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The Lake News Online
So you think you have Privacy?
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By Delcie Light
Jan. 22, 2014 4:38 p.m.



What a hullabaloo there is over “spying,”  “leaks,” and “hacking” into both national secrets and private data.   Draw a deep breath and THINK about the situation.

One moral of the story is DO NOT open questionable emails or attachments.  Recently, I received an email from a person whose name is the same as my friend’s brother, whom I do not know.   I did not open it, but contacted my friend to learn if she knew why he would be contacting me---it  turns out that his email had been hacked and the hacker was sending “stuff” to names in his address book!  He now has a new email address.  So much for Privacy and/or Security!

With modern electronics, the spy does not have to be present---hidden cameras, microphones, and drones, keep an eye on everything and every one. 

Just look around---you will see cameras attached to stop lights, toll booths, in stores, on the sides of buildings, at ATMs, in waiting rooms, at drive up windows, in and outside of bars and gas stations, depots, lobbies and halls.  The placement seems endless and useful.   Would the Boston bombing have been solved as quickly as it was without surveillance cameras across the street?  Or the ability to track phone calls of the brothers?  On local news, I have seen surveillance film of robberies and the public is asked to call if anyone recognizes the thief.  North Dakota just became the first state to convict someone of a crime because of evidence gathered by a drone.

Is your computer spying on you?   Probably. The FBI can watch you or listen to you through the camera and speakers on your laptop.  Retailers spy on you.  When you shop on line for anything: a bike a refrigerator, a sweater, within moments, ads for those items will pop up on your screen. Retailers are spying on you with “cookies.”  

Is it a good or bad thing that in some stores when you walk in the door carrying your smart phone, “they” (who?) know that you are present, what aisles you shop in, what products you buy.  “They” can then inform you, via your smart phone, what items you might like that are on sale and send you coupons.  You can even compare prices with other retailers. 

During the Christmas holidays, shoppers were horrified to learn that their “information” was stolen when they swiped their credit cards!  During “Monicagate,” I was shocked to learn that some one or some agency snooped (where?)and learned that Monica Lewinsky bought a book for Bill Clinton at Barnes and Noble----who knew your book seller kept track of what you read or buy---or was it the credit card company?  How did “they” know what title she bought and for whom?

What info is actually on those black magnetic strips on our credit cards?  What is in the “cloud?”  To be used by …whom?  For what?  We are advised to check our credit card statements, our bank statements, and we are left puzzled and insecure.   Security---of any kind---is an illusion.

Spying has existed forever.  It used to be done in person and has had many names from snooping, to eaves dropping, to reconnaissance, to scouting.    Depending on the word, the purpose was noble or ignoble. It is well known that Nixon had an enemies list, and that J Edgar Hoover, head of the FBI, spied on hundreds of people, many in congress, to find the dirt, for the purpose of political blackmail.  Neither was in a position to cast the first stone.  Harry Truman, during the Cold War, created ed the CIA ,and later expressed regret for doing so. 

Just this week President Obama spoke about reforms and limits to the gathering of information by the NSA.  One statistic stated the NSA keeps track of 200,000 of the phone calls Americans make each day.  I’m sure Americans make more calls than that, so whose calls are so important that a federal agency keeps track of them?  Remember the Good Ol’ Days when people were concerned that the neighbor on their party line was “rubber necking?”  That was nothing!  These days, by tracing phone calls, criminals have been caught, and we are told that attacks on the US have been prevented.   Few would object to that.

I do not have a smart phone.  Maybe it is smart not to.  Thanks to a cell phone, your movements can be traced and you can be located.  Had Governor Mark Sanford had a cell phone with him when he disappeared for several days, he could have been located in Brazil with his girl friend, but he lied and said he was “hiking” the Appalachian Trail.  Dru Sjoden’s remains were located, and lost people have been found thanks to cell phones.  But what if you do not want to be found?  What if a woman is hiding from a stalker? 

Cars now have Black Boxes that record where you have been, at what speed you drove, how often you braked, etc.  Hmmm…what if the driver wants to keep his visit to “the other woman” private?   Or what if you do not want an insurance company to know your driving flaws?  Can that black box or smart phone be used in a divorce case, or to prove that someone was in a certain place just at the time a robbery took place?

On the national and international level Edward Snowden, Julian Assange, and Cpl. Bradley/Chelsea Manning have been in headlines about their releasing of secret documents.   Some folks call them traitors; others call them heroes for bringing activities of our government  into the open.  Manning is in prison, and Snowden and Assange are in hiding in other countries.  Are they heroes or traitors?  That debate will go on for years.

The FBI, the CIA, the NSA also make headlines for “spying” on Americans---or on our allies such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel.  She is not amused.   Just recently, President Hollande of France has been exposed for having an affair with an actress.  The “news” has resulted in his “first lady” (to whom he is not married) being admitted to the hospital, while the French public does not care how many women he has on the side.  Secretly observing or investigating someone’s clandestine activities to “get the goods” on them, possibly for evidence in a divorce or to gain advantage by threatening to expose their secrets is an old, old scheme.

Spying has many forms and definitions.   In time of war an agent is employed to obtain secret military information.   Espionage is treason and the penalty is death.  In another era gaining such information was called “scouting.”

President Obama recently announced that spying on US citizens by the NSA will be restricted.  Instead of the government storing data, private companies will store it.  Does that make you feel secure?  Not me!

Another kind of spying is industrial espionage where competing companies pay to obtain information about new products and how they are manufactured.  Saves on the research costs! 

The root purpose of spying is to gain power, usually through money or sex.

People claim a “right to privacy,” but based on what?  There is no Right to Privacy in the constitution.

Some of those same people who demand their privacy puzzle me.  I am shocked by what people  reveal about themselves on Facebook or by sending “selfies” that reveal their “Privates?”   Some fret that “the gummint” might be listening to their phone calls, or checking their emails.  Personally, I’m more concerned about scammers and spammers getting access to my financial information or my email address book so they can scam my friends and family. 

My advice is be wise, be cynical, be suspicious, be careful, behave.

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