Friday, June 7, 2013

The private PRISM - it's not the government that collected this information on narcotics and boltcutters

As I write this, many are up in arms over the fact that the U.S. government obtained extensive records of Verizon phone calls. And while Loren Feldman has noted that companies obtain your private information all the time, the debate still rages.

And it's not a new debate. Way back in 2009, there was a New York Times article that discussed another case of overzealous government data-gathering:

Several intelligence officials, as well as lawyers briefed about the matter, said the N.S.A. had been engaged in “overcollection” of domestic communications of Americans. They described the practice as significant and systemic, although one official said it was believed to have been unintentional....

The Justice Department, in response to inquiries from The New York Times, acknowledged Wednesday night that there had been problems with the N.S.A. surveillance operation, but said they had been resolved.


As the New York Times allows comments on its articles, this particular article received some comments. One highlighted comment was from Paul (no last name given) from Milwaukee:

Speaking for myself and my family, we have nothing to hide, and I know that only certain "Buzzwords" will amount to a further investigation. As a son of a Pearl Harbor Survivor we must use any and all means to "Keep America Alert" It is my firm belief that the only people opposed to this, to have the government listening in, have something to hide. If you don't like it I suggest that maybe you should have a conversation in your home or a restaurant. For crying out loud stop being a baby and grow up, and keep all your personal stuff off twitter,or facebook or whatever sites that you guys use.

This reminded me of a Mike Royko column that appeared in his book Sez Who Sez Me. I unfortunately no longer have the book, but I recall that Royko would get calls at his desk at the newspaper from people who had sentiments similar to Paul's - the whole "if you don't have anything to hide, you don't have anything to worry about" argument. When Royko received these calls, he'd ask for the identity of the caller - some requirement at the newspaper, he would say - and then would continue to ask more personal questions until the caller ended up balking.

Which naturally leads us to the question - what information did the New York Times gather on Paul from Milwaukee?

A lot. You see, while Paul derides people who post stuff on Facebook and Twitter, Paul created a New York Times account and posted some personal information. We already know that he's apparently connected to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and that he is the son of a Pearl Harbor survivor. What else do we know?

Paul commented on a blog post:
May 19, 2009
Should You Have an Autopsy Done?

The year was 1965 and my sister got sick at about 2 years of age and for the next 3 years she had a team of doctors working on her to try and make her well. They tried Cobalt treatments and chemo but nothing worked except we were able to receive 3 more years of her life...

Paul commented on a blog post:
May 30, 2009
Ozzy Osbourne Says He’s Suing Band Mate ‘With Regret’

Saw there tenth year reunion in Hampton Roads VA. There opening act was a new band called Van Halen. The best shoe I have ever attended...

Paul commented on a blog post:
Jun 19, 2009
Managing Chronic Illness at Work

I have a chronic back issue that requires me to take a certain type of medication. On my last job, the company found out what I was taking. I had asked them if their was a problem with me taking this medication, and of course I get the (squirm,squirm) no , no problem. 2 weeks later I am out of a...

Paul commented on an article:
Jan 14, 2010
The No Lock People

Not only do I not lock my doors, were we live we can leave our valuables outside as well,(Bicycles,gas grills, tools). If my freinds came over and knocked or rang the doorbell,I would be angry because they are True Friends and my home is always open to them, and their home to me.The real plus is that were we live in a townhouse complex, we all know who should or should not be there,so there is always an eyeball out for something or we are just plain nosy of our neighbors, and having nosy neighbors is always your best security ala Rear Window....

Paul commented on a blog post:
Jan 25, 2010
Complaint Box | The E-Snub

I have applied to a nationaly known retail outfit about 2 years ago. One month went by when I recieved a phone interview which would lead to a second interview. About an hour later a recieve a call from a different H.R. associate who also wants to start a phone interview, when I informed her that I was just contacted she seemed befuddled that I was contacted and would talk to the person that had initialy called me. Upon doing my follow up, and leaving the usual e-mails,I recieved no answer from either of these people.About 3 months go by and I recieve a call and I am invited in for a face-to-face interview. I arrive on time,( the recruiter did not), and I am given the standard psych questions i.e. what are your strong points, what are your weak points, what do you do for fun, have you ever stole from your employer, and than I am given the standard tour of the office. I was than directed to the office manager who basically gave me the same questions and than thanked me for coming in. I e-mailed thanking them for their time, but I recieved no response, so I called,again no response. One year goes by and I am asked if I am interested in the job that I RECENTLY applied for. I agreed but I never recieved any response and to this very day they are still advertising to fill the position. I can understand if some companies are using a credit rating to weed out some prospective employees because I have gone through all of my assets and the medical bills are behind...

Paul commented on a blog post:
Aug 10, 2010
Your ‘Last Straws’ Recounted

I was working in a foundry in the summer. For a little relief we would have the large shipping doors open for some cross-breezes, which, given the heat really did help. The doors had been open all evening and when the super came out of his AC room he decided that the doors had to be closed because we need to have "Negative Pressure" running through the plant. I understand the whole concept of air pressure but the fact was there was not enough fans to create this type of pressure he was referring to. So after he closed the doors I went over and opened them back up again,than he went over and closed them, and I went over and opened them. He finally got some locks to make sure the doors would remain closed. I explained to my boss that the benifits to the employee were far greater than keeping some "Negative Pressure" going through the plant. My explaination fell on deaf ears. As my boss went back to the AC room, I took a boltcutters and opened the doors up again but this time I kept on walking. My freinds called me the next day to offer kudo's,and although I lost my job it was just so worth it....

Paul commented on a blog post:
Aug 24, 2010
Doctors Who Mock Their Patients - Well Blog#comments

I used to have a Doctor, (well she had a paper saying she was), that would demean me not only in front of my face but in front of the whole waiting room, and the reason for this was because I was on narcotic medicine at the time and she would not fill my presciptions when they were due, so I would call her at home asking her why. She had no reason but I think she liked to see me come into the clinic,in a wheelchair, sick as a dog from being without my meds and than berate me for not exercising...

All of this information wasn't collected by the government, but by a private party. And all of it was willingly provided by Paul.

So Paul, the next time that you are unsuccessful in getting a job because of that little incident with the boltcutters, or the next time that burglars show up at your unlocked townhouse looking for narcotics, don't worry about it. After all, you don't have anything to hide.

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