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Shannon Bardwell: A little privacy please


Shannon Bardwell



You are expected to have a phone on your person at all times; if not a phone, then you should have an answering machine or caller ID. If you miss a call, people get mad. If you don''t call them back, they get mad. Sometimes you''re not home; you''re working, in the garden, in the bathroom, simply not available. If you do answer, they say, "Where are you?" or "What are you doing?" Maybe you don''t need to tell where you are or what you are doing. Maybe everyone around you doesn''t need to know where you are or what you are doing. 


Remember the olden days, when you had one phone -- a big black doozy connected to the wall so you always knew where it was? And you were either home or you weren''t, and no one got mad about it.  


Remember your teenage years, when you could call your boyfriend and hang up just to see if he was home and not calling you? There was no such thing as caller ID or call logs. When you were even younger, you could "play on the phone," despite your parents'' warning not to "play on the phone." 


Playing on the phone meant calling a number and asking, "Is your refrigerator running?" Or, "Do you have Prince Albert in a can?" No more playing on the phone. 


All these electronic gadgets, for all the good they can do, relieve you of privacy. 


In spite of all the privacy promises, according to Sam E. Scott, general counsel to Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation, we have surrendered our right to be left alone (and private) to modern technology. 


"Computers, the Internet, credit cards, social networking, the sharing of mailing lists, etc., are rapidly eating into our privacy. Phone records tell who you talked to, when and for how long. GPS systems tell where you are or were," he said. "For more than a quarter-century, a number of automobiles have been capable of recording some of your driving activities. Since 1999, event data recorders have become common and can reveal your speed at a given moment ... as well as other actions you may take behind the wheel." 


Walkways and street corners have surveillance cameras where "a face in crowd" has lost its meaning; a single face in thousands can be blown up to identifying features. 


Then there''s "data-mining." Companies like Facebook and Google can track your travels over the World Wide Web and target advertising; so ... while you are watching them, they are watching you. 


And the grocery store. Those little ticker machines that add up all your vittles for the week, they record what you are buying; then the coupons spit out according to what you purchased. Like they instantly know that you have a dog or dandruff. 


Yep, it would seem "personal privacy" has gone the way of the big, black doozy phone. 


Shannon Rule Bardwell is a Southern writer living quietly in the Prairie. Her email is [email protected]


Shannon Rule Bardwell is a Southern writer living quietly in the Prairie.


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