"We're Talking Jail ... "
By Denny Hatch
I used to like the idea that marketers had a ton of information about our spending habits and lifestyle. When Peggy and I moved to Philly, we got a mortgage approval in three days, and countless times I've stuck a piece of plastic into a machine somewhere in the world and gotten spendable coin of realm. I'm delighted that direct marketers (spammers excluded) only send offers that interest me.
However, since 9/11, the federal government has decided that all people in this country need watching. Mercifully, Congress shot down John Poindexter's "Total Information Awareness" project which the Pentagon described as "a virtual, centralized grand database" containing all our records, credit card purchases, bank transactions, phone calls, national and international travel, and health records. That said:
>The Transportation Security Agency announced Delta Airlines would be testing The Computer Assisted Passenger Pre-Screening Program II designed to collect personal and financial information on passengers.
>In The New York Times Magazine, Matthew Brzezinski's "Fortress America" painted a terrifying picture of every individual's personal information housed in one giant government database plus a new twist: Cameras in public places will surreptitiously record your face many times a day. Also in our future would be a radio chip on credit cards and driver's licenses that would emit a signal to GPS spy-in-the-sky systems that would track our movements every day.
Normally, I wouldn't care. I keep my nose clean. But can we trust the information keepers?
>On March 6 hackers broke into a database at the University of Texas and made off with the names, social security numbers and e-mail addresses of more than 55,000 students, former students and employees.
>On Feb. 19 it was revealed that a hacker had gained access to the files of Omaha-based Data Processors International—a company that processes transactions for catalogers and other direct marketers—and made off with up to 8 million credit card numbers.