Redefining privacy

Uncle points us to this article:

Privacy no longer can mean anonymity, says Donald Kerr, the principal deputy director of national intelligence. Instead, it should mean that government and businesses properly safeguard people’s private communications and financial information.


Mark Klein, a retired AT&T technician, helped connect a device in 2003 that he says diverted and copied onto a government supercomputer every call, e-mail, and Internet site access on AT&T lines.

Side note: I heard of such a device from a friend in 2000.

I’ve gotten into debates with people that insisted we just needed “appropriate regulations with regards to the collection and use of personal information”. I expect Kerr, at best, would claim regulation should be in place and would protect us from the harm that might come from government abuse. That people can believe such outrageous fantasies is so mind boggling to me that I have difficulty articulating my case through my anger.

Let me put this as simply and calmly as I can. If the government has access to information that can be abused, no matter what “regulations” are in place, it will be abused. Just two quick examples; 1) Census data, supposedly “sealed” for 72 years was used by the FBI to track down “enemy aliens and foreign nationals who might be dangerous”. People of Japanese, Italian, and German descent were put in internment camps based on “sealed” information. 2) Brady records were required to be destroyed if the gun buyer passed the NCIS check. They weren’t. They were kept for at least a year “for audit purposes”. I told one gun rights leader that I thought the gun rights community should make it an issue to make sure these records were destroyed. He told me that it wasn’t that important because even if they existed they couldn’t be used in a court of law because they were “legally destroyed” even if they weren’t physically destroyed. After 9-11 those records were used to find “terrorist suspects” that might own guns. People who bought guns were found and their homes searched because those records existed. Gun owners screamed bloody-murder and the gun grabbers insisted it was entirely appropriate that the law be ignored.

A few days ago I finished listening to the book IBM and the Holocaust. Read that book and you’ll give strong consideration to being on a back-packing trip deep in the woods when the next census is done. Information is power, tremendous power. When the German “Police Battalions” moved in behind the army to “maintain order” they had lists of every Jew in the area. You couldn’t say you didn’t have any children because they knew from the census a few months or years before that you did have them. They had birth and death records, they knew who lived in which house in which town. And they were able to murder “vermin” by the millions because they had those lists.

For Kerr to say we should “redefine privacy” is an even more inflammatory statement to me than some gun grabbing politician saying they want all the guns turned in. Even if I don’t have my guns I have a chance of hiding my “Jews in the Attic“. But if I can’t buy them food or obtain medical care for them anonymously they are toast (sick pun intended).

I have yet to hear someone give me, despite my insistence they “put something on the table” to discuss, concrete examples of regulations they think would protect people from government abuse of such data. No one has ever done so. It’s always been, “those are details that need to be worked out”. I suspect Mr. Kerr is no different. In practical terms there are no regulations that will ever exist that would be adequate.

From a purely hypothetical view point I would be willing to compromise on a set of regulations that probably would be adequate but would violate several articles of the Bill of Rights and probably inspire new rights to be articulated in further amendments to our constitution. I’d explain here but you really don’t want to know how creative I am in defending this essential piece of liberty.

Hence, since there will be no practical regulations that will protect such data collections we must not allow such data to be gathered in the first place. And the data that is gathered must be of suspect quality. You and I, as liberty and freedom loving people, have a duty to withhold and corrupt as much of this data as we can. And Mr. Kerr should get a one-way ticket on a fence rail, naked, tarred, and feathered, to North Korea, Cuba, or some other police state. [See my follow up post.]

Update: I forgot to mention another important (because I was there and heard it with my own ears) example. While working for the government laboratory PNNL I had fellow “scientist” (he had a degree in computer science and was working in “cyber security” but was unable to write a computer program) Newton Brown tell another co-worker and I, “See this badge?  This means the law doesn’t apply to us.” That is the mindset of some of those in government. And for all practical purposes Newton is correct.


4 thoughts on “Redefining privacy

  1. Every time someone, in or out of government, wants a new database and insists “This information will be secure and protected” I want to scream.

    Drivers license records? Vehicle registration records? Criminal history data- which in many cases includes fingerprints and background checks having nothing to do with criminal activity? All abused on a daily basis, and all too often the people in charge of ‘protecting’ the data don’t want to take the action they should because “it’ll cause too much trouble”.

    I flat hate this crap.

  2. My social security card (obtained in 1969) says, “For Social Security and Tax Purposes–Not for Identification”. Present day cards don’t have that line of text on them.

    It used to be up to a $10,000 fine and time in prison if someone insisted on using your SSN for something other than it’s original intent. Now they want it on every check you write, before you can rent an apartment, see the doctor or dentist, when you buy a car, get telephone service, or apply for a job. All the “guarantees” to protect against SSN abuse are gone.

    People that accept this without complaint apparently have no clue of the tremendous danger they are inviting.

  3. Joe;

    I thought you’d appreciate that book.

    And remember the context was that Business serves People…

  4. Bilgeman, you were absolutely correct. Thank you.

    And I note that you said “appreciate” rather than “enjoy”. The distinction is critical in this case.

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