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FBI Turns To Private Sector for Data 298

MSNBC is running a nice piece about a private company that aggregates data about you and sells it to the government. Things like this are why I just don't understand the typical Libertarian babble that government data collection is bad, but corporations should be allowed to collect and sell whatever data they want. Hey, guess what: if a corporation can collect and sell your information, it's available to the government too. Ten billion records! That's more than 30 lines of data - each line could have dozens of pieces of information - about every man, woman and child in the United States. The mind boggles.
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FBI Turns To Private Sector for Data

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  • by oGMo ( 379 ) on Friday April 13, 2001 @12:21PM (#293445)
    Corporations have an innocent and noble aim, to make money. They have no interest in advancing political agendas or using that information to harm people. They use data to benefit people - through focused marketing. With information, they can give us the products we want.

    Um. When you say, "Corporations have an innocent and noble aim, to make money", you're right; although I wouldn't really consider this either innocent or noble, but nonetheless, their goal is to make money. However, you then go on to say that they have our (our being consumers, etc.) interests in mind.

    They don't. Not at all. Their goal is to make money. Period. Not to make products. Not to benefit the consumer. To get the consumer to give them as much money as they can, while doing as little as possible in return (because the more you do, the less profit you make). This is how business works today.

    You can further see this by looking at all the silly patents and lawsuits that come up; these corporations have figured out that they don't even need to make anything to get money, they can just sue the pants off anyone who has an idea they've claimed. It's pretty sickening.

    The information collected by corporations is simply to find where they can make the most money, not, as you assert, to "give us the products we want". If you were right, the RIAA would be donating music and money to napster for us all.

    (This is not to say that some people in some corporations have more noble goals. It's just to say that this is not the corporate goal.)

    Now the government is rather the opposite situation. Their goal is not to make money. It is to govern the people. Unfortunately, you have the opposite problem you had with corporations; the government as a whole might have a (somewhat) noble goal, but you get individuals and groups who struggle for more and more power.

    Now claims of privatizing everything, without any thought as to the current state of the system, and what implications there would be for moving to a privatized system, and indeed what implications at all a privatized system would have, are just silly. (CA, power, deregulation.) Now, to put policing power in the hands of a corporation (whose goal is to do nothing but make money) just smacks of abuse.

    You miss the point, as well. The government is owned by people, too. (Unless you think it is owned by aliens or something.) Just a lot more people. Each one of us. Corporations abuse us just as badly, just in different ways and for different goals.

    "That is all we need to know" sounds like brainwashing or stubborn blindness to reality, too, if you ask me.

  • Sounds very reasonable. The only point of failure is the rare but noisy libertarians- who seem to be religiously committed to the notion that SOME things don't ever need any sort of checks and balances. I'm having an interesting time libertarianspotting in this article's comments, and am pleased and amused at the pique expressed. Come on, people- no _other_ political group gets to be taken as final truth, what makes you guys so special? You are nothing but a faction among many, and had better behave as such. And that means you will not GET the zero government you desire, and had better get comfortable with co-existing with other factions.

    Honestly, you'd think that sort of thing _hadn't_ been extensively tried in Chile and damn near destroyed the country. It just doesn't work. The invisible hand is an article of faith- means 'there's nothing there'. In practice, and libertarian forms of government HAVE been tried in practice (by force- Chile), it just doesn't work.

  • Thankfully your opinion is not the only one that matters, but simply one among many :)
  • Actually, you know the funny thing? I personally have no problem with grocery stores learning more about which stuff sells where to who. Research of that nature is _important_- hell, if they learn I like certain things maybe they wouldn't annoy me by discontinuing them so often, and there's the crucial point...

    There's nothing wrong with corporations learning all sorts of things about me, but the deal is they do that to exert FORCE. If they learn that I buy X kind of food, and strongly dislike substituting other sorts, they can and will jack up the price and collude with other corporations to make sure I don't have anywhere else to go. They're no friend of mine, they honor no social contract with me- they are nothing but predators trying to reduce me to the most helpless state they can manage, and feed off me as intensely as they can. That is their 'duty' to their shareholders.

    THAT is the problem. It's not that there's something inherently wrong with a company learning stuff, or discontinuing a product that they can't afford to produce! But the reality is, these organizations devote great effort to boxing me into a corner and leaving me with minimal or illusory choice, and I call that force in the sense that a checkmate in chess could be called force. (Do Libertarians concede checkmates in chess, or do they always play until their king is captured because the situation is not real to them until the last move? Do they have an ability to project outcomes or are they unable to?)

    This reminds me of another discussion in rec.audio.pro I recently sat in on. A guy was ranting and being offended because some posters had questioned his use and recommendation of 'Behringer' gear. Turns out, Behringer makes a practice of getting other gear (Aphex, dbx, Mackie) and taking it over to China and having people do an exact clone of the other company's design, only with cheaper parts, and then underselling the original company and doing lots of business.

    Now, on the one hand that situation is about the sanctity of intellectual property- but in another sense, that situation is about force. If Behringer, by being basically an IP parasite, is capable of severely undercutting the companies that actually do the R+D for products like mixers, then they are capable of driving their 'host' companies out of business. Not only do they force higher costs onto the competing products (legal bills in trying to fight Behringer), not only do they exert competitive force making those companies choose between making shoddier, cheaper products that don't work, or going out of business, but if you take a Libertarian sort of view, you have no justification for buying the product of the beleaugered original developer, because it costs more than the Behringer clone. It's a cancerous sort of situation that is blatantly, obviously unhealthy, but it plays right into notions of darwinistic competition in the marketplace as the invisible hand. It's unfortunately impossible to have a healthy market under the invisible hand, because the invisible hand likes cheaters as long as they don't get caught, and the invisible hand REALLY loves parasites that don't really contribute anything, and any sort of scam or rip-off that earns profit without producing anything of value.

    Maybe rather than getting worked up over the mechanisms of privacy abuses like turning collected personal data over to the government, it would be better to look at it in a broader sense. If something collects data on you, what are its responsibilities to you? The Libertarian view would be, it has no responsibilities other than what you can FORCE it to have (funny, I thought only governments had force, not individuals). The socialist view that I favor would suggest that it has as many responsibilities to you as you have to it- possibly quite a lot, depending on what's deemed acceptable for each party to do. Maybe what's needed is for corporations to have some, limited, responsibilities towards just individuals- for instance, it can see what stuff is selling, it can see how much insulin it needs to order for different stores' pharmacies, but it cannot use that information to identify pockets of diabetics and collude to jack up the prices unbearably in those areas.

    Some of that should sound familiar, because we've always had some types of legislation to take care of that. However, it's worth repeating, because it's being forgotten.

  • And Pinkerton which Thompson-machine-gunned strikers in the '20s.
  • By the same token, a corporation cannot pass laws, have its own police force, or put you in jail, but it's okay for them to pay Congress to pass laws (and con them into accepting all sorts of things), have the government send police after you, and have the police throw you in jail for breaking the new laws they paid for.

    Seems to me the end result is exactly the same. Exactly how are corporations _not_ government in this day and age? Who pulls the strings? Who gives the orders?

  • The typical "Libertarian babble" is to allow corporations to do as they please. If a company wants to do something to piss off its customers, then the customer should be smart enough (read: not too apathetic) to not do business with that company.

    Riiiight. Boycots don't work anymore. Companies are too well diversified for this to happen easily, especially the large multinationals. Go take a look at companies like GE, GM, Sony, and Philip Morris and tell me you can drive any of them out of business. We've been working on MS for 10 years and have barely put a dent in their bottom line.
  • The problem is the vast majority of people that just don't care.

    ...which is the other reason why they don't work.
  • Because they would just hire the Pinkertons, who would show up and kill the rioters.

    See early 1900s history, unions, and Buffalo for more on that one.
  • Uhmmm....

    Sure, you can keep *some* information out of the hands of corporations. But, you know your insurance agency? They are a corporation. They know a lot about you-- health, income, demographics, etc.

    It disturbs me that some people won't trust the government, which is ultimately disorganized and essentially responsible to the public; but they trust corporations, which are not beholden to anyone... not even their customers. Yes, they are supposed to be responsible to their shareholders. Big deal. As long as they maximize profits (by any means necessary), they can do what they want.

    No, I don't trust the government. But I trust corporations even less.

    Corporations have most of the rights of individuals (even the right to buy votes), but none of the resonsibility.
  • Big corporations aren't the scare, its the government that's the scare.

    Bzzzzzzt! Wrong, Mor-ton! Big corporations ARE the government! Issue 2 ...

    Opt-out of all you can ...

    This is infeasible. If just one outfit slips one by on you (your fault, right?) they'll all have your information because they'll buy and sell it amoung themselves. This "opt out" business is baloney.

    Back when I was more enamored with Libertarian ideas, one that had greatest appeal was the notion that the central role of government was to protect individuals. This idea was put forth by the "limited governmentalists", not the "anarco-capitalist" faction. That was 20 years ago. Today, people describing themselves as Libertarians seem to be advocating corporate welfare.

    I'm a Libertarian (card carrying) and I don't see how this is a problem.

    In time, you will.
  • Yes, there is something wrong with the government getting ahold of information about me. There should always be a choice when it comes to information, and there should always be an exchange.

    Take grocery store discount cards. I have a choice of whether or not I want to sign up in the first place. Then there is an exhange - they give me a discount in exchange for them being able to follow my spending habits.

