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Who Cares If Privacy Is Slipping Away? 393

IAmTheDave writes, "This morning MSNBC's home page is topped by the opening story in a series, Privacy Under Attack, But Does Anybody Care? Privacy rights have been debated to death here on Slashdot, but this article attempts to understand people's ambivalence towards the decline of privacy. The article discusses how over 60 percent of Americans — while somewhat unable to quantify what exactly privacy is and what's being lost — feel a pessimism about privacy rights and their erosion. However, a meager 6-7% polled have actually taken any steps to help preserve their privacy. The article's call to action: '...everyone has secrets they don't want everyone else to know, and it's never too late to begin a discussion about how Americans' right to privacy can be protected.'"
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Who Cares If Privacy Is Slipping Away?

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  • by Phoenix666 ( 184391 ) on Monday October 16, 2006 @01:22PM (#16454885)
    They want to know everything but everything about me? OK, fine.

    As long as I get to know everything but everything about George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Condy Rice, Donald Rumsfeld, Bill Gates, Donald Trump, and Pat Robertson. Specifically, I'd like to know their exact whereabouts at all times, what their bank account and social security #'s are. I'd also really like to know where their kids go to school and what their medical histories are.

    Oh, wait. You're not ready to share that information with the rest of us? Then you can butt the hell out of my information. Anything less will be settled with guns.
  • by WormholeFiend ( 674934 ) on Monday October 16, 2006 @01:22PM (#16454899)
    I'm all for lack of privacy, as long as it applies equally to everyone, starting with our political leaders, judges, and police officers and so on.
  • by perlchild ( 582235 ) on Monday October 16, 2006 @01:23PM (#16454919)
    1) It's hard to quantify what's lost, and since it's being traded "for" something usually, it's rather hard to evaluate how good a deal it is, so most people don't do the exercise, since what's lost... usually isn't lost at time of purchase, but much later.

    2) What's lost can have almost infinite value, one's loss of privacy could end with becoming a victim of identity theft and until it's established one's a victim, one could be accused of pretty nasty things. But that doesn't happen right away, is hard to prove, and doesn't happen to everyone.

    That means that the protection seems large, unwieldy, like expensive insurance, and at some point, risky, like suing a large corporation over a five dollar item. People don't see the value of what they lose, only the value of what they lose by trying to protect some abstract value.

    Until some court cases start making noise over protection of private data, I don't see that changing.
  • Re:Hardly surprising (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Daniel832US ( 530981 ) <scdaniel@openoak.com> on Monday October 16, 2006 @01:27PM (#16454993) Homepage
    W stated that terrorists don't like the freedoms that the US enjoys... Is the government policy to rid us of those freedoms so that the terrorists won't have a reaon to attack? Maybe this is how we're winning the war on terrorism. :(
  • by dada21 ( 163177 ) * <adam.dada@gmail.com> on Monday October 16, 2006 @01:27PM (#16455003) Homepage Journal
    If I tell you something about me, it isn't a secret. If I make you promise not to tell anyone, it is still out there. If you put that secret in a database and then you sell your business, what can I do? Sue you?

    There's no point to secrecy/privacy laws -- the only way to protect yourself would be to sue, and how would you afford to sue? Maybe you can get together with a few thousand people who were hurt by the same party, and class-action sue? How again does that help you?

    I don't have secrets -- there's no point. I was talking to a friend about how MySpace is reducing the amount of cheating that goes on in the lives of sexually-active young adults. He didn't believe me, until he realized that its nearly impossible to burn the candles at both ends secretly -- people will find out now that information travels faster than a Sidekick 3 text message.

    What do you want to keep secret? Your SSN? Too late. Your debt to income ratio? Everyone knows you don't own the house and car, friends. Privacy is not the concern -- the thing people fear is others stealing their identities. Privacy laws won't help, all it takes is on $8/hour employee seeing your information and counting the future dollar signs. If you want protection, protect yourself by not RELYING on your secrets. There are numerous ways to do this -- forget about credit, own what you want, and if you can't own it from the start, save until you can. Diversify your income by taking on new talents and trades. Focus on building REAL relationships with people around you -- don't do the rock-to-rock skipping around that is so commonplace in life (think: relationships, jobs, etc).

