The Real Affront to Privacy

privacy

The NSA may be snooping on me, but, at least, they do it quietly and without disturbing my conscious privacy. Whatever they may do is an affront to my right of privacy, but doesn’t affect my immediate solitude. It’s constant robo-calling that really intrudes. Not a day goes by without at least 3 or 4 calls from Rachel with her offer of lower interest credit or a nameless voice touting a “free” home security system. I have grabbed the calling number on a few occasions and reported them to the FTC “Do Not Call Registry” without any perceptible reaction from either the Registry or the caller. Just now I tried to verify the status of all the phones in our household but was told there is a system problem and to try later.

Some of my friends have resorted to the intrusions by not answering any call from a number not on their white list. But that solution is almost as intrusive as are the avoided calls. This process requires that one stop whatever they are doing and activate the answering machine or dial into voicemail to sort out the robo-calls from the genuine ones. Caller ID doesn’t help much because, by the time I get to the phone, I don’t have enough time to read the indistinct screen before the call switches to my voice mail. And the interruption has already occurred. I have, as a matter of principle, decided that telephonic interruptions from friends, family, and personal business are OK. Almost everyone has done the same thing. If circumstances make me decide the opposite I can and do simply turn off the ringer.

Both kinds of intrusions are serious, but it the latter, real everyday interruptions, that bothers me more in actuality, than those possibilities I wil be spied upon. I have written to my Senators and Representative about this with little more than a cursory response. It is certainly very important to keep our spying agencies in tow as all the bloviating in Washington indicates, but it is all out of proportion to the reality of the situation.

Is the reason for the failure to face the real privacy problem that out-of-bounds government actions gather headlines while unsolicited interruptions do not? Or it is that anything related to the “free” market is to be tolerated? Does the market have more sovereignty than the Government? Are the everyday myriad incursions of ads into my consciousness less important to my privacy than the infinitesimal chance of the government’s spying actually interrupting my life? Listening to media, it seems so to me; ads, like political contributions; are free speech. I cannot go to virtually any public place without being bombarded with advertisements cluttering up the space that creates the desired experience. The openness of the Internet now comes with a growing price; either pay to avoid the ads or suffer through them. That’s only the superficial part; “secret” big data gathering by private interests is arguably a much bigger threat to “privacy” than is the government.

I believe that unauthorized spying on me, via access to my communications, is immoral and illegal and should not be allowed. But arguments against it based on privacy are not the ones to make. We have already, de facto, decided agents of the market have a right to intrude on us without any limits or cost. This form of transgression extends to both to agents in the political and charitable sectors but they are no different, in principle. Political, and, to a lesser extent, charities, are becoming more and more just another marketplace. The flap over the NSA has only made this hidden dominance more visible. If you have been moved to action about the NSA, pick up your pen or keyboard, write your congresspeople, and complain about the lack of protection for the privacy we cherish everyday in fact, not in theory.

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