Larry Flynt

Posts Tagged ‘stalking’

Stalkers Paradise

Monday, August 5th, 2013

PERSONAL INFO IS EASIER THAN EVER TO DIG UP—AND IT JUST MIGHT BE TOTALLY ERRONEOUS TO BOOT!

by Robert Scheer

The snoopers are our new best friends? Unbelievable but true when, for the first time in human history, it is the norm for people to volunteer to be spied upon. Folks eagerly pay for the very apps that betray their privacy with a ruthless efficiency unmatched by the most oppressive tyrants of old.

The secret agents of a Hitler or Stalin were limited to monitoring people’s mail, eavesdropping on the telephone or clumsily tailing suspects they wanted to get the goods on. But that’s primitive junk-snooping by the standards of today’s surveillance state. Now people willingly authorize the use of their location and trigger access to every movement, purchase and conversation to any corporation or government agency that cares to “mine” their data, along with information from the rest of the world’s population.

Whereas in the past the files of a dictator’s Gestapo were barely read and almost impossible to collate as they gathered dust under lock and key, today’s data searches are conducted with a speed and thoroughness that defies comprehension. The movie you watched, your thoughts about its content posted on Facebook, the dialogue it provoked among friends—including the most intimate or wildest thought any of them have on any subject from the political to the pornographic—are instantly and permanently revealed to just about anyone curious enough to inquire.

The revolution in information technology has left in its wake a stalkers paradise. The sanctity of self has been rendered nonexistent, and the very idea of the individual as an independent entity exploring life in private is an endangered species.

Although we kind of know that we are all under a totally invasive microscope, we soothe any incipient anxiety with the rationalization that the supercomputer searches only zero in on the bad guys and never innocent folks like us. When one of the evildoers gets caught, we cheer wildly and marvel at the technology that made it possible, never thinking that it is a privacy-destroying weapon that could easily target saints like ourselves.

That was my first reaction when I read about how a prosecutor in Pasadena, California, was able to sift through 30 billion files in order to track the movement of a murder suspect. That means law-enforcement agencies can easily sift through as massive a database to nail you on any allegation even if you are never charged, let alone convicted, of a crime.

An exaggeration you say? Hardly, as the New York Times recently made crystal clear. In a story looking at how data-mining is affecting all aspects of our lives, it divulged that “retailers across the country have helped amass vast databases of workers accused of stealing, and are using that information to keep employees from working again in the industry.”

The operative word is accused, but as the Times reported, those accusations can be of the flimsiest sort and “often contain scant details about suspected thefts and routinely do not involve criminal charges. Still, the information can be enough to scuttle a job candidate’s chances. Some of the employees, who submit written statements after being questioned by store security officers, have no idea that they admitted committing a theft or that the information will remain in databases.”

Permanent databases are as easily searched as they are prone to error. Files containing the groundless suspicion of a hostile supervisor that you might have shoplifted can be combined with a friend’s Instagram photos from your long-ago bachelor party, an overdue credit card bill, medical records, divorce proceedings and adolescent ramblings about a horrendous first date you can’t even remember posting somewhere on the Internet, all of which present to the world a creepy view of you that you are unaware is in circulation and that needs to be corrected.

This is all because we have no laws protecting your private data from being widely disseminated without your “opt-in” permission to share such personal information across infinite platforms. When you granted permission to a computer prompt to “use your location,” all you wanted was the hint of a good restaurant nearby. For that you squandered the right to dine, and think, in private. Surely the sacred right to privacy deserves better legal protection than that.


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