Back in the days when I was an intern in the Manhattan DA’s office– even before the internet explosion– I learned exactly how little is actually private. This lesson was later re-affirmed in the divorce world, where for the last 15 years I’ve been able to use the discovery process to get all the information I need with respect to a party’s income, assets and liabilities– plus all emails, hard-drives, calendars and monthly credit card statements dating all the way back to the date of the marriage if I really want to go for scourched earth. Biggest take-away I can share from all these years is if you don’t want someone to know how you spend your money, pay cash.
Now in a post 9/11 world, where it’s not so clear who our enemies are, I get it, the government may need more leeway with respect to invading our privacy in the interest of protecting the greater good. Most of us have come to accept that if the government has good reason to spy on you, it can and will, but if you have nothing to hide, then most of us will continue to do our thing without any real concern. But what increasingly does worry me, and I hope others also find this bothersome is this: what’s going on in the corporate world?
Corporate America is increasingly tracking our purchases and spending habits, with very little government regulation at this time. If you are an employee for a company- you should know your emails are not private. Google also screens the contents of those with gmail accounts to then send them targeted ads. Credit agencies are now tracking your friend connections on Facebook, which can affect your credit. Meanwhile Linkedin is amassing tons of information about your resume and contacts. Banks track your spending habits– and yes, they are paying attention to how much booze you buy. Grocery stores are also keeping tabs on your purchases, and retailers in general are amassing huge data banks full of our information, all presumably to try and better serve us. But doesn’t this beg the question– what is the private sector doing to keep our personal information safe?
This was the subject of a great interview with a consultant for Homeland Security. Here is the link: