Tuesday, March 15, 2005



I nearly had a heart attack tonight. No, it wasn’t the peanut-butter-and-banana burrito I ate an hour ago. It was that I actually agreed with a Republican member of the House of Representatives. Even more amazing, he was from Texas.

Rep. Joe Barton, who sits on the Energy and Commerce Committee, said that Social Security information should not be sold commercially by credit agencies and other such companies — at least, not without the permission of the person whose Social Security Number it is.

"I've not heard anything that explains to me why we should allow that to go on," said Barton, who said he would probably carve out an exemption for police investigations.

In fairness, Democratic Rep. Ed Markey of Massachusetts has introduced a similar bill, and Seattle radio commentator Dave Ross once suggested that no information be allowed to be sold unless it had the written permission of the recipient.

All of these are wonderful ideas.

Too much information is now available, and more will be released into the world as soon as possible.

Even now, I routinely refuse to give my Social Security Number when asked for it. Someone who asks had better justify it and have a governmental purpose for asking. I do not sign my name electronically at cash registers where they ask you to do so. It’s easy enough to steal data without giving someone the ability to add my signature. I’ve even gotten to the point where I try to avoid other marking information, such as mother’s maiden name or birthdate.

Am I being paranoid? Maybe. But tonight my spouse asked me if she should sign up for Google’s new g-mail product. I urged her not to. Aside from all the other information already being zipped electronically from place to place, add Google’s plan to read all email to make better information for its vendors, and, well, you don’t have to be Rod Serling to see an unfortunate end to it all.

So I firmly support this way of solving the problem, even if it does make things a little more difficult for myself at work. After all, tomorrow I’m mailing 97,000 letters to potential subscribers asking them to sample our magazine, Technical Analysis of STOCKS & COMMODITIES.

As Pogo said…

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