Privacy? Surely You Jest!


Ring. Ring.

“Hello, this is Tom.”

“We know who you are, Tom. In the digital age, you will be shocked by what we know about you.”

Thomas Purcell 1

“Who is this? The National Security Agency? I thought President Obama issued orders to rein you in!”

“That’s a good one, Tom. Obama told the NSA to stop storing bulk phone records on millions of Americans. The NSA can easily access that information through phone companies. I’m not from the NSA, however.”

“Then who are you and what do you want?”

“What is more important, Tom, is who are you and what do you want? Lots of government and private organizations are interested in that information and you are making it easy for them to get it.”

“I have given no one permission to access my information!”

“Really, Tom? Didn’t you hand over your address, Social Security number and other information to buy a car, get a credit card, apply for a job or vote?”

“Maybe a few times.”

“Did you know that since 1961, various Congresses and presidential administrations have enacted more than 40 laws, regulations and policies that require the use of Social Security numbers? That is a godsend to people like me – and that was before the digital era made my job easier!”

“What do you mean?”

“Every website you visit, every online purchase you make, every email, text or online comment you make leaves an incredibly rich electronic trail that defines who you are and what you do.”

“You are bluffing.”

“Really, Tom? That 32-year-old Bolivian flight attendant you’ve been flirting with on Facebook?”

“What about her?”

“He’s 45 and he’s an undercover surveillance expert for a large retail outfit.”

“Oh. My. God.”

“You should be more careful with your password selections, Tom. It took me less than a minute to access your credit card account. Only a fool would use ‘123456,’ the worst password of 2013, according to PC World.”

“You are invading my right to privacy.”

“Really, Tom? There is no mention of any right to privacy in the U.S. Constitution. Sure, the Fourth Amendment stops the police and other government agents from searching our property without probable cause. And, says the American Civil Liberties Union, ‘other amendments protect our freedom to make certain decisions about our bodies and our private lives without interference from the government.’ But a specific right to privacy does not exist.”

“You must be breaking some law!”

“That’s a good one, too, Tom. There are no laws to prevent us from knowing about you – particularly when you so willingly hand over so much private information to so many strangers! You have no idea how vulnerable you are!”

“Vulnerable?”

“Identity theft is a growing problem, Tom. The personal information you willingly gave about yourself exists forever in the digital ecosystem. That gives savvy technical people lots of opportunities to steal your identity and destroy your finances.”

“I didn’t realize it was that easy.”

“Identity theft is less worrisome than what government entities could do to you. Look how the IRS has been used to attack political enemies. Now imagine what government entities can do when they know EVERYTHING about you! That’s why I called you today, Tom. I called to help you.”

“Help me how?”

“You know those new anti-terrorist scanners they use at the airports? Well, at your age, you might want to consider switching from briefs to boxers.”

“That, sir, is an outrage. I demand to know who you are and what you want!”

“Sorry, Tom. That information is private.”

Also see,

Springtime in Washington

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