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« Congressional Blue-Noses in Destruct Mode | Main | ...If You Use Windows, That Is »

February 16, 2005



It's ironic that we have to take lessons in personal rights and privacy from the European Union, which recently published a working paper on data protection in response to DRM abuses...


Personal privacy, as we believe to "have" it, does not exist, it appears. This is probably just iceberg, tip.

Alice Marshall

It is worse than Gillmor suggests. Many politicians owe their office to such databases. From an article that ran last December in the Washington Post-

The RNC decided to cast a wider net for voters. But to work, Dowd's motivation and mobilization strategy needed expensive, high-tech micro targeting to cherry-pick prospective Republicans who lived in majority Democratic neighborhoods.

Republican firms, including TargetPoint Consultants and National Media Inc., delved into commercial databases that pinpointed consumer buying patterns and television-watching habits to unearth such information as Coors beer and bourbon drinkers skewing Republican, brandy and cognac drinkers tilting Democratic; college football TV viewers were more Republican than those who watch professional football; viewers of Fox News were overwhelmingly committed to vote for Bush; homes with telephone caller ID tended to be Republican; people interested in gambling, fashion and theater tended to be Democratic.

Surveys of people on these consumer data lists were then used to determine "anger points" (late-term abortion, trial lawyer fees, estate taxes) that coincided with the Bush agenda for as many as 32 categories of voters, each identifiable by income, magazine subscriptions, favorite television shows and other "flags." Merging this data, in turn, enabled those running direct mail, precinct walking and phone bank programs to target each voter with a tailored message.

Now what are the chances that politicians elected by such methods are going to protect our privacy? Yeah. Right.

My suggestion (not that anyone asked) is that those with database skills get on down to the county political committee of their choice and set up a volunteer database so their nominees would not have to turn to companies like TargetPoint and National Media.

John Hunter

Unfortunately many in the United States of American have come to equate no regulations with capitalism. Government has a critical role in regulating the market in capitalist theory. However, many political leaders don't understand the basic tenets of capitalism and fail to fulfil their vital role properly.

Europe is way ahead on protecting privacy rights for citizens.


I don't like how its easy to get access to public information; but so difficult to get information about government corruption.

It's not that it's not there; it's just that the government does a great job at diverting attention from valid 42 USC 1983 claims.


Casey Moore

ChoicePoint has everything.

With just your name and a former address, and for just about $13, I can find out your Social, your addresses previous and current, public records from bankruptcies to property records, and cars you own or have owned.

It's scary how much information they have on people sometimes.

John Faughnan

The No Place to Hide site is disappointing. it's mostly a promo for the book. The links page has some abandoned links (privacy Times) and there's no place to report problems.

David Brin's Transparent Society deserves more readership.

I recently read an interesting article in The Atlantic recently. It was about a 19th century business that specialized in profiling citizens so lenders could judge their creditworthiness. At their peak they claimed they could create a comprehensive profile on any American within a week and they employed thousands of "checkers" distributed throughout the nation to complete the profiles. Historians find the profiles to be a fascinating resource on how Americans lived and worked at that time, and in particular what happened to those who "failed". I need to track the article down and blog on it.

There really is nothing new under the son.

As Brin and others have mentioned the privacy we had between about 1920 and 2000 was very anomalous. Most of human history was spent in settings where privacy was impossible.

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