    Hopefully they can use this information to notice what brands I buy in order to better serve me in the future.

    Credit card companies track me, but I have a choice of having a card (I do not), and they give me services in exchange for using their cards. I have theft protection, and easy access to money.

    Slashdot tracks me through the use of cookies but I have a choice in the matter (I run a client that allows/disallows cookies based on the domain), and in exchange for Slashdot looking after me, I get to tailor what I want to see when I come here.

    This brings us to the government. What choice do I have if a company wants to sell my habits to the government? None. What do I get out of this exhange? Nothing but a loss of privacy.

    Before you reply to this comment talking about my grocery store selling my information to other companies - I have signed up using a false name, address, and phone number. Not only that, but the grocery gave me four cards when I signed up, and I distributed the other three to friends in other cities. The information they gather about me is useful to the store, but useless to other companies since it would be impossible to track me down fromthe information they have.

    Yes, credit card companies could sell information about me to other companies, and this is one reason I do not have a card. However, there is still a choice in the matter (getting a card or not), and the credit card company still provides benifits. You just have to weigh the benifits against all of what the company does to you (tracks you *and* sells the information).
  • It seems to me that if a boycott is ineffective because most people don't support it, then that's a great example of the system working exactly as it should.
  • "Things like this are why I just don't understand the typical Libertarian babble that government data collection is bad, but corporations should be allowed to collect and sell whatever data they want. Hey, guess what: if a corporation can collect and sell your information, it's available to the government too."

    Not if the government doesn't have explicit legal authority to purchase that information. Remeber that government collection of data is a symptom, the disease consists of the nefarious plans they have for using that information. If they don't have the undue authority over our lives that makes that information valuable to them, data collection becomes a moot point.

    Remember that the entire reason interest groups and corporations lobby the government is because they believe they can gain by doing so. If the government didn't have the power in the first place to do those favors, there'd be no point in lobbying. Similarly, if the gov't didn't have the power to regulate the minutiae of our daily lives, there'd be no reason to collect personal data on the masses.

    If we were to somehow ban corporations from collecting personal data, or ban them from selling it to The Man, then the jack-booted thugs would just get the lawmakers to make it legal to collect it directly. If you don't want them collecting information, YOU MUST REMOVE THE INCENTIVES TO DO SO.

  • Ok, so there's not THAT much you can do, but every little bit helps.

    DO NOT fill out those warranty cards unless they're required for the warranty. Weber, Inc. really is not entitled to know your household family income and hobbies just because you bought a freakin' grill...

    If you use those "discount" cards in supermarkets, well - first, don't, but if you do, be sure to swap them with your friends whenever you can. Otherwise they know your preference for Fat Tire over Budweiser, etc.

    Use cash.

    Don't participate when some yokel calls you to ask bout your radio station listening habits.

    Use junkbuster to filter out the cookies.*

    Etc... feel free to add to the list...

    *isn't it time to make a big "cookie swap" service on the net, to essentially randomize those doubleclick cookies? I'd be happy to let them thorugh if I could swap them with somebody else out of a pool of 100,000 every hour...


  • Many corporations have information on me that I have neither tacitly nor explicitly consented for them to have. You sound like the spams I regularly get, insisting that they are only sending me mail because I have somehow consented, often lying and saying I signed up for the list.

    But then, corporations are themselves government creations. To be a consistent libertarian, you should demand that corporations be abolished, so that individuals will be fully responsible for their actions.

  • by seichert ( 8292 ) on Friday April 13, 2001 @12:38PM (#293470) Homepage
    As a libertarian I have some disagreements with my fellow Libertarians.

    Firstly, there is nothing wrong with corporations collecting data about people. Corporations have an innocent and noble aim, to make money. They have no interest in advancing political agendas or using that information to harm people. They use data to benefit people - through focused marketing. With information, they can give us the products we want.

    Not all corporations are evil. Not all corporations are good. I support the free market, but not every action of every corporation. I am most concerned with corporations that try to use the power of government to achieve their aim of making money. Examples being the RIAA and the MPAA.

    n short, we should live in a society of limited government. If the functions that government presently executes, such as defense of the realm and policing the streets, were carried out by private corporations at the behest of out citizens, everything would be much fairer. Look at the rioting in Cincinati. If policing were private, that would not have happened.

    Individuals decide to riot, not cities. A private police force does not guarantee that people will not riot. There really is no guarantee that others will choose to behave in a peaceful and non-violent manner. As a Libertarian I recognize that life is full of risk and believe that I have a fundamental right to defend myself against violent individuals. Thus no government should take away my right to own firearms, hire security guards, or install an alarm system in my home or business.

    Data being available publicvally is good, as long as it is not abused. Corporations have a record of non-abuse, and are owned by the people. The government does not and is not. That is all we need to know.

    Again this is too general. Many individual corporations have a history of non-abuse. However, other individual corporations do not. Remember that corporations are only a legal entity. They are owned, controlled, and operated by individual human beings. Some of these human beings see nothing wrong with using the force of government to achieve their end. They have no problem lobbying for regulations to hurt competitors or rules that invade the privacy of consumers.

    Remember that the government does not want privacy or anonymity. No government wants that. The government wants to be able to track everything you do. Think about all of the regulations that the government imposes on you and how they stop you from protecting your privacy. Any and all non-cash (i.e. anything that isn't a cashier's check, money order, traveler's cheque, or currency) financial transactions require the use of your social security number (or taxpayer ID) so that the government can make sure people are paying their income tax. You can't rent an apartment without proving that you have the legal right to live in the US. This allows the government to know where you live and keep immigrants out of the country.

    In short, I am not afraid of all corporations. Only those that conspire with the government.
    Stuart Eichert
  • Will this information now be available to all under the FOIA?

    ID: 03412341242424/01/AB
    Name: Joe Doe
    Date of birth: 1/1/70
    Place of birth: Littletown in Littlestate

    XXX approaches XXXXXXXX
    pedophilic XXXXXXXXXXXX
    sado-masochism XXXXXXXX
    XXXXXX violence XXXXXXX
    personality XXXXXXXXXXX
    quite worrysome XXXXXXX
    XXXXXXX disagreement XX
    XXXX outcasts.

    This is a mere rough extrapolation. But what this guy may look like? Sincerly I saw a few FOIA papers that frequently leave a very dubious meaning of the original text.
  • by Wreck ( 12457 ) on Friday April 13, 2001 @12:39PM (#293475) Homepage
    Indexing people is not as easy as it seems. How many "John Smiths" are there? Even which live at 200 Elm Street? How do you know if this John Smith is the one that lived at Elm street 10 years ago?

    Well, it is all easy if every person could just be tagged with a number that they must -- under pain of jail time -- use in every substantial transaction.

    The number exists. It is your SSN. And who created that?

    So here is the reason that privacy is always a greater issue between the State and citizen, and between citizens or groups of citizens (including corps): the State can use force. Citizens can't. Isn't that distinction quite clear?

    A large part of our current problem with privacy is the fact that even in our dealing with private entities, we are still required to use SSN. And that makes them perfectly able to index all significant facts on us. Furthermore, it opens the door to use of the SSN by others asking trusting-but-foolish consumers, to index all of their own information with that of the larger players.

    Without a superkey, none of that would be possible. Naturally there would be tried to invent superkeys, by the Doubleclicks of the world. But people would instantly see the intent and avoid such things.

  • Corporations have an innocent and noble aim, to make money. They have no interest in advancing political agendas or using that information to harm people.
    You know, there's a lot of things about libertarian theory that's really interesting to me, but this sort of thing is a good example of why I'm drifting further away from the libertarians as time goes on: there's a near complete confusion of reality and theory here.

    Whatever a real free market firm might be like, the actual existing US-style corporations are clearly not the same animal. The US corporation is very much a creation of government policies (the tax code, the legal limits on liability, pollution regulations, allocation of property rights and so on). In turn, corporations do their best to control the US government through a system of legalized bribery called "campaign contributions".

    Think about the Big 5 record companies. Are you sure that they have no interest in advancing a "political agenda"? Have you ever heard of the RIAA?

    Consider the fact that you can't get elected to high office without heavy contributions needed to pay for access to the airwaves, whose "ownership" was pretty much arbitrarily assigned to certain companies by government fiat.

    The real world is so far away from the ideal libertarian situation, that libertarians can only apply their theories by selectively ignoring inconvienient facts...

  • by Sloppy ( 14984 )

    government data collection is bad, but corporations should be allowed to collect and sell whatever data they want.

    One reason is this: corporation cannot force information from you. You always have option (though sometimes impractical) to opt out. When government (e.g. IRS) wants information, it is: "Answer or else go to jail."

  • by CokeBear ( 16811 ) on Friday April 13, 2001 @12:18PM (#293481) Journal
    Corporations have an innocent and noble aim, to make money.

    I can't believe that you type this with a straight face. There is nothing innocent and noble about pursuing profit above all else.

    Corporations destroy our environment, abuse workers (what do you think minimum wage would be if there were no unions? We only need to look to where your Nikes were made for the answer)

    Corporations are about expoitation. Suck as much cash out of the consumer as possible, lie to the consumer as much as you can possibly get away with, only regard the health and safety of employees and consumers when mandated by law. (How safe were cars before government regulations?)

