read your e-mail, track your purchases, track your bank records, investment records, health records and in general find everything about you they can … and all this is done in the open and done so-called legally.

In fact it is this very element of open and legal espionage which forms the basis for non-privacy in our new world. Of course how all this information is collected remains the central question.

As far as I am concerned the information is stolen from all of us and sold and resold and as far as the end-user is concerned they have done nothing wrong even though they know your sex, age, income, spending habits, health status and often a great deal more. How this rampage on our personal privacy affects we Americans has become a major subject of American debate.

I, for one, am inclined to believe human beings, by nature, require a great deal of privacy and when this privacy is taken away we humans are impacted in negative and subtle ways. We start believing we are being abused (duh) and then become suspicious and thus more paranoid which in turn leads to other human ailments.

So, in closing, my own consensus is we all live in the land of “Red Queen” and like it or not all of our personal information is now becoming public record and our ideas, if they are good ones, are stolen faster than we can imagine. I know this because, like Alice and a lot of other people, I see and understand how the insanity of this world affects all of us.

-Jim Osborne Roswell

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