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Privacy: A Noun Now Believed to Be Obsolete

Updated on February 21, 2019
William F. Torpey profile image

Graduated NYU 1963. Worked in NYC in public relations 2 years then as reporter/news editor 32 years at The Hour newspapers. Retired in 2000.

Social Security Signed Into Law

President Franklin D. Roosevelt, signing Social Security Act of 1935 in the Cabinet Room of theWhite House on August 14.. Library of Congress photo.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt, signing Social Security Act of 1935 in the Cabinet Room of theWhite House on August 14.. Library of Congress photo.

'1984' Author George Orwell

George Orwell, who wrote about 'Big Brother,' a supreme dictator who watches everyone.
George Orwell, who wrote about 'Big Brother,' a supreme dictator who watches everyone.

You can run, but you can't hide.

It's becoming more apparent to me that Big Brother is alive and well -- and living in the Internet.

It's been only 15 years since 1984 -- and 50 years since George Orwell penned his classic novel. Were he alive today, he no doubt would be wearing a wry smile.

If there were ever any doubt that the society he foretold has come to fruition, there certainly can be little or none today.

Internet Diminishing Privacy

Personally, I'm not "computer literate," but I do know the Internet is only the most recent among a number of invasive forays into my privacy -- and yours. As it is doing in virtually every other aspect of our society, the Internet is exponentially diminishing the privacy of every American.

I was in short pants and knickers in the late '30s and early '40s, but I remember hearing conservatives rail against President (Franklin D.) Roosevelt and the Social Security program he introduced in 1935. The fear then was that the program would destroy our privacy by using Social Security numbers for identification, giving government access to every aspect of citizens' lives and cutting deeply into our privacy. Program defenders vowed that would never happen -- so much for that promise.

We've reached the point today where Noah Webster, were he to be resurrected, might give serious consideration to erasing the word "privacy" from his dictionary, or a least listing it as obsolete.

There's little the world doesn't know about us -- that is, if they want to know.

Big Brother's Alive and Well

In their computers, banks have volumes of information on each of us, not only the basic data of name, address, telephone number and account balance, but also a detailed record of how much money we have and where and how we spend it.

Insurance companies know all this, and more! They really know us personally. They are privy to our health records and family histories. The investigations they commission into our personal habits -- for the alleged purpose of making sure we're not cheating on our applications for life insurance -- fill their data banks.

If that isn't enough, credit card companies and department stores have even more information; they even know where we go on vacation. If we have a discount card at our local supermarket, the chain has an itemized record of what we like to eat and drink (and you thought no one knew about all that ice cream you've been scoffing down!)

All in One Computer File?

This column's too short to include all the ways your personal history is being compiled, but is there any doubt it's all in a computer somewhere? Before long it will all exist in a single file and, unless something drastic is done really soon, it will be available to anybody with a PC (See, I'm learning high tech language!)

They say mail order companies must stop sending you junk mail if you demand it. Personally, I wouldn't ask them to erase my name from their lists because I don't want to help them. If they keep sending junk mail to people who aren't buying their products, maybe they'll go out of business.

I wrote this column as a "My View" for The Hour newspaper in Norwalk, Conn., on Nov. 11, 1999. I now write my views on a wide variety of topics on HubPages.

Is Our Right to Privacy Lost Forever?

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President Roosevelt Signs Social Security Into Law -- 1935

Big Brother Surveillance Watching the US ?


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