    If you want a prime example of why libertarianism is doomed to fail, you only need to look as far as the Tobacco industry, which lied to consumers for decades, before finally being forced to come clean and admit that cigarettes were both addictive and harmful. (Standard Libertarian answer would be that its a person's choice to smoke, but I would argue that most people begin smoking when they are young, before they are fully capable of understanding the consequenses of their actions, and nicotine, being a more addictive substance than heroin, is manipulated to make it very difficult for people to quit.)

    The reality is that Libertarianism only works if Corporations are 100% honest with consumers, and consumers are 100% informed. Neither is ever true. It is rarely in a corporation's best interest to be honest with consumers. Whole marketing departments are devoted to getting people to turn off thier brains.

    Libertarianism is flawed, because it makes some very flawed assumptions, and aim for a kind of Utopian society that we can never achieve.

    (Just my opinion... flame away)

    Don't mod me up, Reply with something intelligent instead

  • Government snooping includes collecting peoples computers and holding them for years.
    Entering your home and turning it into a disaster.
    Tapping your telephone (land line) by adding a device to your phone line. If you find this device in your box and remove it not knowing it was a government authorized tap you are in serious trouble.

    Corporate will not physically enter your home unless with a salesmen. They will tap your phone at the phone company side or listen in over the wireless or cell phone signal.
    If you catch and thwart corporate snooping your not in any trouble.

    Corporate snoops are far more polite. You are not purely innocent but a potential costumer and will bend over backwards to be nice to you.
    Government snoops develop a point of view of "if he wasn't guilty we wouldn't be checking him out".

    Over all government snoops are big nasty thugs.. Storm Troopers...
    Corporate snoops are more akin to space balls dark helmet...

    Being snooped by anyone is a painful experience.
    But I'd much rather deal with corporate snoops...
  • by rw2 ( 17419 ) on Friday April 13, 2001 @12:37PM (#293483) Homepage
    YOU ARE BORING. You are mere bytes in a database somewhere and the only interesting aspect of your existence is the question of where to store the backup tapes.


    Orson Scott Card called this 'the significance problem' in his book Pastwatch. You've summed it up perfectly, the problem with privacy is that many people are so arrogant that they believe they matter. They think they have some clever ideas no one else has thought of. That they are important enough that Time/Warner or the government (choose your poison) is going to give a rip about them. That they are something more than just another one in six billion.

    After working with large scale databases for a while it becomes very clear that privacy doesn't matter much. The Man isn't out to get you (and if he were, he sure as hell wouldn't be using a 250 million person database of lung cancer data to find you). You don't matter to anyone you haven't already met. Get over it.


  • "Corporations have a record of non-abuse"

    I almost choked on my gum when I read that. Go rent the movie Matewan [imdb.com]. It should be available at any video store.

    For those of you who aren't going to go rent it, I'll give you the short version. It's about a West Virgina town in the 20s just as mine workers are starting to unionize. The corporation they work for, with its innocent and noble aim of making money, beats the crap out of people.

  • by Claudius ( 32768 ) on Friday April 13, 2001 @12:34PM (#293504)
    I find this excerpt from the linked article to be interesting: Although ChoicePoint says it has records on nearly every American with a credit card, it doesn't always provide access to that data. The company's Autotrack service is popular with many agencies and businesses and is also used by reporters at The Wall Street Journal. But entering the name of FBI Director Louis Freeh into the Autotrack database produces an error message. A company spokesman says ChoicePoint intentionally blocks Mr. Freeh's records as an act of good corporate citizenship.

    Translation of the last line: "A company spokesman says that the publicly held firm, ChoicePoint, is not so stupid as to endanger its stockholder's investments by providing information on the man heading one of ChoicePoint's biggest client organizations." Apparently this comment by the ChoicePoint drone is intended to make us all feel better, as if we all hobnob with politically heavyweights of Freeh's standing.
  • Honestly, if the cops were chasing after the REAL CRIMINALS as you say, we would be up to our eyeballs in petty theft, burglary, and other non-viloent offenses SO FAST THAT YOU MIGHT END UP HAVING TO GET A GUN TO PROTECT YOUR PROPERTY FROM EVERYONE COMING AND TAKING IT FIVE MINUTES LATER.
    First, where was it said that those who commit "petty theft, burglary, and other non-viloent offenses" aren't "real criminals"? Nice strawman. Second, wake up and realize that the police are under no obligation to protect you from "petty theft, burglary, and other non-viloent offenses", or even violent offenses, so if you're counting on their protection instead of providing for your own, you're SOL already.

    80% of all violent crime is committed under the comission of or influence of drugs.
    I don't know what you mean by "under the commission of ... drugs", but noone suggested that we not go after those who commit crimes. I don't care if the reckless driver who nearly hit me was drunk, stoned, taking cough syrup, tired, or shaving - I want him held accountable for reckless driving. I don't care if a killer did so for pot money, beer money, Duron money, or just because he didn't like the look of the fellow - I want him held accountable for murder.
  • SDG&E can FORCE me to pay exorbitant prices for electricity (well actually, Sempra) because I have to have it and they've kept cheap alternative power out of the market so long with their brute market force that there are no feasible (as in less expensive) alternatives availiable.
    As I understand it (and I may be in error, as I haven't followed the CA power issue as closely as I would have if I lived there) SDG&E doesn't own power generation facilities, and they were (a) kept from locking in power supplies at profitable rates in long-term contracts and (b) kept from having consumer rates reflect the rates they were paying for the supplies by the government. It was government force that set the consumer rates, and government force that kept competition out.
    GenericPharmacueticals can FORCE me to pay so much for my patented AIDS cocktail that I cannot afford to buy it.
    Yes, because it's the government forcing you to pay so much. It's the armed force of govenment that ensures that only GenericPharmacueticals can make your "patented" AIDS cocktail.
    Thank god for government "help"!
    You said it.
  • Here's a scenario. It's the late 1950s and all of your biochemist friends are raving about this new chemical that has been going around. You call up a supply house and order some. Your package of LSD arrives the next week and you use it. Two years later, it's illegal and people who are known to have used it are considered "dangerous" and an "employment risk".

    Do you think that, today, companies would not be searching credit card records for such purchases?

    Also, as a criteria for employment at most financial companies (anyone bound by the SEC, basically) you have to be bonded. This means that an insurance company does a background check and decides how likely they are to lose money on you.

    Do you think that your milk purchases are innocent? You do know that people who buy "too much" milk just happen to be insurance risks, right? Oh, probably not for any reason that would affect you, but Prudental doesn't know that, you see. They're just doing actuarial math, and you lose.

    Now, let's think about what this information will lead to in the hands of the FBI... profiling based on... let's say, type of reading material? Software choices (people who buy Red Hat are national security risks, FreeBSD users are terrrorists and BeOS users are drug smugglers, right), it just goes on and on. How many years do you think it will be before the FBI can issue a search warrant based on a 99% corolation with a criminal profile? If you said, "that would never happen," then in the words of the West Wing, I want you to write down the exact date and time that you said that....
  • 1. Will this information now be available to all under the FOIA?

    2. My main concern with "outsourcing" investigations is that the government might well engage private entities who have in vigilante-style gathered information and then tipped off the government, in the meanwhile engaging in conduct that the Fourth Amendment search and seizure requirements would preclude. Does purchasing that information without having solicited the invasions of privacy permit the government to do indirectly what it was not permitted to do directly? [An issue related to one raised during the first Claus Von Bulow appeal.]
  • So one vote out of 280 million is not enough representation but a hundred shares of billions of shares is good enough. You have more say in how your govt behaves then how ms behaves. At least the govt makes a pretense of being a democracy. Corporations have no concept of one person one vote. Whoever has the most shares has the say so and unless you are a billionaire you aint got no juice with Bill Gates.

    You are slave to everybody. You have to buy from somebody so your illusion of choice is just that. Don't buy from one corporation but buy from another whoop dee doo that's freedom? Guess what you can live in another country too but that does make you free. You only have freedom to choose your enslavers.

    If you think that corporations don't abuse us please visit the town of libby montana where W.R. Grace corporation has committed mass murder of the citizens of that town. They then declared bankrupcy (chap 11) so that they can't be sued. Once the suits go away they will be re-opened for business.
    Like that sheeple you complain about the sheeple of montana and libby readily went along with this poisoning of their friends and neighbors because they made proft from it. It costs too much money to clean up after yourself. It costs too much money not to kill people. Every corpie recognizes this simple fact. Kill them now and if the sheeple decide to come after you attack them with lawyers and if that does not work then use the legal system to circumvent personal responsibility.

    The sheeple of libbly are not unique nor is W.R. Grace. The history of capitalism is full of even worse examples of atrocoties committed by corps. For every opressive govt there are hundreds of opressive corps and corps which have killed or maimed or destroyed thousands of sheeple.
  • by Grendel Drago ( 41496 ) on Friday April 13, 2001 @11:55AM (#293510) Homepage
    How can anyone work for these evil, evil companies?

    "What did you do at work, sweetie?"

    "Invaded the privacy of millions!" [Sparkling grin]

    "Wow, that's swell. Pass the potatoes..."

    How? It must take an army of underpaid monkeys to do this evil thing. Government employees I can see, but these are normal people not looking for an agenda.

    Truly mind-boggling.

    -grendel drago
  • I dont understand what the huge issue is. I personally dont encrypt anything. I dont worry about it. I dont worry about people who know what porn sites I go to, or what news sites I read. I dont care that someone tracks what computer parts I buy online, or what my typical path of bored websurfing is. I dont have anything to hide. If the government cares what sites I look at, why is that supposed to bother me? Let them buy the data, let them skim through it. Let them realize I'm harmless and move on. If they find one valuable clue in this that someone is doing something illegal, then I feel it was money well spent. The rest of us have nothing to worry about.

    Hey, could you send me just one of your credit card numbers? Or do I have to go to the web and get all of them?

  • I completely agree that if the US wants to wipe out or track people that do nothing more than HARM our society instead of HELP our society, then more power to them. I also have nothing to hide.

    It's not about harming or hurting "society", which is a pretty abstract concept anyway. The state is, oddly enough, concerned mainly about you harming or hurting the state.

    "A very few--as heroes, patriots, martyrs, reformers in the great sense, and men--serve the state with their consciences also, and so necessarily resist it for the most part; and they are commonly treated as enemies by it." [indiana.edu] - Henry David Thoreau

    If my kids can make it to school safe in the morning and come home alive without worrying about some fucked up anti-government militia pyschopath needing to make a point by blowing something up, then I could give a shit less.

    Let me introduce you to the Law of Eristic Escalation: Impostion of Order = Escalation of Chaos. As applied to government and safety, it means this: by imposing a stronger government to make sure your kids are safe, you create the very anti-government sentiment you fear. Consult any Taoist sage for more information.

    Tom Swiss | the infamous tms | http://www.infamous.net/

  • 80% of all violent crime is committed under the comission of or influence of drugs.

    Only if you're including alcohol as a drug. No other drug significantly potetiates violent behavior. (Though if a person with a disposition towards violence is under the influence of drugs, they may be difficult to stop due to inhibited pain response.)

    The vast majority of drug related violenece is related to the black market (turf wars between dealers, junkies stealing to afford their fix, and so on), not to the pharacological effects of drugs themselves.

    Odds are that pretty much everything you think you know about currently illegal drugs is wrongs.

    Tom Swiss | the infamous tms | http://www.infamous.net/

  • by klund ( 53347 ) on Friday April 13, 2001 @12:22PM (#293521)
    The difference between corporate and governmental data collecting can be summed up as:

    1) Lie to a corporation, and you don't get a free keychain.

    2) Lie to the government, and you go to jail.

    Is that clear enough?
  • > If my kids can make it to school safe in the morning and come home alive without worrying about some fucked up anti-government militia pyschopath needing to make a point by blowing something up, then I could give a shit less.

    Accessing credit card records...
    User: 107011
    Slashdot alias: Listen Up
    CDs purchased in 1999: 60
    CDs purchased in 2000: 1
    Date of last computer purchase: December, 2000
    Computer equipped with: CD-R
    ISP, 1999: AOL
    ISP, 2000: AOL Roadrunner cable
    Profile match: MP3 downloader
    Analysis: Profile match constitutes probable cause to suspect copyright violation
    Presiding judge in district: Joe Judge
    Probability of warrant issuance given this profile and judge: 90%
    Estimated value of computer equipment on premises: $2,500
    Recommendation: Seize all computer equipment. We could use another computer.

  • > How would an entity, (either government or business) ever single out an individual from the masses?
    > Think needle. Then think big ass haystack.

    Think database. Think bigger-ass magnet.

  • It's a rare industry that allows you to treat your customers badly and get away with it (excepting government granted monopolies of course).

    But realize that in this case the customer is the Government, not you! Just like the customers for the TV networks aren't it's viewers, but it's advertisers.
  • ...I'd wager that most of those are government created, which was my exception.

    And the oligopolies are bought by the companies from the state and the politicians, and it's all a depressing public choice nightmare, and it will all end in ttears, but I really need to go to sleep now.
  • The government always outsources tasks, since they've shown that they're not much good at anything to begin with. Outsourcing intelligence is the next logical step -- you saw what happened with China when they tried to do it themselves (yes, that's half-joking).

    I can't wait till they start outsourcing legislation and the judiciary. Maybe something useful will get done for once. On the other hand, you saw what happened when they out-sourced the prison system. fear

  • That was a beautiful, beautiful troll. Artwork. The best part was the +5 Informative. You deserve ten bonus Karma points for that alone.
  • The issue is not primarily whether the government attempts to gather information about us. The issue is that the government can compel you to give them information. If I do not like the fact that my credit card company sells identifiable information about me, I can change to a different credit card company. If someone from the government knocks on my door every ten years and says, "I'm from the government. What is you race? Your religion? Do you have trouble bathing by yourself?" (real question from the long form) I do not have the option to switch to a different census company.

    A worse example of this is a recent proposal that medical records (including psychiatrists' notes) would be open to government agents without a warrant. Well, just go switch to a different government.

    There is also the separate issue of how the government uses the information. When Amtrack opens up their customer database to the FBI for a cut of the value of the seizures (to catch drug dealers), the FBI is violating the fourth amendment because paying cash for a rail ticket is not "probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

    For the second reason, it's a good idea to restrict the government from even gathering the information, so that they don't misuse it.

    An example libertarians like to give of this is the fact that Hitler required registration of guns before things got so bad that people would resist. When he finally outlawed them, the police had a convenient list of who to go around and collect them from.

  • So where's the line to pick up my gargoyle suit? :P

  • by Greyfox ( 87712 ) on Friday April 13, 2001 @12:08PM (#293547) Homepage Journal
    They were talking about Amtrack getting 10% of the haul from successful DEA busts in return for which Amtrack would give the DEA information on customers who used cash to buy one-way tickets as well as "suspecious" credit card purchases.

    The nice thing about getting information from a private company is they don't have any nasty concerns about due process or constitutional rights. As a customer you pretty much surrender all that stuff if you want to deal with them. I would, however, question the constitutionality of an enforcement agency being able to use information provided under such a deal. IANAL, but I'd be interested to know if the Supreme Court has dealt with this sort of issue in the past and what their decision was in any such cases.

  • There's a big difference between voluntarily giving your information to a private company, and the gov't compiling information about you without your OK. The company has incentive (money) for offering you a good service, and you have incentive for using that service (time, peace of mind). But why would the gov't want all this information about you? What good could they possibly do with it? And what benefit do you get from it? None. So why are they doing it? The gov't should stay out of our private lives on the principle of it alone.

    I have zero tolerance for zero-tolerance policies.

  • As a libertarian myself, its this kind of nonsense ("corporations have an innocent and noble aim") that I suspect Michael was referring to as "libertarian babble." Libertarianism is not and should not be reduced to simple mindless worship of corporations. Most corporations suck and don't give a flying f--- about property rights as libertarians frame them.
  • I heard the only column in the database they could join on was with /. users. So as long as you don't use /. they can't aggregate all the data about you.

    My sources are impeccable. Really.

  • I don't pay my government to spy on me or buy data like that. If a private firm wishes to spend money tracking my root beer drinking habits and it involves no coersion, so be it. My government should not spend a dime either compiling such data or looking at it.
  • [Congress responded by passing the Privacy Act of 1974, which was designed to discourage such wholesale data gathering. While the law doesn't explicitly prohibit the government from compiling dossiers on presumably law-abiding private citizens, the FBI and other agencies in the past have generally interpreted it that way. Moreover, some of those agencies' own internal guidelines bar them from actively assembling such files themselves.]

    So let me get this straight... The law basically says that the FBI and other government agencies cannot compile a dossier on a presumed law-abiding citizen, but it's ok to purchase said dossier as long as they didn't compile it themselves. Seems to me the end result is exactly the same.

    I say basically since it appears that there is not a direct law keeping the government from doing this sort of thing, but since they all interpret it that way, maybe they should... And it should be included that obtaining this information on presumed law-abiding citizens is just as bad.

    It's like saying well, it's illegal to build a bomb, but not to purchase or be in possession of one. Or marijuana, or any other number of things.

  • I imagine the data about myself looks something like:

    "PAST HTTP ACTIVITY->(www.slashdot.org->www.persiankitty.com- >ww w.slashdot.org->www.goatse.cx->www.persiankitty.co m-> www.persiankitty.com
    CC ACTIVITY->([19.95->www.cyberxxx.com],[14.95->www.a maz on.com],[4.95->www.hairyladies.com])
  • The rest of what you said, I agree with. I especially liked your opening comment that rights not explicitly spelled out are not neccesarrilly denied. There are some people (myself among them) that believe that the Constitution was not meant to spell out our rights, but to spell out the few cases in which the government has power over those rights.

    Dude, amendments nine and ten say exactly that.

    Had we held fast to this dogma, the Bill Of Rights would have been redundant: The government could not , for example, restrict free speech or gun rights because the constitution never granted them the power to do so.

    Most of the original framers did not believe that the Bill of Rights was necessary, but in order to get the Constitution approved it was added to appease some who thought the federal government was too strong. And with the Constitution as originally written, the Bill of Rights did not apply to the States. Of course, nearly all the States had similar provisions in their State Constitutions, but fact was, any one State could ban guns and limit free speech without repealing either amendment. It's only after several Supreme Court cases and the 14th amendment that these protections apply to all people from every level of government.

  • You're kind of a rare bright egg, aren't you?

    Corporations aren't interested in advancing political agendas? RIAA? DCMA?

    Governments are only interested in control? Own a house? That's right, the gov made it possible for you to have a mortgage, and not pay exorbitant fees to the corporation actually lending you the money.

    You want to farm out government functions to corporations only interested in making money? Hey, that's great. Hold out your arm, we'll put your barcode on. Careful in front of the telescreens.

    Privatize police? How much do you spend on a murder? How much will you pay for peace of mind?
    Where's the profit?
  • What guarantees this data is accurate? What guarantees it's from only US Residents?
    It also says:
    "The FBI has located nearly 1,300 subjects of criminal cases using these kinds of searches,"

    What I'm curious is how many times people have been harassed and or publicly embarrased because the FBI's data they bought is WRONG?
  • The reason the cops use guns? Permanent subjugation.

    And, of course, no private company interested in maximizing profits would ever kill somebody for a silly motive like saving the cost of a trial and imprisonment. We know that the legal system is perfect, and poor people would always be able to afford lawyers who would be guaranteed to win them big judgments against large corporations and force them to care about people's saftey.

    Give me a damn break. Corporations as a group have given ample evidence that they don't give a damn about people, only money, and if it turns out that it's cheaper to hire good lawyers and have the cops shoot people to save on imprisonment costs then that's exactly what they'll do. They already do things like deciding that it's cheaper to kill people with things like pollution and accidents and settle the lawsuits than to clean up their act. Why believe that shooting criminals will be treated any differently, particularly when it's so easy to put a gun in the hand of the guy you've just shot to make it look like it was justified?

  • The problem isn't really with record keeping, per se, but with record aggregation. It's just fine for your oil change guy to send you a message that your oil needs changing, or for grocery store to track purchases so they know what things you might want to buy. The problem comes when they start selling that information and some large database winds up containing everything about your daily activities. When somebody can see absolutely everything about you, they can start taking apparently innocent pieces of data and start compiling things that might hurt you.

    What happens, for instance, if your bank decides that they want to do a hyper-thorough check on you before giving you a loan? They might decide not to give you a mortgage despite a perfect record of making payments on time because you don't change your oil often enough and they think that you won't take good care of your house. Or what happens when nobody wants to sell you health insurance because you buy too much ice cream? Even worse, what happens if they make those decisions in error because their records are slightly imperfect- you change your own oil sometimes but the shop you get your oil and filters from doesn't track those things, or you actually feed most of that ice cream to your dog, who loves it?

    Face it -- to the rest of the world, the big evil government, and the big evil corporations, YOU ARE BORING.

    You're boring until you want to do business with them. Then you become interesting, and they want to know everything about you that they can. And, as has been shown quite clearly by various problems with credit card companies and the like, erroneous data can get into the system and cause people no end of problems because it doesn't get flushed. Of course, businesses and governments aren't the only potential consumers of information. Do you really want all of your personal information to be available to private citizens who have grudges against you? How about somebody who's stalking you? It happens already, and it's a nightmare when it does. Adding more information to the pot will only make it get worse.

  • Look at the rioting in Cincinati. If policing were private, that would not have happened.


  • Corporations aren't interested in advancing political agendas? RIAA? DCMA?

    The typical Libertarian answer to this is that the government has too much power. The government has constantly expanded it's power base, and thus it has more and more to offer through lobbies. If you are an industry *cough* textiles *cough* and you can lobby the government to outlaw your competitors *cough* hemp *cough*, then at some point somebody's going to do it.

    You have to break the cycle somewhere. Either you need to stop the lobbying (questionable, ethically, because there are valid reasons to lobby), or you have to lower the power of the government by restricting it to it's constuitional foundations, which doesn't really allow for making formerly legal products illegal.

  • You're right-- it isn't always bad. And most of it is insignificant. But if you think the government, insurance companies, and so on are paying lots of omney to see what kind of milk you buy, you're dead wrong.

    What kind of data are they buying? How about medical records? [wired.com] Or complete, comprehensive financial data? Why would they want those?

    You say, "Face it -- to the rest of the world, the big evil government, and the big evil corporations, YOU ARE BORING.". That's incorrect. To corporations, you are a consumer. You are a potential revenue stream. And I stress potential. If you're trying to buy health insurance, they'll want to scan your entire medical history, and possibly your genetic makeup. If you're signing up for a subscription service, they might check not just your credit history, but a history of every dispute you've ever had with a company-- to see how easily you're bullied into paying up any debt claimed by the corporation, legitimate or not. If you're applying for a job, they might want to dig around to see if they can find any information on whether you're planning on having kids in the next few years.

    Is a lot of this illegal now? Sure it is. Do they still get lots of this information? Sure they do. With so many partnerships, mergers, and huge tangles of which corp owns who, it's easy to illegally share data without any real risk of prosecution.

    Why would the feds want your information? Again, it's not what brand of milk you buy (although, if you buy non-growth-hormone milk, maybe you're a communist). You're not a potential revenue stream, but you are a potential threat to the people in power. Because of McCarthyism, and things like the Freedom of Information Act, we've found that the government can and does keep close tabs on any citizens who might be considered subversive. And because of things like genetic testing, we've found that a lot of people have been jailed for crimes they didn't commit. Put those two together-- don't you think there's a bit of risk there?

    Oh, but wait, I should trust the government. I will, just as soon as top figures can look the cameras straight on and say, sincerely, "I am not a crook.". Yeah, that seems like a reliable test.
  • With the current economy turning down, this could be a chance for some companies to make a little cash. I know, most of you are going to immediately say 'but we want to keep our privacy!" well, then do so! All the information that is being sold, is what you've freely provided. Someone else just had the sense to combine it together. For example, they paid the 15 dollar fee to the FBI to get general information on any person, then bought marketing data from the numerous dot.coms, and in turn, added it into a large MS SQL database, and ran a few lines, packaged it togehter, and went to look for a buyer.

    The Federal Government is the ideal buyer of this information. How better to devide up voting districts, set welfare limits, and keep a low level track of every citizen. If you don't particularly care for it, you can stop filling in the information you provide to get free goodies, don't sign up for givaways, never slide your visa card, etc. You provide the information willingly, what's wrong with someone else collecting it, and making a nice profit? You'd love it, if the governemtn was shelling out 30 million dollars to you! Jelerial

  • by dada21 ( 163177 ) <adam.dada@gmail.com> on Friday April 13, 2001 @11:53AM (#293607) Homepage Journal
    I'm a Libertarian (card carrying) and I don't see how this is a problem. It is only a problem that the government has the data, I could care less if a corporation has it. If they do, its my own damn fault. If the government has it, then its as good as permanent. But I try very hard to keep my personal information out of corporate hands. I don't use my health insurance for anything but dire emergencies, pay cash for as much as possible, and am very careful to opt-out of everything I have been put on. Sure, once you're on a list, you're probably there for life, but what bad is it doing? I have to admit, almost every list I am on I was put there because I allowed it. How many people read the fine print when they put their names down? Like that 10% savings at the grocery store when you use your frequent shopper's card? Ever think where that data goes? I don't even have a card, but I always ask the person behind me in line for theirs, and they always give it to me. Big corporations aren't the scare, its the government that's the scare. And the government bought this list because we allowed them to. End high taxes, and I think you'll end government programs that are allowed to purchase this information. Opt-out of all you can, and stop putting your real name on the dotted line just to save 5% or get something for nothing. My magazine subscriptions don't come in my real name either :)
  • never slide your visa card

    Speaking of which, in the U.S., American Express is selling 'credit cards' thru 7-11 (a convenience store chain). You prepay the amount you want and receive a card with that much value. No ties to your identity - you toss the card when you're done with it. If you want the convenience of a credit card but the confidentiality of cash, this looks like a way to do it.

  • First they came for the Communists,
    and I didn't speak up,
    because I wasn't a Communist.
    Then they came for the Jews,
    and I didn?t speak up,
    because I wasn?t a Jew.
    Then they came for the Catholics,
    and I didn?t speak up,
    because I was a Protestant.
    Then they came for me,
    and by that time there was no one
    left to speak up for me.

    by Rev. Martin Niemoller, 1945

    What happens when they come for you, because you downloaded a song off napster, pirated a program, linked to DeCSS, or decided not to claim the $400 you made building your friend a new computer on your taxes. Sure these are all minor, but what happens when they decide that everyone who purchased Ammonium Nitrate from Gardener.com must be a domestic right wing terrorist and decide to start talking to your neighbors, coworkers, and former classmates.

    Don't get me wrong, I'm not paranoid, in fact I think my own example highly unlikely, but thats not the point. The point is it could happen, and it shouldn't.

  • Its supposed to be an investigation not a fishing expedition. The way criminal investigations work, police agencies are supposed to have probable cause to start investigating its citizens. Its supposed to start with, "John Doe is a suspected Right Wing terrorist, lets do a check and see if he bought some ammonium nitrate recently. Oh he did! Lets keep an eye on him, just in case." It however should never start with, "I'm bored lets go find out who bought some ammonium nitrate and see if we can shake something loose." The job of the police is to investigate, gather evidence, and ultimately arrest criminals, NOT to place all its citizens in a monstrous dragnet in the hopes that they will find some criminals. They call it the Tail wagging the dog.

    Just look at the practice of "Racial Profiling". Cops, have a higher tendency to pull over black motorists, because many of them think they have a better chance of catching a drug dealer or gangbanger. But you say, if those negroes are innocent then they have nothing to worry about, so why should they mind if they randomly get detained for no apparent reason. Oh wait I forgot, "Driving While Black" _is_ probable cause in some parts of the country.

