Thursday, February 02, 2006



This wonderful spot for the American Civil Liberties Union was recently forwarded to me by an old college acquaintance, Rob Weinberg (you can see his business link to the left).

I hadn't seen the spot yet, but it chilled me to the marrow. I honestly believe I stopped producing red blood cells for five minutes.

As with all advances of civilization, technology can be used for good or for evil. Then there's the law of unintended consequences. It's convenient to order online at (heck, I even own stock in the company), and Amazon's way of linking stuff you like to other stuff you like is, while sometimes a bit much, often helpful or instructive. But the ability to merge massive databases can lead to horror stories, and the potential of not just government, but multinational corporations, to leverage your personal data for great gain and your detriment, is huge. Not to mention the carelessness with which our banks, health maintenance organizations, governments, and others are handling these bits of information that we consider private.

Remember this as you watch the new Roberts Supreme Court. Remember that, constitutionally, your right to privacy exists only because of constitutional case law, and we now have a majority on the Court that, as strict constructionists, believe that you have no right to privacy because it's not spelled out in the Constitution.

Even though I've made my living as a marketer -- and mailed and emailed sales messages to millions of recipients -- it's clear that legislation, and probably a Constitutional amendment, is required to tip the scales back to the side of average schmucks like you and me. For instance, when I wanted to reach people to get them to try the magazine for which I formerly worked, I would rent another magazine's list of subscribers and mail them our information. Now, those folks could actively opt out, but I propose there needs to be some sort of version of copyright on your personal information. Every time your personal information is transferred, you need to receive a payment of some sort. The legislation would have to forbid governments and corporations from asking individuals to sign waivers, or else they'd quickly get us to sign one in order to continue to bank or earn a living.

When you think about what multinational corporations can do because of their size and their greed -- banks, insurance companies, credit reporting agencies, appliance manufacturers, brokerages, etc. -- it's clear that we need to press our elected representatives now to seriously alter the landscape. As it is, most of them are already on the payroll (via campaign contributions) of these firms, so it won't be easy. We've got to be ready to vote out anybody who won't take action on this. And maybe, just maybe, we need to step up ourselves.

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