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Your Privacy Belongs To ChoicePoint
Check out the difference between data protection here and in Europe. Eric Dash writes in The New York Times about how Americans' privacy is bought and sold:

In broad terms, the United States looks at privacy largely as a consumer and an economic issue; in the rest of the developed world, it is regarded as a fundamental right.

In the United States, said Trevor Hughes, executive director of the International Association of Privacy Professionals, debates over the privacy of personal data generally occurs piecemeal, when a particular abuse causes harm. "In Europe, " Mr. Hughes said. "data is just protected because it is data - information about you."

The telecommunications industry offers a case study in these two perspectives. In the mid-1990's, an unusual alliance here between privacy advocates and national phone companies, which did not want regional carriers to gain an informational advantage, led to restrictions on the commercial use of phone and billing information in the United States. In France, a similar debate in the 1980's caused phone numbers to be kept private in billing documents out of respect for individual rights.

In general, Americans are far more comfortable than Europeans with business handling their information, and far more skeptical of putting it in government hands. The tradition of making government records - like tax records, mortgage information and census data - easily accessible to the public is uniquely American.

This has helped create the world's largest data collection industry by far, with companies like ChoicePoint and AxiCom to collect and analyze those records. The flourishing consumer data industry spends millions of dollars each year lobbying against more restrictive data policies.

Not surprising, the United States has "many more laws restricting the government collection and use of information than laws restricting corporate use of collection and information," said Bruce Schneier, an expert on computer security issues. "Europe is the reverse," he added. Oversight is the United States is decentralized. Data protection is not a core mission of any government agency. Each of them, from the Health and Human Services Department to the Department of Homeland Security, deals with it as a secondary issue. In addition, each agency has its own internal privacy czars, who protect his agency's data as he thinks best. "What we don't have is a general framework that says these rules apply to everybody," said Peter Swire, an Ohio State University law professor who served as the Clinton administration's chief counselor for privacy.

Most European nations, on the other hand, begin with the idea that data protection is a human right, regulated by a comprehensive set of principles that apply to both business and government. And where American businesses are given relatively free rein to collect and sell information, European companies are severely restricted from those activities without individual consent.

My suggestion: Just say no -- as much as possible. The other day, some telemarketer hired by The Bottom Line, a newsletter I subscribe to, called me (for the second time in two days -- they just missed me the day before) about my subscription. Well, guess what -- I don't believe I ever gave them my phone number, number one, and if I did, it was just for the purpose of clearing up any subscription issues -- not so I could be awakened from my jetlag stupor to talk to a telemarkter. I told the telemarketer I'm cancelling my subscription -- and only because I was called -- then emailed the same message to the company. Naturally, the only email addresses listed were contact-preventing slushpile ones -- how clever of them!

Hmmm...maybe with I can get the head of the company's home phone number. I'm going to try!

Let's see...there's a Martin L. Edelston, born February 1929, at10 Edgewood Drive in Greenwich, CT, and a Marjorie at the same address (his wife?) Then there's a Martin L. Edelston at 4 Old Church Lane, also in Greenwich. From the looks of it (see the photo in the link just above), that's him. Hmm, maybe he's gotten so rich annoying the shit out of his subscribers that he has two homes in close proximity? I really want to get his home number -- but without paying for it -- and wake him from a deep sleep so I can ask him if he'd like to buy a piece writtten by me for one of his publications.

Of course, I could just call him at their editorial offices:

Bottom Line Publications
Editorial/Corporate Offices
281 Tresser Boulevard, 8th Floor
Stamford, CT. 06901-3246
phone: (203) 973-5900 fax: (203) 967-3086

But then, how would he truly know how it feels?

Posted by aalkon at August 6, 2005 8:01 AM

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