    To put it plainly though, this is wrong and highly suspect on the scales of constitutionality. Then again I suppose the fourth amendment and the privacy act were only dreamed up to protect the guilty. The founding fathers didn't really have first hand experience with this kind of thing, they were merely looking out for the criminals.
  • I believe it was Royal Dutch Shell that flew in the death squad to machine gun local demonstrators in Nigeria.

    'nuff said

  • Things like this are why I just don't understand the typical Libertarian babble that government data collection is bad, but corporations should be allowed to collect and sell whatever data they want.

    The Libertarian objection here is that the FBI is buying the data. Collect or buy, it is still the government action that one would be objecting to.

    Also, this is aggregate data, meaning that nobody is identified, so who gives a flying fuck? Post it on a public website for all I care. It's just a bunch of statistics. Sheesh!

  • People that "didn't need no stink'in governement" are not libertarians, they are anarchists.

    Libertarians just want a small government that does not trample on our rights.

    I wish more people understood this subtle (but very important) difference.

  • Because the company uses national resources, whether it be timber, water, toxic waste dumps, or the brains and talents produced by the education system. Companies do not exist in a vacuum and are indeed beholden to the public.

    Beholden? Did the companies not pay for those resources? Did they not pay the people they hired out of that education system? Is the education system not funded by taxes from their employees (and, to a large degree, by them)?

    If they are not paying enough for the "national" (meaning "publicly owned", which also means "government run" resources they use, whose fault is that? It seems to me that you should complain to the people who are undercharging them for resources that your taxes paid for.

  • If the government wasn't constantly meddling in the free market, then businesses would have no interest in corrupting the government.

    Or, as it was once put: "When government gets involved in commerce, the first thing to be bought and sold is the government."

  • Trust me, without a governement, it would be long since Microsoft had got Linus and RMS shot down and forced every linux zealot into forced labor (like maintaining some ugly Cobol legacy code).

    Yet another person who needs to learn the difference between "libertarian" and "anarchist".

    The books "A Parliament of Whores" (by O'Rourke), or "Happy Days Were Here Again: Reflections of a Libertarian Journalist" (by William F.Buckley, Jr., the notorious editor of National Review) would be a good place to start. Seriously, you seem to be confused about this point. Do some reading.

  • Yes, beholden. A company cannot raize the land, because that would devalue adjacent land. Yes, and the owner of that adjacent land would have something to say about it, in court if necessary.

    Responsibilities do not end with at the close of a financial transaction

    Yes they do. That's what financial transactions are: closure of responisbilities. When I pay off my mortgage, my responsibility to the bank that loaned it to me ends.

    so the fact that you've paid your taxes doesn't mean you're absolved of your obligations to a community.

    I agree, because you do not pay your taxes to a community, you pay them to the government, so taxes only settle what is owed to the government. However, you can't pass laws requiring people to be charitable. (Well, you can, but I will always oppose them.) Check with any major charity in America, and you will find that the fast majority of their funding comes from corporate donations. They might not be contributing enough for your tastes, but most corporations are more responsible citizens than most individuals are in that area. What percentage of your income went to charity this year? I bet it is less than the percentage that your insurance company or the broker of your retirement account gave away.

  • Obviously no one likes to be busted in his house, but if it has to happen it's better if the guys doing it are not doing it because it will bring profits to shareholders. Believe me, you are safer in the hands of the cops than in the hands of any corporation private militia. Corporations don't give a shit about your civil rights. A democratic governement has at least to pretend to respect them. Big difference.

    Right. That's why I am a libertarian rather than an anarchist. I support the establishment of a limited government, which does not have unilateral power to knock my door down, but must respect the cotract which gives them the right to do so under certain circumstances (the Constitution).

    But it is shortsighted to assume that the government will not make moves to expand its power, and will not act against your best interests.

    The important difference between the government and any given business is that we are all forced to be customers of the government's services. This is why we need to watch the government much more closely than we watch McDonald's or Best Buy.

  • by Golias ( 176380 ) on Friday April 13, 2001 @01:12PM (#293634)
    Except that someone has to do the work, and if it's not the governement it's the corporations. What "work" are you referring to that has to be done?

    Between two evils, I'd rather pick the lesser one.

    Between the corporate world and the governement, that would be corporations. Disney and Microsoft can't force me to use their products. They exist only by our consent, and the day we all stop buying their stuff is the day they go away. With government, you don't get the choice of not being a customer.

    P.J. O'Rourke (my favorite libertarian writer) once offered the "dead grandmother" litmus as a method of determining whether a government program should go forward. It went like this:

    Government pays for programs with taxes, which they collect from everybody, including your sweet old grandma.

    If you don't pay your taxes, you are fined; don't pay the fine, and you are jailed; break out of jail, you can be shot.

    Therefore, everything the government does is accomplished by putting a gun to your grandma's head and forcing her to pay for it.

    Using that logic, whenever considering whether to support a government program, you should ask yourself, "would I be willing to shoot my grandmother over this?"

    The military? Yes. "Sorry grandma, but we are all in the same boat if those Canadians start storming over the border. Pony up like the rest of us!"

    The BATF? No. "A bunch of redneck cultists have almost as many guns per capita as the average Texan... we need to roll in the tanks and firebomb them, grandma."

    The National Endowment for the Arts. Hell no. "Pay up for the Maplethorpe exibit, or it's curtains for you, Grandma!"

    As for corporations, as long as they stay within the law, and are not using the power of the gun against me (which the government is), they can be as greedy and corrupt as they like.

    With corporations, the CEO is only choosen by stockholders and doesn't care about pleasing anyone else.

    As it should be. Nobody else owns the company, so why should anybody else have a say in who they are trying to please?

  • by Golias ( 176380 ) on Friday April 13, 2001 @01:48PM (#293635)
    Doctor paiten confidentality is not granted by the constitution.

    Nor should it be.

    Your right to an education is not guarenteed by the constitution.

    Not by the US Constitution, no. Educating your children is not a responsibility of the federal government. There are clauses in the constitutions of many states which guarantee the right to an education, but that is up to the citizens of each state to decide for themselves.

    The constitution does not give you the right to be descriminated upon, on the basis on race, religion or sex.

    Did you word that the way you mean to? Are there many people clamoring to be "descriminated upon, on the basis on race, religion or sex."... In any case, descrimination by the government based on race, religion, or sex is unconstitutional, but the constitution does not (and should not) grant government the power to interfere in the right of free association... menaing that if I want to spend all my time around black hindu women, and don't allow anybody else in my Country Club, it is my right to do so. I would be a bigot and an asshole, but there's no law against being a bigot and as asshole, nor should there be.

    The government does have the right to tax your income based on Section 6 of the Constitution, "All Bills for raising Revenue " It does not say or limit how this revenue is to be obtained. Also from Section 8: "The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes." for things including "and general Welfare of the United States" That happens to include it's citizens.

    The key word here is "general welfare of the United States"... meaning programs that benifit everybody (like social security) are constitutional, but programs that only benifit a few people (like a farm subsidy for ADM Corporation, or national funding for AFDC) are not.

    The rest of what you said, I agree with. I especially liked your opening comment that rights not explicitly spelled out are not neccesarrilly denied. There are some people (myself among them) that believe that the Constitution was not meant to spell out our rights, but to spell out the few cases in which the government has power over those rights. Had we held fast to this dogma, the Bill Of Rights would have been redundant: The government could not , for example, restrict free speech or gun rights because the constitution never granted them the power to do so.

    Pragmatic people recognized that this concept might not be held as sacred as it should, so the Bill of Rights was written as a safe-guard, although several of the "founding fathers" saw that it had the potential to diminish our rights, because people might start to think, as some people today think, that Americans do not have rights beyond those itemized.

  • That is why whenever I order something from amazon.com, I always lie about my home address. Heh heh, they will never sell my address now.
  • by Nephster ( 203800 ) on Friday April 13, 2001 @12:43PM (#293654)
    First you say...

    If they do, its my own damn fault. If the government has it, then its as good as permanent

    Then you say...

    Sure, once you're on a list, you're probably there for life, but what bad is it doing?

    Ok, so as long as it's permanent, what difference does it make who has the list? Corps hold great sway over your life already. I'd say greater than governments.

    Want a good example ? Credit. With a bad credit report, you can be denied employment, housing, and education. This kind of oppression comes not from the government. They rarely even use it in the normal course of business. It comes from Corps. Did you vote for this ? (hint: noone did - the capitalist market created it)

    The problem here is that once the corp gets it, they can sell it to whom ever they like. Including the government, and others you oppose. And you have no say in what they do, unless you are on the board.

    There is no FOIA for corps, and no right of the public to know what they do. On the other hand, there is such a check against the government. At least in an idealogical sense, they have to pretend to care about what I want.

  • Ok, let's play the "pretend this guy isn't really a troll" game.

    Corporations have an innocent and noble aim, to make money.

    There are two things wrong with this. Let's unpack some assumptions, shall we?

