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    Recent Opinion Articles about Individual Privacy

    Washington Post: Full-body scanners: Exposing issues of privacy, and body image

    We are more naked, as a nation, than we’ve ever been. We are forever baring our souls, revealing the mundane and the sacred. We are naked in our curiosity about the semi-famous and the strange, we are naked in our aspirations (to be semi-famous, even for something strange), we are naked online – or, at least, considerably more exposed than we tend to realize. All of which may help explain why most Americans seem unconcerned about those full-body airport scanners, the ones that see under your clothes. In an existential sense, we are used to this sort of thing. Go on, take a gander, we seem to be saying. We have nothing to hide. […]

    To understand why so many of us opt in when confronted by full-body scanners – 99 percent, according to Sterling Payne, a TSA spokeswoman – first consider why a vocal minority opts out. […]

    The fear of being exposed is a theme that comes up constantly in interviews with those suspicious of full-body scanners. That’s not the only thing they talk about, of course; they talk about government intrusion and constitutional rights, about health concerns over scanner radiation, about the ways in which they see airport security as reactive, ineffective. They talk about the building indignities of airplane travel. […] But most of all they talk about a sense of privacy squandered, a sense of being vulnerable in deeply personal terms. They use the word “humiliating” a lot, and the word “dignity.” […]

    If you go through one of the new scanners you are bargaining, giving up your privacy in exchange for security or expediency or other things. If one doesn’t buy this premise, doesn’t believe full-body scanners are a good bargain, then one is being exposed against one’s will.

    (Indianapolis, Indiana) Fox59: Invading our privacy on the Internet

    Internet companies track and sell advertisers virtually everything we do online. That’s why a ‘do not track me’ system is vital. If Washington fails to act, California should create its own system. […]

    The Federal Trade Commission issued a landmark report recently showing how little recourse Americans have against Internet companies that track, and sell to corporate advertisers, our choices in foods, friends, books, medicines, search engine search words — virtually everything we do online. The agency threw its weight behind building a “do not track me” feature into every Internet browser — a one-click path to online anonymity.

    Silicon Valley companies are already flooding Capitol Hill with lobbyists to warn about the “end of the Internet” if Congress passes such a requirement. They say that about 200 million Americans joined the landmark “do not call me” phone list. What if the same number opted not to be tracked online? Wouldn’t that kill the online advertising industry? […]

    Advertisers may be able to target us better if they know everything about us, but it is the moral mission of government to protect us from being targeted for such invasive data collection without our knowledge and consent.

    Consider the case of an Illinois woman whose husband had recently been diagnosed with prostate cancer. “I sent an e-mail using this e-mail [Gmail] account to friends and family,” she said. “Almost immediately, I started receiving prostate cancer-related Google ads when I did searches (the ads appear on the sidebar) or opened my e-mail mailbox.” She said: “I thought my e-mail could be hacked, but I did not expect my e-mail carrier to be selling our private information.” […]

    The “do not track me” movement is so important because it sets the principle and precedent of the first real governmental limits on the Wild West of Internet data mining. Privacy violations are not victimless. Identity theft has run rampant because so much of our personal information is available in so many places. Teenagers are particularly at risk because they tend to share too much information online. And our jobs, familial relationships and friendships can be jeopardized if information about our medical condition, sexual preferences or lifestyle choices is evident and available to anyone who can see the advertisements on our computer screens.

    (Mankato, Minnesota) Free Press: Privacy policy on Internet is overdue

    As expected, the Obama administration last week responded to concerns about the amount of personal information being collected on Internet users by calling for the creation of a Privacy Policy Office within the U.S. Commerce Department. The Commerce Department report calls for developing an Internet “privacy bill of rights,” citing that current privacy notices are ineffective because they contain policies “nobody understands.” […]

    Stopping short of becoming the Internet privacy police, the Private Policy Office would help the data-gathering businesses develop codes of conduct which in turn would be enforced by the Federal Trade Commission. […]

    We agree the issue must rest with the individual consumer and at the very least must provide disclosures on what is being collected and shared and give users the opportunity to opt out of such practice.

    If it is truly worthwhile and a benefit to the consumer, as some in the industry profess, then let the consumer weigh that benefit and make their own choice. A lesson in privacy

    For 40 years, she kept a journal. When the kids did something cute or said something wise beyond their years, she made sure to write it down. When the weather was lousy, or she happened upon a sunset unlike any other, she brought out her journal and made note of it. […]

    You know what’s coming next, don’t you? A few weeks ago, she told me she threw away every single one of her journals. She tossed them in the trash. Got rid of them. Shredded them into oblivion.

    I gasped out loud at the news. All that information, gone. She has her reasons, of course, but more than anything, she says she didn’t want someone to get ahold of them after she dies. […]

    Instead, here’s what I’ve taken from the story.

    This friend of mine had the option of throwing out her journals because she had the only copies. She was in complete possession of them. She hadn’t twittered or tweeted or texted from her cell phone. She hadn’t set up a Facebook or MySpace account where conceivably everyone has access to everyone else’s information — and where nothing is ever completely deleted. It just keeps floating in cyberspace, ready for someone ingenious enough to find it. […]

    I can’t help but think, one day, people are going to regret going so public with what they divulge on the Internet. Some note sent in a moment of passion can dog you for the rest of your career. A comment posted, an opinion expressed, a sentence tried out: You can’t take them back.

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