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"And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." - John 8:32
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Author:  Larry Simoneaux
Bio: Larry Simoneaux
Date:  January 22, 2006
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Topic category:  Other/General

They're watching us.

These days, itís not "Big Brother" who worries me most. I already have a pretty good idea of what my government is capable of - no matter the party in charge Ė whenever it convinces itself that it needs information.

Bottom line is theyíre going to find a way to get it.

What folks in charge should remember, however, is that our government leaks - then, now, and always - like a rusty bucket and, eventually, stuff like having the NSA listen in on the phone calls of American citizens is going to find its way into the news.

Even though I believe that our government should always abide by the rule of law, itís a good idea to remember that weíre at war because I have a sneaking suspicion that Osama and his band of mad mullahs and merry murderers arenít spending much time worrying about anyoneís privacy.

This gives that bunch a bit of an advantage in the spying department. Consequently, we need to find a middle ground that would allow us to find out who wants to do what to us when, but still keeps all of the "alphabet agencies" on some sort of leash.

While weíre working all of this out, though, we might also want to think about a few other things that are making personal privacy rarer than prayer at a porn convention.

Consider:

Iím a bit of a hunter. Being male, this means that, over the years, Iíve bought more gear than any human actually needs or, for that matter, can carry.

My wife became suspicious of my purchasing habits when a certain company began sending me their hard cover, "Limited Edition" hunting catalog thatís nearly 3 inches thick. Needless to say, sheís made it clear that all future purchases Ė no matter how "needed" Ė will be cleared through her.

The thing is, I now get similar catalogs from other companies who seem to know not only where I live, but also my tastes in gear Ė neither piece of information ever having been relayed by me.

Ever rented a movie?

Ever rented one youíd rather your mother never found out about?

Better hope then that no one ever hacks into the computers at any major "Rent a Movie" franchise because it's all in some database there.

Whenever you use a credit card, you leave a trail. The thing you might not realize is that your trail is physical as well as financial. Use that card and someone can figure out where youíve been. Better yet, if your cell phone is turned on, that same someone can get a real-time lock on your current location without even talking to you.

Lately, thereíve been a few news stories telling us how anyone with a bit of cash can now get on the Internet and purchase a list of all of your recent cell phone calls. Thatís not a good thing Ė and I donít own a cell phone.

The government already knows who you are, where you are, how many kids you have, how long youíve been married to whom, plus your age, income, gender, and race. Political and religious information is there for the asking.

The databases keep growing.

Cameras now follow us through banks, buildings, convenience stores, fast food joints, and a growing number of intersections throughout the country.

Itís gotten so that food stores are now tracking what we buy. Iím certain that all they want to do is make sure that if we tend to buy a carload of chips and dip every second Wednesday, they know enough to have that carload on hand.

In my darker moments, though, I worry.

I worry that someone with a bit of power and a penchant for telling others how to live (no such people, of course, work for governments anywhere) might Ė as an example - decide that chips and dip every other Wednesday isnít healthy.

I worry that someone might then decide to identify those who enjoy chips and dip and make it tougher for them to download those calories Ė all in the name of reducing health care costs.

Other possibilities spring to mind and the scary part is that all of this is going to continue.

The scarier part is that thereís some truth to the explanation that itís all being done "for our own good."

The scariest part, though, is that once any privacy is surrendered, itís damned tough to get it back.

All of which calls for the kind of thinking we in "Short Attention Span" America seldom take the time to do.

And that, I think, should worry us all.

Larry Simoneaux

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Biography - Larry Simoneaux

Larry Simoneaux is a regular columnist for The Everett Herald in Washington state. He is a retired ship driver for the US Navy and NOAA.


Read other commentaries by Larry Simoneaux.

Copyright © 2006 by Larry Simoneaux
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