    1. Corporations do not have 'aims'. Corporations, legal fictions notwithstanding, are not people- they are the tools of people. Specifically, corporations are a legal shield from liability for the actions of the capital of the people who control the company, as well as the control of the capital others invest in the company (making it functionally theirs).
    2. To the extent that we can imagine corporations to have aims, they are not noble. Corporations want to make money, but the desire to make money is not noble in itself- in fact, the desire of the individuals who make a living by making themselves dependent on these corporations often find that their personal ethics are in conflict with the "noble" moneymaking aim of the corporation, so they engage in activity that they would never engage in for their own sake for fear of losing their jobs. Ask any salesperson, any pr person.

    They have no interest in advancing political agendas or using that information to harm people.

    I'll agree with this statement, except to the extent that corporations *do* have an interest in politics and hurting people when their bottom line is in some way affected by it. Which is pretty much all of the time. See the debate over campaign financing, see the DMCA, see the Sonny Bono copyright extensions, EPA regulation of carbon dioxide emissions, paint company defenses of the safety of lead paint back when Gale Norton was a lobbyist for them, etc, etc.

    in short, we should live in a society of limited government. If the functions that government presently executes, such as defense of the realm and policing the streets, were carried out by private corporations at the behest of out citizens, everything would be much fairer. Look at the rioting in Cincinati. If policing were private, that would not have happened.

    1. How do you figure? I'd say your assertion could use some support.
    2. Do you suppose that if the government contracts out prisons, that putting more people in prison will be profitable? Is making a profit still noble then? Will the invisible hand of the economy find an ideal economic point between the supply of prison labor and the demand of the few consumers outside of prison? Is this better than our 'unlimited government?'
    3. If the most cost-effective way to maintain order is to strip citizens of their rights and kill the troublemakers, do you suppose that the nobility of the profit motive will make it ok for corporations to protect their profits? What could be more noble than making an honest buck and keeping the cycle of consumerism going so that the only thing that makes our society work is capital?

    Just wondering,

  • Wouldn't it be cooler to change what's in there? To make your entry read, "Joe Hacker, 123 Dumb Fed Dr., Anytown, USA"? What about changing the entry of your neighborhood to read, "Wanted sex offender."

    Why disable when you can subvert...

  • Here's the thing. I'm a very serious privacy advocate, but what the FBI is doing is, in fact, perfectly legal.

    Yes, the law says that government agencies cannot gather information on American citizens more than necessary for the agency to do their job. There are, however, several exceptions to the law. Most are for intelligence gathering operations (which the FBI conducts), as well as law enforcement investigations. (Yes, this is exactly the same reason why the FBI can redact material that's been FOIA'ed. They're allowed to restrict giving away that information too.)

    So while you may think what they're doing is unethical, if they're are gathering this information as part of a law enforcement investigation (i.e trying to locate a particular suspect or are find the person who committed a specific crime), they are perfectly within the law.

    So stop whining and get the law changed...

  • It could happen just like this:

    WASHINGTON DC -- The Federal Bureau of Investigation announced today that it mistakenly identified almost 18,000 Americans as convicted sex offenders on a DVD-ROM distributed in compliance with Sex Offender Information Act (SOIA). The DVD-ROMs were distributed to approximately 200,000 law enforcement, government, and community organizations and list over 80,000 Americans the FBI claimed were convicted sex offenders. FBI Director Ben Bitdiddle announced the mistake during a press conference, saying that he "deeply regretted the error," and that the FBI would work to discuss compensation for the affected people.

    The announcement comes ten days after the FBI admitted that it had received over 4,500 complaints from people listed on the DVD-ROM who claimed they were not convicted sex offenders. Of these, over 800 people also claimed that they had been the victim of some form of retaliation, such as hate speech, vandalism, or arson. The FBI admitted today that it incorrectly identified 17,842 Americans as sex offenders on the DVD-ROM.

    The FBI DVD-ROM, entitled "Sex Offenders in the USA 2004," was released on June 1st of this year, and contains the names, addresses, phone numbers, and criminal histories of 87,521 Americans who were allegedly convicted sex offenders. While all of the criminal histories on the DVD-ROM are in fact criminal histories of convicted sex offenders, the names and personal information that go along with them do not necessarily correspond.

    The FBI has promised to publish a new disc, entitled "Sex Offenders in the USA 2004, Version 1.1," within the end the month, along with an letter of explanation and apology. The original DVD-ROM was published after parents groups and activists bombarded the bureau beginning in February with demands for sex offender information. Citing the 2002 abduction, rape, and murder of April O'Neil, a seven year old girl from Backwoods, Indiana by a convicted rapist, they lobbied Congress continually until it passed the SOIA on March 15th. The National Coalition for a Safer Today (NCST), the leading organization in the fight to get the SOIA passed, had no comment on today's FBI annoucement. The SOIA mandates all law enforcement agencies publish the names, addresses, and phone numbers of all convicted sex offenders living in the United States.

    Suspicion about the FBI DVD-ROM was raised after Jonathan Random, a 31 year old resident of Cleveland, Ohio, was shot to death outside his house by angry neighbors on June 18th. Random, who had never been convicted of any crime, had signed up to coach a youth baseball team two days earlier. League official Alice Ackerson found Random's name on the FBI DVD-ROM, and alerted Bob Bumblebum of the NCST. One of random's neighbors, who is only being identified as "Eve" and is currently awaiting trial for the shooting of Random, learned of Random's listing on the FBI DVD-ROM from NCST and admitted that the listing was the reason for her involvement in the shooting.

    The mistake on the FBI DVD-ROM was discovered by Alyssa P. Hacker, an undercover FBI agent working out of the Washington DC headquarters. The criminal division of the FBI provided the criminal histories and the corresponding social security numbers of sex offenders that went on the DVD-ROM. The names, addresses, and phone numbers were provided by InfoTelSeek, a private company that routinely researches and provides such information for the government. The courier who delivered the information to InfoTelSeek inadvertently switched one of the disks listing sex offenders with a disk containing a list of people being run through InfoTelSeek for "routine purposes." The FBI refused to disclose exactly why these people were being examined.

    As an example of the mistakes made, Random, who has no criminal record, was listed on the FBI DVD-ROM as having the criminal record of Jed Plumber. Plumber, now 28, has been convicted of two counts of rape, the second offense being the rape of a seven year old boy that he was coaching on a youth basketball team. Plumber spent six years in a federal prison before being released on parole. Plumber actually resides at 52 West King Street in Phoenix, Arizona, according to InfoTelSeek, which also added that his phone number is 602-267-1201.

  • by DreamingReal ( 216288 ) <{moc.oohay} {ta} {laergnimaerd}> on Friday April 13, 2001 @12:42PM (#293664) Homepage
    Troll, you have your head in the sand.

    Corporations have an innocent and noble aim, to make money.

    The aim may be innocent but the pursuit typically is not. A corporation is an entity with a single purpose - increase profits. Since a corporation does not have a conscience, does not have a set of morals and cannot experience remorse or guilt, it is free to use whatever means are necessary to acquire profits. It is easier to dump toxic waste products than to clean and process them properly. It is easier allow consumers to be harmed or die as a result of a defective product than to issue recalls. The only accountability they have is under the law.

    They have no interest in advancing political agendas or using that information to harm people.

    Nonsense. They advance any agenda that will maximize their profits. They favor any ideology that advocates less governmental regulations.

    And they certainly do harm people and more largely, our whole culture. In order for companies to sell their products they must convince you that you need their product. Marketing in this day and age has become particularly insidious. Rather than convincing a consumer that their product is superior to others they prey on the insecurities of the public. They convince people that they are not cool, not sexy, not valuable without their product. They convince women that they are fat, ugly and worthless unless men desire them. They convince children that they will not be cool or liked if they do not own/consume their product. They exploit sex to sell Doritos and hair shampoo. They exploit families to sell unhealthy meals of fat-saturated hamburgers and fries cooked in vats of grease. They exploit individuality to sell you something to be different, because hey, everyone is being different. They exploit treasured classical music to sell airline tickets. They exploit inspiring speeches that have changed the social conscience of our country to sell telecommunications services. Credit card companies exploit naive incomeless college students with $10,000 credit limits so they can "establish good credit". And you're trying to tell me they are not advancing any agendas?



  • It's rather simple why libertarians think the way we do: Governments can use force to collect the information they want and do what they want with it, but any corporation that has information on you has it solely because you consented, either tacitly or explicitly, to give it to them.

    It's illegal not to fill out the census. Meaning, you can go to jail, or be given a fine, or whatnot. You can't get a job without a SIN number, because if you do, the government will fine your employer and you.

    On the other hand, it's perfectly all right not to use hotmail or any other service that requires you to fill out demographic information forms. It's perfectly all right to change your browser so that it doesn't accept cookies.

    Of course, the day the laws says that you _have_ to accept cookies on your browser or else you'll go to jail, then we'll be against that too.

  • Actually, I hate going to Qwik Lube. The guys there have cold hands *shiver* and they don't always wash up between cars *gag*. :)
  • *sigh*

    My garage keeps a record of every oil change, tire rotation, and filter change I've had with them. When I go too long without regular maintenance, a computer program automatically sends me a letter to tell me it's time to come in.

    "Oh, horrors! But your maintenance history is private. It's no body else's business what kind of oil you have in you."

    Bleah. This is the 21st century. Life is much more complex. Each of us has literally hundreds of important dates and events to keep track of. Sure, I could stick a reminder note in my Palm, but why use up the memory when Quik Lube is so willing to use their own?

    I like those little reminder notes. I don't mind sacrificing a little privacy if it keeps me from throwing a rod on I-10 during rush hour.