    I don't need privacy, in fact, the more people know about me, the easier it is to sell myself to future prospective clients AND future friends. What do I have to hide?
  • Re:"Real life" (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ackthpt ( 218170 ) * on Monday October 16, 2006 @01:34PM (#16455103) Homepage Journal

    Privacy issues won't arise for the general public untill it's them directly affected. They see no reason to care untill they see what happens when they don't care.

    And as people in Germany found, sometimes when it's a matter of pain, you can't do anything anyway, because the gestapo will haul your ass off somewhere for the SS Totenkopfverband to kick the shit out of you and then hang you up in public as an example of what happens to traitors. Then your country will be bombed or whatever until there's only half the population left. Well, is that all it takes to get rid of a despot? Let me know when the revolution starts, I'll be busy with figuring out how to play mp3's in my car.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 16, 2006 @01:35PM (#16455113)
    Then you can butt the hell out of my information. Anything less will be settled with guns.

    They already know where your guns are.

    No so ironically, many of the same independent-minded correct-thinking Slashbots who claim to be in favor of privacy are all for selling out law-abiding gun owners.

    Because when it was their guy in power, they don't care.
  • Re:"Real life" (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Salvance ( 1014001 ) on Monday October 16, 2006 @01:44PM (#16455247) Homepage Journal
    Even if privacy rights were severely eroded, most people are just too lazy to do anything about it. Heck, there could be a line on this year's ballot asking 'Do you want to give up all your rights and have the United States become a fascist dictatorship led by a computer simulation of Hitler?', and everyone would be complaining to no end ... but we'd still probably only have a 35% voter turnout.
  • by postbigbang ( 761081 ) on Monday October 16, 2006 @01:48PM (#16455331)
    If one simply traipses over to MediaMatters.Org, or any of a number of media-watching sites, it takes no rocket science to understand that less privacy=more profits. And as profits are above all, including morality, they must reign, or so we are told.

    And as all of the minimum wage serfs sneer at you when they as you for your phone number when you in for a hair trim, it becomes increasingly impossible to remain anonymous, private in one's own affairs, and free from the scrutiny of the self-righteous. Somehow, I must live their concept of the path to Heaven, and deviation is, well, deviant.

    So: kick the cameras when you find them. Put a little hood on them and beat them with a hammer. Cut coax. Re-address IP cams to porn feeds. Put chewing gum in appropriate places. Part of freedom is freedom from scrutiny. Burn the man; hack the system . One this is clear: live free or die isn't just for New Hampshire license plates-- you have to live it or surrender it.
  • Re:Hardly surprising (Score:2, Interesting)

    by lordmetroid ( 708723 ) on Monday October 16, 2006 @01:52PM (#16455379)
    There seems to be a few people that do care. I just stumbled upon The Free State Project [freestateproject.org] which at least gives me hope. Maybe I even join them and emmigrates to New Hampshire.
  • by Maxo-Texas ( 864189 ) on Monday October 16, 2006 @01:53PM (#16455399)
    I know what you mean. Kroger knows me as Mr. Harry Peters. Randalls knows me as Mike Hunt. I forget the street addresses but they were witty.

    However, have you *ever* used a valid credit card with your affinity card?

    If so... your false information can be tied to your real identity.

    The Kroger affinity card that gives the best discounts (15 cents per gallon on gass) is a real credit card.

    The point of my humorous post was this...
    We will fight to the death for our privacy, yet sell it away to get gas for 1.98 a gallon instead of 2.00 a gallon or milk at 3.00 a gallon instead of 5.29 a gallon. So basically, our privacy is worth between 2% and 10% of our annual expenditures.
  • Re:You what? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by kamochan ( 883582 ) on Monday October 16, 2006 @01:53PM (#16455411)

    Its probably a better time to start a debate about how we here in Europe can stop the Americans from erroding our existing privacy laws to suit themselves.

    The discussion has already been going on for a while. Consider, for example, the recent airline information leak issue [bbc.co.uk]. The very basic improvement of going from a "pull" model to a "push" model [europa.eu] was a step in the right direction.

    To note, I e-mailed my EU parliament rep about this issue while the talks were ongoing. She responded back the next day with a very thoughtful reply, and somehow a few days later my "at least" scenario came to be. It gave at least a nice illusion of working democracy.

