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Privacy and Use of Our Personal Information

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PrivacyThere’s been lots in the news recently about this issue. The latest article I’ve seen was from All Things D about Google wanting permission to reveal how many FISA requests its received.

I think this is a good time for us to be thinking about our information, how its collected and what can be done with it. It’s our information after all. Don’t we have some rights here?

I think Google has some good points. Two relevant quotes from the article:

And, like so much else that’s considered too secret to discuss in this matter, it’s difficult to have an informed discussion about any of it if disclosing even the most basic facts about it is illegal.

And from Google in their open letter to the Attorney General:

Transparency here will likewise serve the public interest without harming national security.

I agree completely. I understand the need for secrecy, up to a point. But secrecy allows for abuse. Take, for example, the new Xbox, which raises some serious privacy concerns with its always on camera. Exactly what data is being collected, and for what purpose? I thought my husband put it well when we discussed it at lunch today. “Camera on to recognize when I’m there to use it? Fine. Gathering data to determine if I’m still an active subscriber? Fine. Taking pictures of my living room? So not okay!”

I’m okay with data collection. I’m okay with it being used to target products and ads I might respond to. I understand the government wanting to track down someone to see if they have ties to a radical organization. But don’t keep it secret. Tell us what information is being gathered and how its being used. Let us opt-out if we don’t like it. Will law enforcement scream at me? Yes. Will big industries groan at the effect on their bottom line? Probably. But it’s still our information, and we need to have the right to say how its being used. Or not.

The two quotes above on transparency sum it up nicely. A lot is happening without our knowing about it. We need to know, so we can make informed decisions. It’s not enough for big government and big industry to say “Trust us. We know what we’re doing.” All organizations are made up of people. People have egos and make mistakes.

And before you brand me a radical paranoid extremist, I’ve been a moderate voter all my life. If this stuff is starting to bother me, I think that says something.

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