Monday, February 21, 2005

Thinking "I've got nothing to hide"? Privacy matters. 

Does it ever seem like privacy advocates are raving loons?

It doesn't help that some of them are fanatics who will reply to "But I have nothing to hide" with "So why do you use a shower curtain?" It's not a helpful answer and doesn't say anything about businesses collecting apparently harmless information. Like your grocery store purchases, for example.

Your Safeway discount card that gives you lower prices in return for tracking what you buy seems perfectly safe, doesn't it? The problem is that almost any fact can be used against you. That's why attorneys tell even innocent people not to talk to the police. The perfect example of why privacy is important is firefighter Philip Lyons from Tukwila, Washington. His house caught fire. Investigators found a camping fire starter at the scene. His Safeway card revealed that he'd bought one of the same kind so he was arrested, charged with arson, and put on administrative leave from his job. By pure random good luck someone else came forward and confessed. Otherwise he could have lost his career and gone to prison for a long time with everyone thinking he'd torched his house with his family inside.

Don't give out personal information unless you've got a really good reason.


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