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The expectation of privacy in America

18 Feb

I was eating dinner with my best friend a few nights ago, and somehow the topic of privacy came up. I can’t remember how or why we started talking about it, but the conversation itself was interesting, and as she has no experience or education in journalism, advertising or marketing, some of the things I said to her shocked her.

I think what got us truly started on the topic was when we started to discuss the “right to be forgotten” laws in Germany. For anyone who doesn’t know, this law basically says that you have the right not to be included in web searches, and to be erased from the internet if you want to be. Since it passed, people in Germany, and across the EU, have been suing Google to have themselves removed from web searches. We then started to compare foreign privacy laws to those of the United States.

It really should come as no shock that there is no expectation of privacy in this country. Everything you do – every purchase, every mouse click, every social media account – is monitored, and the data is stored and used to understand how you, the consumer, thinks and acts, and hopefully predict your next purchase or vote. Every piece of data is of value to someone. But it doesn’t end there.

In the United States revenge porn is legal, despite it being morally despicable. The only state so far to even touch the issue is California.

The point is there is a difference between the information we offer willingly, and those we don’t. That is why I’m confused when I hear industry professionals talking about balancing big data with privacy concerns. They aren’t taking any information that wasn’t willingly given. The information and the data is there to be collected, analyzed, understood and translated into something actionable – because of that shoe purchase on Zappos, or that restaurant review on Yelp, or any other myriad of things that you did online.

Basically what it comes down to is this: there is no privacy in America anymore. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing (I’m not saying it’s a good thing either). In fact, I’m quite indifferent on the matter.

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Thoughts on the Government Shutdown

7 Oct

I’m not going to claim to be a political expert, or in any way very political at all.  But in the past week I have learned more about the American political system than ever before, and paying attention means forming opinions about the thing you’re paying attention to.

First, I’m going to start with Congress.  I don’t know when the parties became so polarized, but seriously, these men and women are supposed to be the leadership of this country.  We elected them to represent us and do the best they can to do the best for this country.  That is their job.  That is their only job.  They need to stop acting like children and playing the blame game.  That accomplishes nothing.  They should be working together to reach a deal that will keep the government running and avoid a default.

This brings me to my next point: the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.  The ACA was signed into law in 2010.  That means it had to pass both the House and the Senate, then signed by President Obama to become law.  It was also deemed constitutional by the Supreme Court of the United States.  It is now 2013.  The Republicans and Tea Party had three years to fight the ACA and modify it or destroy it.  Personally, I think those who oppose it believe the ACA is too much like socialized health care, which makes us too much like Europe.  However, tying the ACA to the spending bill or the continuing resolution or whatever its called is essentially holding the country hostage.  The extremists in the Republican party claim that Obama and the Democrats aren’t “negotiating” with them.  From what I can tell, there is nothing to negotiate on.  The ACA is already a law.  It’s been a law for the past three years.  Deal with it, or fight it another way.  Don’t hold the country’s economy hostage when it was finally recovering.

Finally, I want to talk about the politics of it all.  It seems to me it’s about winning, and winning politically.  It’s about proving the other guy wrong, or trying to derail them.  It’s not about two sides coming together to work together to find a solution to a problem.  It’s not about what’s best for the country.  It’s not even what will bring this country political or technological or educational advancement.  It’s about what’s best for that guy.

I think Congress needs to remember where this country came from, remember our history.  “Governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.  That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”  In case you don’t know, that is a section of the Declaration of Independence.  It means that the people give the government its power, and they have the power to take it away if it becomes destructive or threatens our safety.  I’m not saying that we are at this point, that we are in the position the founders of this country were in.  What I’m saying is, our elected officials have an obligation to never put us in that position.  That this country was founded on the belief that those elected are the best of society, and although there would be natural debate as the most educated and intellectual of this nation, they would act with decorum.

Perhaps it is idealistic of me.

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