Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Privacy: Do We Still Have It?

Don Sterling was busted when his girlfriend allegedly went public with a recording of a rant against her for bringing blacks to his games (he's owner of the LA Clippers, at least for the moment). The comments were made in what was supposed to be a private conversation in his home, which now raises the question----is there any privacy left? Can we assume that nothing we say or do at any time anywhere is private? We have long been accustomed to accepting what we say and do in public is, well, public and potentially can come back and bite us on the butt. But what about in the privacy of our own home? The second issue is whether Mr. Sterling or anyone else has the right to express their opinions regardless if it's politically or socially correct or not, so long as there is no threat made or implied. In short, can we reasonably expect to be protected by the Bill of Rights, especially the 1st, 4th, and 5th amendments? Is "free speech" or our right to expect privacy a thing of the past?

We've long accepted that whatever we did or said in public was likely to end up in the news or YouTube or some other social media site, but what about what we say or do in private? We know that Google, Yahoo and other web providers track us, as do stores (all in the name of improving and individualizing customer service), so does the government. Once we could expect reasonable protect under the 1st, 4th or 5th amendments, but since 9/11, those rights have largely been circumvented in the name of national security. Today, we're all now considered potential terrorists by those whose job is to protect us.

There is no privacy at work nor should one expect there to be since the Bill of Rights doesn't apply there (it only protects individuals from the federal government). Our employers have a right to see and hear everything we do during business hours, and many are now asserting that they have a right to know everything about the private us too, including our personal habits, health condition, diet, hobbies, and even memberships. We are increasingly viewed as to the "value" we add to the company just like any other asset. And when we start becoming a liability, we're terminated. Banks look at us not as individuals, but as credit risks. They too look at our "data portfolio" just as insurance companies do in determining our "cost risk" and potential impact on their bottom line based not just on our incomes and payment histories, but where we live, our medical histories, our buying habits and so forth. Soon we'll be evaluated as to our potential "value" to the company or society before a medical procedure is approved. It seems our "own time" isn't our own any more.

We have drones in sky, watching us like cyber vultures out of a Sci-Fi novel. I can see the day when insurance companies or employers start doing flyovers to see if we're really hurt when we fill a worker's compensation claim or when we call in sick. Maybe our car or cell phone monitors will alert HR as to whether we really went to the doctor that day, and then they can check the insurance cloud to see what doctor we saw and what prescriptions were written for us. And with all this increase on technology, we're finding that not our cell phone and cars, but our Smartphone, Ipad, and who knows what else is monitoring everything we do. In place of a heaven watching us, we now have the data cloud, and it knows if we being bad or good for goodness sake! For me, another image comes to mine, such as "HAL" from the movie, "2001: A Space Odyssey" or perhaps the super computer "Colossus" in the movie "The Forbin Project".

We're consistently be asking for our opinions through surveys and polls, as well as indirectly through monitoring and our sites visited and our searches. Have you noticed that as soon as you've searched for a product, that product or similar ones start appearing through ads and emails? All this is designed to increase the data file on us---individually and collectively. I recently read an article where new homes are being equipped with monitoring devises; they sense who's there, our wants and our preferences. It turns our lights on and off, fixes our coffee, regulates the temperature, gives us a verbal update on traffic, weather, and the news. Heck, I recently read a story about development of sex robots (called sexbots) in Japan which records and stores our likes and dislikes! Seriously. Come on, whatever happened to a good old fashion hookers? Are they becoming an obsolete profession? Surgeries can be done remotely through robotics and there is even monitoring robots who visit patients. Is there nothing sacred from technology? Of course, be it medical, financial, employment, or even personal, all data is stored. To be evaluated for "the net time".

Express an opinion and soon it will no doubt be recorded somewhere. As it is now, the closest most of us will ever get to immortality is to put something on the internet, and you can bet it will find its way into some database somewhere for who knows what purpose. It seems we have finally created the perfect beast, and it is us.

Exploring the Constitution: Privacy

Legal Information Institute

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