With all the controversy surrounding the National Security Association scandal where many Americans learned the government essentially has free reign over monitoring phone calls, online activities and more, the question of our loss of privacy is nothing new.

While many lawmakers say it’s in the name of national security, many others call it a pure violation of constitutional rights. At the end of the day, someone such as myself is really asking if technology and the Internet have made it where the notion of true privacy is nothing more than a joke.

While not happy with news of the NSA’s dealings, I can’t say after Sept. 11 I am that surprised that the government is continually crossing lines that should not be crossed when it comes to snooping.

However, it’s our everyday lives where I really am not surprised to continue learning how little privacy we really have.

Let’s look at our work. At one time, papers on our desk, photos and so on were our private items we were allowed to keep at work. However, as computers and the Internet have taken over, photos on our computer and our behavior online isn’t as private as one might think. It is not uncommon for corporate or your boss to be able to access your computer desktop without your knowledge. Who knows, my boss may be reading this editorial as I write it now while sitting in a desk in another room.

The possibilities are there.

Then, you have your shopping behavior. If you think those rewards cards are really just about giving you a discount – think again. The information from these cards is used to track what and when you buy things, where you shop and many other things that a marketer may find useful.

For the right price, a lot of this information is sold to another company for marketing reasons. If you wonder why you are getting a phone call with some sales offer from some company you’ve never heard of – think about that paperwork you filled out for a rewards card.  If you think it’s not big deal to give a store your phone number – think again.

The multiplier effect will go on forever. Your phone number or personal information is given out once, but sold over and over again. You need an example? Look at the inbox of your e-mail – if it’s suddenly loaded with spam or “special offers” – go back to that phone number you rattled off at a routine department store transaction.

Then, there’s that paranoid factor. Do you ever feel like you are being watched? If you are out shopping, getting gas or doing any other everyday activity – odds are, you are being watched.

Almost everyone has security cameras posted today. Some of the reason is for actual security, others are to watch customer behavior and so on.

In short, you may be watched by your boss, your spouse, your girlfriend/boyfriend, a marketing company, a shopping center, a cop, the NSA, or even a criminal, and as technology advances, privacy will continue to go away. 

As one NBC columnist once put it, “It’s the 21st century equivalent of being caught naked.”

(1) comment

John Flanagan

If anything, this should be a warning for all of us to behave ourselves. Not only is Big Brother always watching, but there are many little brothers as well.

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