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Privacy Rules Embrace Exposure

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12 November 2007: The United States government has already re-defined privacy due to the actions of 19 hijackers on 11 September 2001. The government allows wiretapping and searching people and property without warrant or court authority. It doesn’t mean though that all citizens will be tapped and / or searched, because the ratio of federal employees to 300 million citizens is simply too low. But the government has partnered with those businesses citizens use --for what is considered to be necessary products or services-- to monitor consumer activity.

The White House published its updated national security documentation this month in the run-up to creating a working group ISC (Information Sharing Council) that will coordinate a national network of state and major urban area fusion centers.

"One clear lesson of September 11 was the need to improve the sharing of information. To prevent further attacks and to protect the homeland, we need to stay a step ahead of those individuals and organizations intent upon harming America," the White House document read.

"...In the past six years, we have achieved significant accomplishments in our efforts to improve information sharing, and we are well positioned in the current environment to build upon those past accomplishments as we move forward."

The White House contends that it is engaged in "a long war" in thwarting so called terrorists.

"Additionally, the spread of radical Internet sites, increasingly aggressive anti-U.S. rhetoric and actions, and the growing number of radical, self-generating cells in western countries indicate that the radical and violent segment of the west's Muslim population is expanding. As a result, the Untied States will continue to face ideologically committed extremists determined to attack our interests at home and abroad."

Sharing information is predicated upon new partnerships between governmental bodies and the private sector, the basis for which was born in two executive orders, signed by President George W Bush on 27 August 2004. On a positive note, these orders indirectly have helped law enforcement officials sweep-up pedophiles across the United States...but those criminals were not the intended target. So called terrorists and terrorists chatter or cells were suppose to be the main focus.

To that end, all content hosts, and all transmission service providers within the borders of the United States, are on board with the government. (Of course, if an entity refuses to support the federal government's plan the IRS, FCC, and or the Securities and Exchange Commission are conveniently ready to create a non-privacy-related business nightmare.)

All your visited URLs are tracked and logged. Your uploaded photographs are viewed by those you did not intend. Your message board postings are noted. Your instant message posts are kept for review.

The nation's largest phone carrier -- AT&T -- allows call interception; assume the same is true for Verizon, Sprint, and others. (This is one reason callers should often use the word "assassination" in their conversations to keep the government busy guessing your next steps.)

Donald Kerr, a deputy director for national intelligence, suggested to Congress this week that citizens have to change their perception of privacy. A current bill would protect AT&T and other service carriers from citizen lawsuits in capturing user content for the purpose of handing it over to federal officials. Congress is expected to vote on the bill in mid-November.

Microsoft, the nation's largest computer software company, plays the game too and collects your personal information every time you log on to the Internet.

The United States’ Department of Education redefined privacy this month too as a result of one man who shot up a few students at Virginia Tech. The new interpretation of privacy laws now allows for distribution of student information to third parties in the name of security...and marketing. The Department didn't define third parties.

But not all points lead right to the chair supporting our big fat bums.

This new wave of privacy not -- doesn't even take into account what that kid you bullied 20 years ago (or the girlfriend you dumped a month ago) can easily do to your reputation online by distributing confidential information.

Nor does the lack of privacy online take into account that you, mister traveler, just happened to be answering nature's call in between a connecting flight. You too can be filmed taking a leak by other men visiting the washroom for a different purpose. The net result is that your actions are posted out of context and without your knowledge on pornography websites. (If you don't believe us, check out the airport bathroom videos on pornography websites. The 'fetish' has blossomed following the arrest of Senator Larry Craig [R-ID.] But be forewarned that your host provider and computer software will log your visit to those websites.)

But for the time being, you dear reader can take some control of your privacy online -- limited control as it may be.

"Think about what you put online because it might have some consequences for you down the road," said book author Daniel Solove.

Solove published The Future of Reputation, which centers upon how not to later regret finding information --from or about you-- online. Your future employer(s) or spouse, or children, will find it he contended.

Monster.com knows employers find your information line as well. The popular job website has advice for cleaning-up your online reputation. The name you used on the resume is easily searchable and potential employers will search -- that is 100 percent certain. What is not certain though is how many of these employers have access to other information (such as what the government and partners collect about your online habits.) Your credit card payment for a 'questionable' website is available to employers.

Monster points users to paid services offered on defendmyname.com and reputationdefender.com -- why those companies can remove information (for a fee) that you cannot is an interesting question.

You can also build a better profile online by creating your own website, blog, or profile on linkedin.com and other professional boards in an attempt to out-rank negative information across search engines.


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