Keep Our Families Safe

Whatever Happened to Privacy?

The announcement by the federal government approving the injection of microchips under the skin as an aid to physicians has raised serious privacy concerns.
 
Some argue that the announcement is just another step in the erosion of privacy in this country.
 
First there were security cameras in shopping malls. Pretty soon those same cameras were on street corners. Then there were shopping cards in the supermarket, bookstores, and many other places, all offering discounts in exchange for personal information and details about buying habits.
 
Now we have electronic tags or “cookies” on the Internet, software that monitors e-mail, global positioning satellite (GPS) devices that can pinpoint where we are on the planet to within a few yards, and machines that can capture finger- and face-prints are right around the corner.
 
Let us also not forget to mention two new services recently announced by one of the best Internet search engines available. The first is the search engine’s own email service. The service is free, but as a consequence, targeted advertising will come up on your screen while you are reading your messages. The second is the new search service that allows you to search online and in your own computer.
 
While all of these services come with the requisite promise that no personal information will be sent back to the company, no information will be sold to other organizations, it is easy to feel like Big Brother is not far off.
 
“It’s this whole new world. It’s sort of like all these little details about our lives are being recorded,” said Richard M. Smith, a Boston Internet security consultant. “We love the conveniences. We love the services. But people kind of instinctively know there’s a dark side to this. They just hope it won’t happen to them.”
 
Just think about how much personal information one unwittingly discloses in the average day: checking the financial pages online sends information from your computer to the newspaper, the EZ-pass transponder in your car transmits information when you pass though a tollbooth, your local pharmacy sends along information to data analysis companies when you pick up your prescription. Even at work, some employees go though face recognition systems to get into their buildings, and there are all kinds of programs to monitor the Web sites an employee is looking at on office time, and even programs that trace one’s individual keystrokes.
 
Raising a family in an age where it is so easy to learn so much about people can be very daunting. The challenges are best summed up by author David Brin, who worries that all of this information could very easily be used by bad people or misguided government leaders. “It’s wonderful stuff, but there are horrible possible consequences.”