  • Re:"Real life" (Score:5, Interesting)

    by QuasiEvil ( 74356 ) on Monday October 16, 2006 @02:05PM (#16455689)
    >Has most of the US populous been pegged as a terrorist because of something they did and been interrogated

    Try being a photographer in Fortress America these days - particularly one with an interest in transportation and industrial settings. Trust me, it sucks. Most of us are pretty much resigned to the inevitable visit from a three-letter agency.
  • Re:"Real life" (Score:2, Interesting)

    by zippthorne ( 748122 ) on Monday October 16, 2006 @02:24PM (#16456027) Journal
    Why does everyone go on about voter turnout? What's with this belief that somehow the 65% of people you think won't even bother to flip a switch, scribble on a paper, or push out a pre-weakened punch-hole are in any way qualified to make decisions for the rest of us?

    Certainly we should bend over backwards for people that actually want to vote, but if someone believes that their opinions are not valuable enough to contribute secretly to a running tally, I'm inclined to agree with them. In fact, maybe such people shouldn't even be allowed to use forks or scissors or non-sippy cups.
  • by dpbsmith ( 263124 ) on Monday October 16, 2006 @02:28PM (#16456097) Homepage
    Here's what's going on:

    1) Most Americans... including ordinary consumers... feel that invasion of privacy is pretty much OK as long as it is done for the purpose of selling stuff. And the more closely the merchandise matches the consumer's tastes, the more it is tolerated. At one extreme, sure, people object to receiving spam for products that are claimed to enlarge body parts that they do not possess. At the other extreme, well, gosh, I don't really mind when Netflix shows me the titles of several other movies featuring the same director or actors as the movie I just selected.

    2) Most Americans believe very deeply that "it can't happen here." That is, we don't really feel in our guts that there's any chance that "our" government would really use the data collected by merchandisers, health care providers, or government warrantless wiretaps, to go after people who really aren't bad guys, but just happen to be political opponents.

    And, darn it, I fall in category 2 myself. Despite everything. I gripe about invasion of privacy, but despite the fact that my intellect tells me the problem is real, my gut tells me that I'm overdramatizing.

    (And, yes, I can imagine myself... in a different time and place saying, "Let's not overreact, after all it is just broken glass.")

  • by value_added ( 719364 ) on Monday October 16, 2006 @02:30PM (#16456131)
    If I use my affinity card, then I get 2% cash back on my porn and sex toy purchases *and* 10 cents per gallon off gasoline for that month!

    Reminds me of a Dr. Phil episode I saw a months back. The couple were having problems, and the wife felt that the husband was addicted to porn. Dr. Phil is trying to get the guy to consider his wife's feelings, and asks him whether he would spend time looking at his porn if his wife was sitting next to him while he was doing it. The husband thought for a second and mumbled no, while his wife looked on approvingly, and the rest of the audience did the same.

    I wanted to say, "Hey, Dr. Phil! When you're home alone, have you ever scratched yourself, picked your nose, paused to look at the girls in beer commercials, or done anything similar you wouldn't be caught dead doing in public, or in front of someone?" but I was too caught up in the feel-good moment to contemplate the finer points of this concept called privacy.

    My guess is that privacy won't be important for the average person until they discover it's missing. Having someone point out your zipper is undone, discovering you're the victim of identity theft, or having an ex post compromising pictures of you on a website all help, but by then, it's a bit late, isn't it?

    Or maybe it doesn't matter. I hear tell-all Barbara Walters style of interviews are popular, as are reality shows and entertainment gossip programming. If you can trade privacy for 15 minutes of fame, or passively enjoy the guilty indulgence of seeing other people's private lives exposed, why get worked up about abstract notions?
  • Re:"Real life" (Score:2, Interesting)

    by feepness ( 543479 ) on Monday October 16, 2006 @02:31PM (#16456155) Homepage
    Most of us are pretty much resigned to the inevitable visit from a three-letter agency.

    OMG! You got a visit! Everybody PANIC!

