Las Vegas Sun

April 27, 2015

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letter to the editor:

Big business began intruding long ago

There is constant bickering about how terrible the National Security Agency is for taking away our personal freedom.

The rhetoric is that the agency is capturing our phone numbers and tracking who we call. All the NSA is doing is trying to stop some nut job from nuking us.

The NSA captures this data from the storage bins of the phone companies that record them.

Huh. Why do the phone companies record and store them? Oh, right, for personal business purposes, I forgot.

If you think the NSA symphony is being conducted for any reason other than for political posturing, I have a seat on the moon I would like to sell to sell you.

Several years ago, I signed into a Facebook and Twitter account but do not use them. I am being constantly bombarded by these accounts to add friends, etc. so they may further intrude in my personal life.

How do you think these companies make money? They couldn’t possibly be selling our data to businesses could they?

I understand making profits, but isn’t this more intrusive to my personal privacy than NSA trying to protect me? Try looking up some product on your browser and see if you are not deluged for weeks with ads on your browser with similar products.

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  1. The U.S. Government is an unsupervised out of control entity,with sweeping powers over our privacy. Their access to our personal information( e.g. Emails, telephone conversations,etc;)should be restricted to a case by case basis,with a court warrant and court supervision,and only in cases where needed to investigate or prosecute a known or suspected national security threat.

  2. I joined the ACLU a decade ago because they were working an issue that I felt strongly about. In joining, I used a unique variation of my name. Shortly afterward, I began receiving an increased volume of junk mail from both non-profit and commercial organizations all addressed to that unique variation of my name. The junk mail continues to this date.

    The point is that an organization like the ACLU that purports to be a defender of privacy rights has no reluctance to violating those rights if it suits their own purpose.

    By the way, I didn't renew my annual membership in the ACLU.

  3. I think that many of us do not approve of the way commercial business interests use our personal data. However, Don Ellis uses the fact that we allow that to say that any complaint we might have about the NSA is somehow illegitimate.

    I disagree. In most cases I can choose not to use a commercial business interest if I don't like the way they use my personal information. I cannot really do that with the NSA, although I can use my vote to register a protest.

    I am undecided about the NSA because I do see a need to be protected from terrorism, but I also can see the point of those that worry about overreach by the government.


  4. The private companies collect, store, and provide the data to the Government because they have to. They are ordered to. The Government gives these companies immunity from law suits, else they wouldn't do it [accommodate the Government's orders/requests] for fear of being held accountable in the U.S. courts. Can the public sue the Government? No, the public is prevented from suing Government by the legal doctrine of "sovereign immunity."

    Carmine D

  5. Bradley, take a cold shower. You are need of it. If Don can't see the difference between giving information to a private company voluntarily and government snooping, then he's not paying attention. As Michael points out, with a private company you choose to deal with them or not. Try that with the IRS or the NSA. Having said that, I am ambivalent about the NSA and its program. I, too, don't want to be blown up while shopping or going to a movie. I believe this whole thing is no easy matter for us to decide. There has to be a middle ground somewhere. Wouldn't you agree?

  6. Jerry:

    The middle ground is constant and consistent Congressional scrutiny over PRISM and FISA. With reauthorization yearly/biannually by Congress over both [PRISM and FISA] Government actions/efforts. With regular written reports to the public on their findings and conclusions. Yes, America needs to have and keep secrets. But, Americans have to trust our elected leaders to be honest and truthful about the nation's secrets and the reasons that they have to be kept secret.

    Carmine D

  7. We have the NSA. George Washington had Culper. Spying and snooping has been going on since the earliest days of this nation. From the early 1900s to the end of World War II we had mail sifting. Keeping track of mail going to and from countries hostile to our way of life.

    Anyone that thinks private data collection is voluntary better think again. The three major credit reporting agencies have billions of pieces of data on Americans. Much of it erroneous. Try to get an error on your credit report fixed.. It's not easy. Credit reporting errors cause unbelievable problems for Americans when they try to buy homes, cars and everything else.

    A lot has been said about current domestic snooping programs but have yet to hear a single name.

    When J Edgar Hoover's COINTELPRO spying operation was revealed the name started flying. When Bradley Manning did his data dump the names were flying in milliseconds. Give me one American that the NSA has spied on. I believe the FISA court has only approved several thousand warrants in all the years it's been operating.

  8. "I understand making profits, but isn't this more intrusive to my personal privacy than NSA trying to protect me?"

    Ellis -- you might understand "making profits" but you're obviously clueless about the republic you live in. The corporate world "intrudes" because you allow it. If they cross the line you have the FTC, FCC and a lawsuit for invading your privacy as recourse. The Bill of Rights forbids anything connected to the federal government from warrantless searches like the NSA does. Yet they do it mainly because what are YOU going to do about it?

    "The U.S. Government is an unsupervised out of control entity,with sweeping powers over our privacy."

    Houstonjac -- actually those "sweeping powers" are more along the lines of "might makes right" than anything having to do with the rule of law.

    "The point is that an organization like the ACLU that purports to be a defender of privacy rights has no reluctance to violating those rights if it suits their own purpose."

    pisces -- in joining you may have missed the fine print, or your consent to be informed was implied. The point being the ACLU is not constrained by the Bill of Rights.

    "If Don can't see the difference between giving information to a private company voluntarily and government snooping, then he's not paying attention."

    lvfacts -- excellent point, and an obvious one. Funny how so many miss it, no?

    "When J Edgar Hoover's COINTELPRO spying operation was revealed the name started flying."

    zippert -- Hoover was small fry compared to what's happening now.

    "If built in great numbers, motels will be used for nothing but illegal purposes." -- J. Edgar Hoover

  9. