It is ironic that in this era of revealing huge amounts of information about ourselves to the world via social media, we are at the same time concerned about the federal government snooping into our phone and internet usage.
Maybe we should be more concerned about guarding our privacy closer to home. A former co-worker told me a few years ago that a neighbor admitted to him that several neighbors had often eavesdropped on phone calls he made through his non-encrypted cordless phone. He moved. And got new cordless phones.
In the early days of cell phones, certain radio receivers could monitor unencrypted cell calls. My dad had one of those radios. I listened one night for an hour or so until I couldn’t stand anymore. From that moment, I became aware that any call I make could be heard by virtually anybody.
Most media people learn to avoid saying sensitive things when they are near a microphone. One never knows when a mike is live and who may be monitoring off-air conversations. Similarly, with video cameras everywhere, many of your daily routine activities can be subject to scrutiny. Behave.
Corporate monitoring of employee emails led to a former co-worker’s being fired for seeking a new job via his workplace email account. It’s been said many times but it bears repeating: If you don’t want your boss (or the company’s IT crew) to know about your personal life, don’t share it on corporate email.
A former employer had an online system that allowed employees to view paystub information and salary history simply by entering part of one’s Social Security number and part of one’s name. A couple of my co-workers had asked for and then passed along my SSN to outside contractors for IRS-1099 info. I trust that they were not so snoopy as to have logged in for my personal details, but I would never have known if they did. I hope this company has revised its system.
A serious concern for me is the privacy of medical records. As our entire medical system and the medical insurance industry prepare to hit the reset button next year, the risks of personal health histories being shared inappropriately could increase. As confusion still exists regarding the Affordable Care Act, and with the IRS getting in on the action, the health care industry and each of us should be vigilant in protecting privacy.
The good news is that, at least for now, our thoughts and dreams inside our heads are still private and protected (as long as we don’t share them on Twitter or Facebook). But I’m sure there are geeks in Silicon Valley and elsewhere working today on tech to read our minds. Crazy talk? Stay tuned.