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Lack of privacy and a world has gone mad

Are you a private person?

Keep to yourself, don't bother too many people, prefer to remain anonymous?

The right to privacy is an interesting concept that dates back to the Bill of Rights, that no government should have the right to intrude on the protection of an individual's private life.

This isn't going to be a rant or rave about the Patriot Act, though the worry over terror has changed the landscape of laws protecting civil liberties in this nation.

I say the Patriot Act is another of those blips on the radar screen, another nail in the coffin, so to speak, of civil liberties that long ago were infringed upon in this ever-expanding, consumer-driven, communication-mad society.

Face book, Myspace, you name it, people are jumping to put their private lives out in the public realm for reasons I can'r explain. Now Google Earth can even zoom in on your backyard to see what ypou're up to. No need for the government to snoop. We're all doing it ourselves.

After getting one of those dinner-time calls the other night from a nameless, shapeless voice that asked me "How are you today, sir...?" I knew right away I was going to hear about a special on windows or floor coverings, or a political action group seeking my support on a very important issue.

I wasn't home, of course. You have to tell the solicitors that you don't exist, have never existed and no you don't live at that address or they'll pretty soon draw you into a conversation that grows increasingly hard to get out of without sounding impolite.

On the other hand, how polite is it to solicit you in your own home?

The magic of calling lists and an incredible network of private information about each and every one of us is alive and well in this country.

Initially, the worries about the government, the IRS, the draft board, the FBI, kept most Americans consumed with worries about Big Brother snooping over your shoulder.

Big Brother is certainly proficient about keeping information on its citizens but pales in comparison to the private firms that specialize in vacuuming up nearly every bit of private information we never thought we were handing out in the course of our regularly-scheduled lives.

I was looking at paying off a home loan that had been purchased by a faraway mortgage company. At the push of a button, the fellow at the other end of the line knew way too much about me. Yeah, my credit stinks but I don't have many debts. For some reason I didn't have a lot of debt to go on, which I thought was a great thing, but apparently isn't. Debt means something positive today, as long as you keep up with the payments.

As a naive youngster I always thought debt meant in the hole, down on your luck, not in a healthy financial situation. Today debt is an asset, especially to a huge corporate entity.

I remember not long ago I was at one of those chain warehouse hardware lumber, everything-under-one-roof places. At a desk in the front they were handing out company credit cards so I signed up. In minutes I was rejected because I had a lack of credit. I didn't have any real debt to worry about, no credit cards. I was a plastic nobody. With pride, I could say I was too much trouble for them--I was trouble like a hoodlum.

After a bout of commercial fishing in Alaska a few years ago I came home with a good chunk of cash in my pocket. Thousands. I was going to buy a four-wheeler and tried to get the ATV company bonus card which would extend me credit and a special deal on paying back a machine. Nope, I was trouble. No credit card. No assets except a house and old cars. I was rejected. I was standing there with $4,000 cash in my pocket and I was a credit leper according to the Big Brother of Credit out there in computerland.

I paid in cash and left with my machine.

The corporate data peddlers have amassed an incredible cross-section of who we are even if we try to stay out of sight. Big Brother isn't the government anymore because the government gets all its information from the private sector data peddlers.

Hey, the Constitution provides protections of our privacy from the government. It's a whole new ballgame out there and the data peddlers know that better than we do. You might be able to hide from the government but some guy calling from India sure knows how to get ahold of you.