    "But," you say, "there's a big difference between oil changes and some big evil corporation knowing what milk I buy!"

    *snicker* See how stupid that sounds?

    Sure, they have your personal information. What keeps it from being evil is the simple fact that most personal information is incredibly mundane and useless to anyone but me, just like my oil changes.

    Face it -- to the rest of the world, the big evil government, and the big evil corporations, YOU ARE BORING. You are mere bytes in a database somewhere and the only interesting aspect of your existence is the question of where to store the backup tapes.
  • I knew the US Intelligence Departments, were incompetent, but....

    It frightens me when DoubleClick is doing a better job.
  • > Corporations have a record of non-abuse, and
    > are owned by the people. The government does
    > not and is not.

    Ha ha ha ha ha! Dude, I really fell for that one! I didn't realize your article was satire until I read that line!

    Uhh.. it was satire, wasn't it?


  • I mean WTF!?! Did someone go and abolish the Fourth Amendment while I was napping? Do Reno, Ashcroft, et al think it's not an unreasonable search and seizure if they pay someone else to do it? And why isn't there legislation about corporate abuses of privacy in this country? Why is it that if I collect lots of personal data about someone, it's stalking, but if a company does it to tens of millions of people, it's a revenue stream?

    Anyone know of an unclaimed island in international waters somewhere? It's time for Sealand II...

    - B

  • Perhaps you're missing the fundamental issue: How is the government's purchase of this information from corporations any better than them simply going out and getting it themselves? You completely ignore the point.

    I don't care how they get it, if they go about gathering information about people not suspected of any crime, that represents an unreasonable search and seizure.

    - B

  • First off, fuck you. I am pissed about corporations gathering information on me, and would like to see legislation to prevent them from doing so. Just because in one post I mentioned government privacy violations without mentioning corporate ones, you seem to assume that I'm one of those laissez-faire airheads. Well, go pigeonhole someone else, dipshit.

    And secondly, even if the government violates citizens' privacy less frequently or vigorously than corporations do (and I'm not at all convinced of that), the government has tools at its disposal like imprisonment and the legal ability to deal death. And if you don't think they invade the privacy of nonconformists with the intent of imprisoning them, blackmailing them, or killing them outright, I suggest you look into the stories of Sacco and Vanzetti, Martin Luther King, Jr., and anyone blacklisted during the McCarthy era.

    I mean, just because you want to let the government crawl up your ass with a microscope to get a security clearance is no reason the rest of us have to like it...

    - B

  • Not hardly. The Fourth Amendment specifies that American citizens are, except upon issuance of a warrant based on evidence or deposition, to be secure in their "persons and papers". While I doubt the framers of the Constition envisioned billion-record databases of citizens' information up for sale, I would think that my personal data, information about my movements and habits, etc., in electronic form or otherwise, seems a natural extension of my "person and papers".

    - B

  • Your ignorance of American history runs pretty deep.

    I'd suggest you look into the history of the abolitionist movement in the 19th century, Indian rights issues from the inception of our goverment to the current date, the civil rights movements during the 60's, Nixon's and Kissinger's hijinks during the 60's and 70's, Bill Clinton's oddly voluminous requests for FBI files, the government's behavior during the Prohibition period, their behavior enforcing drug laws presently, et cetera, ad nauseam. Much of it is right there in the open, with plenty of ironclad documentary evidence.


  • Oops! Almost forgot the organized labor movement! There's one where conservative government elements teamed up with large corporations to deprive people of their lawful rights to assemble and to seek redress for grievances.

    - B

  • No, I didn't say that at all. Of course corporations do that. Nothing in what I wrote carried the insinuation or the logical implication that I thought otherwise - you've just made that objection up out of whole cloth.

    In the future, try to read what's there.

    - B

  • The problem is that governments - ours (that is, the U.S. gov't) too - have a nasty habit of not going after criminals exclusively, but of going after political dissenters, subversives, agitators from racial, gender, and economic underclasses, religious minorities, and lots of other people exercising their consciences.

    That is why the Fourth Amendment exists, and why your ignorant and blithely submissive attitude about the government spying on anyone and everyone brings us that much closer to living in a place where dissent and nonconformism are punished for their own sake.

    - B

  • Alright, the government knows about me. I'm hardly shaking in my boots, because the information that they can get privately is no more verbose than what they could get already by running a credit check and talking to my mom. These would be their first two courses of action if they ever suspected me of pulling anything funny. Of course, nobody would begrudge the government the ability to phone up somebody's friends, their bank or their employer in the case of something prurious -- it's this ability which helps protect us from the truly troublesome elements. So why do we have such a huge problem if they're grabbing simple info about us before hand?

    Simple. We're afraid of being profiled. If the government makes a list of angry loners, most of us would be on it, especially the goatse.cx kids. The things that we prize -- free software, free speech, high technology, geeky knowlege -- are red light topics. High school shooters play D&D and video games. Terrorists support "libertarian" ideals.

    So I don't feel we should attack the government's right to collect information. I feel we should attack the use of profiling of any kind. There is too much basis and therefore prejudice in law; that's why unarmed black men get shot and why goth teenagers are roped into sensitivity training. Forget Gattaca...the government doesn't need DNA to alienate us. And if we don't halt this propensity, we'll suddenly find our rights to support fringe subjects slipping out from under us.
  • If someone can't see the problem with a private sector group secretly selling personal information they've got issues.

    However to be fair, the FBI wouldn't neccessarily need to use the private sector to gather information, as they could just check out DMV records, credit records, etc., with or without a warrant.

    Oh sure cry up a storm, they MUST have a warrant to get these records, but you have to understand FBI agents, are people with the same resources without as anyone else. e.g. FBI agent calls his ex classmate who works at DMV, "hey do my a favor, and get me this information." shit happens.

    So I wouldn't cry up a storm thinking the spooks are turning to private sector companies for information as a standalone method. I do however have issues with the company giving the information away, the FBI is nothing more than an agency nothing more, sure they have power, but if people took the initiative to learn a smidgeon of law, you would know the FBI isn't all that. In fact fuck em

    Now the CIA... (whoa) ;)

    Ghost in the Shell [antioffline.com]

  • the problem with privacy is that many people are so arrogant that they believe they matter

    That's an amazingly old-fashioned view of things. Of course you don't matter-- to Michael Eisner. But you do matter just a little bit to everybody you do business with, and the government when they want money/think you might be a criminal. The wonderful thing about these databases is that the information just accumulates, being completely unimportant, until you go to apply for a job, or a mortgage.

    Then your own unimportance bites you on the ass. The bank simply calls up the last seven+ years of your life, runs it through an algorithm they don't understand, and makes a decision that affects your whole life. You're absolutely right that these people could probably give a shit about you personally, which is actually much worse for you.

    Throw the FBI into the mix, and you've got the potential for mass screenings of individuals that might be a potential crime-risk. Apply for too many credit cards this month or buy too much beer? If you're asking how this stuff could possibly matter, then ask the FBI, they're the ones paying millions for it.

  • Ever read Jack Williamson's Humanoid stories? (Unfortunately, Williamson's prose tends to remind me of the 1920's Flash Gordon books... But his ideas are good.) He took this much, much further than that flaming liberal Asimov ever did. As soon as Asimov got to the point where his robots started to become smothering, he decided to make them smart enough to allow visible physical dangers in order to avoid the hidden psycological damage inflicted by overprotectiveness. However, gov't bureaucrats aren't ever going to be that smart -- and Asimov didn't want to face that...
  • It (rounding up agitators and "subversives")happened in this country in the War of 1812, the Civil War, the period after the Civil War (anarchists & socialists), the First World War (the same + antiwar activists), the 1920's (the Palmer raids against alleged communists and civil rights agitators), the Second World War, the 1950's, and the 1960's (anti-war and civil rights activists were all "communists" in J.Edgar Hoover's eyes). Hoover finally went far enough that most Americans realized it was ridiculous, and we had 20 years without too much of this. But in 92, there was a new target (gun-toting "right-wingers") and a real innovation -- shooting children. And next year they killed over a hundred people in Waco... Actually, the US is freer than almost anywhere else. When the gov't steps over the line, people notice. But we still haven't a real explanation of why the FBI thought it wise to pump a building with children full of flammable tear gas that was designed only for use outdoors on adults.
  • by libertarienne ( 325414 ) on Friday April 13, 2001 @11:56AM (#293728)
    I know that the author of this piece is clearly biased against the libertarian party, but as an active member of it myself let me set him straight on a few things.

    Firstly, there is nothing wrong with corporations collecting data about people. Corporations have an innocent and noble aim, to make money. They have no interest in advancing political agendas or using that information to harm people. They use data to benefit people - through focused marketing. With information, they can give us the products we want.

    Secodndly, the government is completely different from this. It exists to advance a political agenda and control every detail of our lives. It has a moral outloook, and if your morals are different you are screwed.

    In short, we should live in a society of limited government. If the functions that government presently executes, such as defense of the realm and policing the streets, were carried out by private corporations at the behest of out citizens, everything would be much fairer. Look at the rioting in Cincinati. If policing were private, that would not have happened.

    Data being available publicvally is good, as long as it is not abused. Corporations have a record of non-abuse, and are owned by the people. The government does not and is not. That is all we need to know.

"We don't care. We don't have to. We're the Phone Company."