Colonel Gray High School
Privacy in a Digital World
A group of companies maintains customer information. In each of the databases, they collect information about their customers like name, town, phone, social insurance number, date of birth e-mail, and the type of products they buy and how often.
In order to increase their ability to understand and sell products to their customers, this group of companies decides to share their databases so they can get a more complete view of their customers habits, interests, and purchasing patterns.
We all like our privacy but in a Dec. 19, 2005 article by Jeff Harrow of the Harrow Technology Report, he talks about the idea of privacy becoming an outdated notion.
An Antiquated Notion?
"Over time we've explored several elements of how our expanding technological infrastructure (for examples http://www.futurebrief.com/jeffharrowtech012.asp and http://www.futurebrief.com/jeffharrowbuggy008.asp) is having a significant impact on the visibility of our "private" information, and on its easy instant accessibility. While many of the results of the Information Age have great positive potential, the easy melding of this personal information from many once-disparate sources also brings the specter of being very bad. So much so that if things continue unchecked, we may eventually have little choice but to accept the idea of "personal privacy" as an antiquated notion.
Credit agencies, insurance and medical information pools, credit card and banking transactions, telephone call records, location information from cell phones and toll booth transponders (and potentially from RFID tags), and a vast array of public records, are now for the first time but a click away from governmental agencies, interested businesses and their partners, and others (if not always directly to the general public). And where you can click, you can combine. Which makes most of us who participate in the electronic world an open book.
How open? Reader Victor Panlilio points us to a poignant look at how this could well develop, which you can view at the Web site below. You probably won't like the result (or the virtually unlimited spectrum of related examples that will quickly come to mind.)
This 3-4 minute exploration of the logical extension of today's information assets should be chilling to any of us who value some shreds of remaining privacy, because all of the personal information behind the scenes of this pizza-ordering scenario is already quite available in electronic form (even if Social Security Numbers currently stand in for a "National ID Number.") For example, if you've recently called one of the nationwide pizza chains for home delivery you may have already experienced a nascent form of what's depicted, and what lies ahead.
I'm hardly an "activist," yet I strongly recommend the few minutes it will take to view this "movie" on the ACLU's Web site. Then, if you don't like the results -- and we really are just one or two small steps away from making this (at least a technological) reality, then you may want to consider if this is a world in which you wish to live, or have your children inherit.
If not, it's up to each of us, through our elected representatives, to place controls on the use of personal information. As we continuously leave more extensive electronic tracks behind as we move around and buy things and communicate, I can't see the closing of Pandora's "information-storage and sharing box." But we do have a chance to limit how these amazingly accurate pictures of our lives can be used.
It is up to us -- to each of us. And there's little time."
To read up on RFID tags, visit http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RFID