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From: Sue Littleton (Corn Woman)

Picture of Sue Littleton

I refuse to become angry or disappointed at the revelation that the U.S. government has been collecting personal information from telephone messages (and possibly MANY other sources connected to computers).  One of my favorite authors, also a Texan, novelist David Lindsey of Houston,  wrote the following in a chapter of his novel An Absence of LightDoubleday May 1994, ISBN No. 0-553-5694-1-4.  I was re-reading the book and found the following on pages 52, 53 and 54 of the Bantam edition.

“The age of the personal computer has brought about a sea change in the private investigative and intelligence business.  Now anyone who could afford a modem could enter the voyeuristic world of “databanking” where a subterranean network of information, resellers, known as superbureaus, had assembled in a limitless number of categories every act imaginable about most American citizens.  Every time an individual filled out an information form, whether he was registering for a free prize at his local grocery or answering a “confidential” medical record form at his doctor’s office, he was providing data that in all likelihood eventually would be purchased by an information reseller.  ¨Bank records, medical records, insurance records, personal data, credit records, everything was fair game in the information reselling business where practically nothing was protected by law.  And virtually everyone who collected information—including doctors, bankers, and creditors—would eventually sell it.  The fact was, in the United States today [N.B. – 1994], the individual had no way of controlling information about himself.  For a price, everyone’s privacy was for sale.

“This ongoing boom in information had been a boom to the burgeoning private investigative business, so much so that anybody and every body was doing it.  Now anybody could do a sip trace, search for a missing person, check the background of a job applicant, check criminal records, track down an old girl friend, check out a competitor’s financial status and credit standing, locate anyone’s address, telephone number, bank account, and medical records.  The data was so easy to obtain hat it was like picking it up for the sidewalk. [Italics mine.]

“… these agencies had even turned their investigation businesses into huge corporate entities like Kroll and Associates [LLC] of New York.., Investigative Group Inc. [now Investigative Group International], of Washington …whose annual gross incomes were in the tens of millions.  These high profile agencies often specialized in money chasing for corporations and even foreign governments.  [In case you want to think the companies named are a novelist’s fiction or no longer exist, look them up on the Internet.]

“…anyone who ignored the importance of evolution did so at their own risk.  But as the world entered the closing years of  the twentieth century, few of those sages could have imagined the neck-snapping speed at which change would one day occur. …

“Now, more than ever at any other time in world history, “private” information was in danger of becoming only a nominal concept. The information business, legal and illegal, governmental and private, commercial and policial, personal and public, legitimate and underground, was in an era of explosive growth. And, as in all boom-time businesses, abuse was rampant.  Unfortunately, the American public didn’t have a clue about what was happening to it. [Ìtalics mine].”

This was 1994.  Now the number of personal computers with names like “cell phone,” “Ipad,” “Notebook,” and the information spewed into the public domain (via FB, Twitter, Linkedin, you name it) have increased beyond belief.  There is no way to protect privacy with millions of computers pouring information into the airways, so why are people surprised and indignant that information they have passed on by computer, knowingly or unknowingly, is being ”picked up off the sidewalk”?  We live in the age of the Computer, and with the ease information can be broadcast, we have lost our privilege of privacy.  Live with it.  You can be assured if we do not monitor ourselves (and others), we change nothing, because others will be monitoring US.

Sue Littleton


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