AuthorHightower, Jim

To get a job these days, you may have to pee in a bottle. Every company with a credit card, store card, or website is looking to peddle data about your buying habits. In several states, you have to hand over your fingerprints to get or renew a driver's license. Public and private spaces alike are constantly scanned by surveillance cameras.

When we're asked for our Social Security number to open a bank account, many of us simply shrug our shoulders rather than raising hell. And if we happen to be poorer than a bank customer--a footloose kid playing on a street corner or a motorist guilty of "driving while black," for example--we're liable to be locked up and lost in a vast criminal "justice" system that doesn't consider itself responsible for any rights, especially privacy rights.

Invasion of our privacy has become a way of life, so that when you stand up and demand to be left alone, you're likely to be pegged as a quaint holdover from days gone by, a whiner or, more likely, someone with something to hide--maybe even a terrorist! We're living in a culture in which individual rights have been sold and subjugated, all for database marketing and to keep the lid on the unruly masses.

This is an issue that has fallen off the political radar. What are the chances that privacy rights will engage the mighty intellects of people like The Donald? Last I looked, the only people in Washington, D.C., overly concerned with privacy were the corporate check writers and their pet politicians, eager to cover the tracks of their own financial quid pro quos.

Behind the shiny glass doors of your not-so-friendly, not-so-neighborhood bank, everything they know about you is for sale: your account numbers, bank balance, loan history, home address, credit history, Social Security number. The checks you write and receive, the invoices you pay, and the investments you make reveal as much about you as a personal diary; but instead of banks keeping your information under lock and key, they collect it, cross-reference it, collate it, and sell it--mostly to companies determined to sell you something else.

In the brave new culture built around the marketplace, both corporate and government sectors have deemed private and personal information to be just another commodity. Already, our Social Security numbers have become a basic means of keeping...

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