Safire on O'Harrow / Keefe on Privacy

In the New York Times Book Review today, William Safire writes:

“Your mother’s maiden name is not the secret you think it is. That sort
of ‘personal identifier’ being used by banks, credit agencies, doctors,
insurers and retailers — supposedly to protect you against the theft
of your identity — can be found out in a flash from a member of the
new security-industrial complex. There goes the ‘personal identifier’
that you presume a stranger would not know, along with your Social
Security number and soon your face and DNA.

“In the past five years, what most of us only recently thought of as
‘nobody’s business’ has become the big business of everybody’s
business. Perhaps you are one of the 30 million Americans who pay for
what you think is an unlisted telephone number to protect your privacy.
But when you order an item using an 800 number, your own number may
become fair game for any retailer who subscribes to one of the booming
corporate data-collection services. In turn, those services may be —
and some have been — penetrated by identity thieves.”

For more, he refers you to a new book by the Washington Post’s Robert
O’Harrow Jr., called “No Place to Hide” as well as “Chatter” by Patrick
Radden Keefe.   I am not the most paranoid person when it comes to
privacy (online or off), but this review certainly makes the case that
there’s reason to worry.  I suppose we just have to read the books.

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