Posted by Julie Ponzi
Christopher Caldwell raises some thought-provoking and even frightening questions about the role cyberspace can play in building and destroying reputations. It gives a whole new (and real) meaning to the old "permanent record" of lore.
It's a free country. Be not afraid.
Reputation is the icon of a person. To destroy it is tantamount to murder.
And those that have destroyed reputations, without cause, have set themselves up for a grim, real grim reckoning.
It is not such a free country, now, when so much data can be retained. A friend was mentioning that he had looked up a colleague on the Internet to find a phone number. The man's address was also available and for just a few dollars more, you can have his Social Security number and all personal data mined from computers. How far do you want to dig? It is just a matter of money and time and all sorts of things can be revealed.
I have wondered how identity theft could be such a big problem, but the answer is, that it is so easy. If this is so easy for private individuals, how much is accessible to government? Where have you been? Gas, debit and credit card purchases track you. Store discount cards track whatever incidentals we buy. Medical data? Every pill administered to you in a hospital is recorded. What have you written to anyone, electronically? Such things are stored. Emails feel private, but probably are not. Even here, Craig Scanlon can tell you whatever idle, vaporing things you wrote years ago by "Googling" you from the archives. I have been tracked down by by email from NLT, happily in a friendly way, but it could as easily have been hurtful.
I don't know about frightening, but the article is right that we are more vulnerable than was once possible through our computers and their amazing capacity for data storage. We presume (or at least I do) that we are unimportant enough that no one would be interested in our private information or what we say and do. But the unimportant are as vulnerable as the semi-important and the public person has no sheltering privacy at all, anonymity being gone.
I know parents who home-birthed and kept their children from public record through home schooling. Something always forces them back into the data system. There may be somebody - I certainly don't keep track of everyone. But I don't know of any of them who have managed to remain unknown and unidentified by government.
I have mentioned this in conversation and people found it sinister that anyone would keep a child from government data systems. Is it sinister? It may be impossible to live anything resembling a normal life and not be tracked. Maybe that is no big deal, but I think it is a freedom lost.
4: Kate -- Sure, privacy is taking a huge hit, but the loss of privacy isn't necessarily the loss of freedom. We can still do a decent job of keeping our most dangerous opinions, if any, private. To a great extent, we are as free as we allow ourselves to be.
Ashbrook Center at Ashland University | 401 College Avenue | Ashland, Ohio 44805 | (419) 289-5411 | (877) 289-5411 (Toll Free)