    Really, the one I'm most afraid of is the IRS and they've been pushing people around for nearly a century now... this didn't start yesterday.
  • by jazman_777 ( 44742 ) on Monday October 16, 2006 @02:31PM (#16456179) Homepage
    With all the tell-all shows, reality tv, etc., is the clamor for privacy just so many fine-sounding words? Because Americans are relentlessly public, looking for their fame.
  • Re:Moo (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Catbeller ( 118204 ) on Monday October 16, 2006 @02:40PM (#16456351) Homepage
    Is that the hat with the new RFID tracker for retailers, or the RFID trackers for the Homeland/SS at the airports, or New Improved RFID tracker for tracking toll booth payments as well as your car's every move, or the RFID tracking insert suitable for tracking the poor, helpless children would would certainly be in mortal danger from terrorist pedophile internet stalkers if we were not tracking their hats?

    Thank you for your support, citizen, for obeying the Law and stopping kid-following a-rabs everywhere. Remember to report anyone who does not where the new, guvmint-approved TinFil Hat with improved security features. And tell your kids to keep an eye on those evildoers at school as well. The schools are there to be protect your tykes from rifle-wielding Arab terrorist pedophile teenaged blackcoat killers, so every kid turned in is another IED brick removed from the wall of Fortress America. Godspeed the chosen people, the American race...

  • Re:"Real life" (Score:4, Interesting)

    by LifeWithJustin ( 969206 ) on Monday October 16, 2006 @02:43PM (#16456407) Homepage Journal

    I've been two a protest or two, and I've never had an FBI guy knocking on my door. I've been vocal about different issues. I have a website that will poke fun at elected officials during the election cycles. Yet, I still haven't even had a hit from the FBI's office on my website.

    I must be doing something wrong.

    Oh yeah... I'd like everyone to know that "garcia" is now on the FBI watch list after his comments.

    Look Side A uses fear so that they can gain more control then we might normally feel comfortable with. But we seem to forget that Side B uses unrealistic fear about the erosion of personal freedoms. I feel that Bush falls in Side A and people like "garcia" fall into Side B.

  • Re:"Real life" (Score:3, Interesting)

    by CylanR77 ( 532552 ) on Monday October 16, 2006 @03:11PM (#16456847)
    Your comment might actually make sense if the people who take pictures of a bridge were trying to take pictures of a top-secret span that national security depended on.

    But as it stands, beliving that a bridge might somehow be protected from "terrorism" because a photographer would be prevented from (or terrorized for) taking pictures of something that is completely open to the public and which hundreds, if not thousands or *millions* of people are free to observe on a daily basis is downright absurd.

    Or are you one of those people who believe that an erosion of personal freedoms is ok, just as long as you're still comfortable?
  • Mod parent down (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 16, 2006 @03:17PM (#16456923)
    Americans see what happens to people who speak out against the administration: Colin Powell, and V. Plame are prime examples of people who have had their careers destroyed because of the current administration.

    Oh, come on, we've already established that Valerie Plame was a low-level clerical worker with deleusions of grandeur, who was accidentally outed by someone who opposes Bush. And I've always thought that Powell was a bit kooky. I've always thought that most of the Bush and Clinton administrations were kooky.

    People tend not to take on things much bigger than them.

    Oh, and who should care for them? Any political body is going to be dominated by an elite few, whether it's the political system, or whether it's a loose community such as the people who care about privacy. If the elite don't care for you anymore, then all you can do is leave the masses behind and take care of yourself.

    When the leading front runner for a president to replace the one we have now, is the wife of the previous president,

    Now you're just using wishful thinking. Oh, wait, the entire post was wishful thinking wrapped up in paranoia.

  • by vinn01 ( 178295 ) on Monday October 16, 2006 @05:17PM (#16459001)

    I never refuse an opportunity to provide bad data. Bad data is worse than no data. If you hate cheezy maketing, why pass up a request (opportunity) to poison a marketing database?

    A few hints:
    Your birthday should be February 29th of a non-leap year.
    Your phone number should start with "1" (phone numbers in the US never start with "0" or "1")
    If you're a Blues Brothers fan, like I am, your address should be "1060 West Addison."
    City, State and Zip should never match (e.g Dallas, AZ, 90210)

    You get the idea?

    Have fun and remember to smile ...

"I think trash is the most important manifestation of culture we have in my lifetime." - Johnny Legend