Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Meshing Privacy and Latest Police Technology Presents Challenge

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Meshing Privacy and Latest Police Technology Presents Challenge

Article excerpt

I have never been to her home, but a friend at work has new dish towels hanging from the handle of a freshly cleaned stove in her kitchen. I've seen them.

Also, I'm acquainted with the antics of the pets and grandchildren of people I barely know.

Some friends, and some strangers, regularly reveal to me their innermost frustrations and anxieties. That, along with candid pictures of themselves at pool parties.

Hooray for Facebook and the digital age.

Yet folks in my doctor's office cover up my name after I sign in at the counter, so the next patient doesn't see me on the list. (Perhaps they should issue masks, too, since anyone who could recognize my written name probably would recognize my face in the waiting room.)

I once had an insurance company refuse to provide the address where it receives payments with no other information asked because I wasn't my mother-in-law.

There may be no greater contradiction in today's society than our relationship with privacy. Never before has information simultaneously been guarded so jealously yet surrendered so freely.

I am savvy enough to hang up the phone if someone calls to ask about my credit card account. But I'm reckless enough to hand the same card to a random restaurant server who disappears long enough to process the bill and perhaps copy the numbers.

There's always an upside and a downside.

Take RFID chips. I wrote about the super-tiny radio transmitters in 2008. My company ID card has one that magically opens the security gate every morning. But it also can tell my bosses when I come and go.

As I noted here years ago, an inventory-control RFID sewn into a jacket you bought could, in theory, become a chatty little spy. Imagine a computer that captures the signal, links it to the account used to buy the coat and puts your credit score into the hands of a car salesman before you make it halfway across the showroom. "Hi. My name is Pat. Let me show you something can you afford."

As to government, well, the Constitution provides no specific right to privacy, although Supreme Court decisions have inferred one from the likes of the Fourth Amendment (protection against unreasonable searches) and Fifth (against self-incrimination). …

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