L. Neil Smith's
Number 294, October 24, 2004

"Scare the crap out of the statists!"

Such A Bother...
by Audie Gaddis

Special to TLE

Privacy is inconvenient. If it was otherwise how private could our privacy be? I'm referring to the recent advances in communication technology that ranges from the so called "smart driver's licenses" to implanted medical chips that utilizing bar coding technology reduces identification, health history, etc. to a microchip. Think of it, your life story can now be scanned in the same manner as a jar of peanut butter.

Advocates for this technology assert it will protect us from terrorists, identity theft, and make it much more efficient for doctors to access our medical history. In other words, we sacrifice our privacy for convenience. But whose convenience is it?

Frankly, I don't want the government or for that matter any other entity having the "convenience" to tap into who I am, where I am, and what I'm doing. If my memory serves me correct our Bill of Rights seems to address this matter. And when it comes to government intrusion, the Bill of Rights is the single most inconvenient document on the planet.

The health supporters of this technology tout that it will insure proper patient identification and accurate treatment. The driver's license folks make the argument that it will insure that those nasty terrorists don't try to obtain driver's licenses.

Plans are to install such monitoring and information systems in our cars, wireless phones, and anything we use on a regular basis topping any surveillance scheme George Orwell could have ever imagined.

Technology companies involved in advancing this technology assure us that such devices will not be abused. What they don't say is that what the government deems legal is no longer abuse. When you use your Kroger card to save a few pennies at the grocery store a computer registers everything you have purchased. Now imagine government agencies or perhaps private security companies knowing which Kroger you went to, how long you were there, and for that matter, who you were with.

Imagine the government knowing you were at a meeting that you thought was private, such as a political meeting to discuss privacy rights. Or perhaps one political party used this technology to spy on their opponents. Get the drift?

Your wireless phone company has the capacity to locate you at any given time and if they can do it, you can safely assume the government can and in due time will.

Throughout history, governments have forged policies, created laws, and charted new directions sometimes for the better yet often without consideration of the unintended consequences. It is one thing to advocate the benefits of identifying you or readily knowing your health history in the event of a life-threatening emergency. Yet once this technology has been utilized it is only a matter of time that the government in the interest of "national security," or "the War on Terror," or some other political spin jargon uses this technology to further snoop on Joe Citizen 24 by 7.

Increasingly local and state governments justify the use of surveillance systems to monitor traffic or crowds. Again, those that advocate such intrusions justify it in the name of safety and security. So, in such incremental fashion we get accustomed to constant surveillance. At what point do we say we have had enough and will not allow any further intrusions? When do we exercise civil disobedience in the name of liberty and find ways to render such devices inoperative?

A look at Google on surveillance issues indicates that this industry continues to grow leaps and bounds as the public surrenders their rights to privacy. Of course the justification for government to monitor us via constant surveillance will receive its fair share of debate. Yet a casual glance of the movers and shakers in this industry indicate that will not go away as long as the public accepts spying on law abiding citizens as an effective strategy in winning the so-called War on Terror.

It concerns me when I find the "security" advocates calling for Madison Avenue marketing techniques to convince the public to surrender privacy for security. Had the Patriot Act been named for what it actually is, say the Spying On Citizens as well as Bad Guys Act, it would have flushed down the Congressional toilets. Yet a Congress in panic over the September 11, 2001 attacks demonstrated the collective intelligence of the average schnauzer and passed a bill granting the government more freedom to strip away our freedom.

Since then, President Bush has advocated for an even stronger Patriot Act that amounts to no more than the United States creeping by default towards a police state while in the meantime giving the surveillance advocates plausible deniability. The current administration has demonstrated that it can deny the obvious and a sizeable portion of the citizenry will believe President Bush. So if he says that constant monitoring does not violate our rights to privacy you can bet your hard-earned over-taxed dollar that a majority of Americans will chill with such sweet assurances.

We have moved from seeing government as a necessary evil to protect our individual liberties to seeing it as a pyramid with an all knowing eye watching every move we make. It is just too inconvenient to insist on minimal government with strict limitations on access to our privacy.

The English statesman, Edmund Burke, saw the propensity of power in the 1700's when he stated, "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." He also said, "The true danger is when liberty is nibbled away, for expedience, and by parts."

As for me, no thanks Doc, you will not have convenient access to my health history. I will not allow my body to be defined via a bar code. And to the Virginia legislature, do not allow surveillance implants in our driver's license as I can foresee emerging acts of civil disobedience to find creative ways to render such devices inoperable.

Perhaps it's time for good men and women to do something to prevent the triumph of evil. Taking steps to insure that access to our privacy remains inconvenient is a good place to start.

Audie Gaddis has a blog at blogspot.com


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