The following is a Plus Edition article written by and copyright by Dick Eastman.
Over and over we read articles bemoaning the lack of privacy. Lawmakers propose silly laws to “protect privacy” or to “stop identity theft.” The proposed laws actually would do no such thing. The fact is that we don’t have any privacy today, laws or no laws. Our movements and our personal information are easily available to anyone who cares to check. In fact, our ancestors also had no privacy. The only difference is that today’s technology makes it easier to spy on you, me, and other citizens.
Do you take public transportation to work, and do you use a “smart card” or a monthly pass to pay for your ride? If so, there is a computer log of your travels. The same is true if you have a “Fast Lane” or “EZ-Pass” transponder in the windshield of your automobile to pay the fees on the various toll roads. Each trip through every toll booth is recorded and tracked by a computer.
If you cross a busy intersection in most any city, a camera may snap your picture and send the digitized image to a database. Airports, train stations, and subways do the same. If you use a cell phone, the telephone company records your approximate location and your travels. In fact, they track that information even if you never make or receive a phone call! Simply turn the phone on, and it immediately communicates with the nearest cell tower. That information is easily available to police upon request.
If you use e-mail, a copy of every message you send is captured and can be made available to police if the request is accompanied by the proper paperwork. If you use Google’s free e-mail service, the contents of your personal messages are scanned for keywords to generate ads related to what you wrote to friends or family.
A quick Google search can reveal someone’s high school, an old resume, or almost any reference in a newspaper. You can find court appearances and honor roll students alike in Google searches. Dig deeper on other online databases, some of which require payment of fees, and you will find court records and other official documents that reveal who was arrested for driving under the influence or for domestic battery.
Type a listed residential phone number into Google’s search box. In many cases, the first result that pops up will be the full name of the resident and the home address, and one click will give you a map of that address. That information was always available, but until sophisticated search engines came along, one needed a local phone book, a map, and a lot of time. Today, all you need is a few seconds to accomplish the same thing.
Several different free sites will even tell anyone the price paid for your house. One or two will even provide an estimate of the house’s value today.
Even Ancestry.com, FamilySearch.org, and thousands of other genealogy sites provide information about our origins. When was the last time a bank or someone asked for your mother’s maiden name “for security reasons?” Don’t make me laugh! Any bank employee who thinks that a maiden name is secure needs to be fired on the spot.
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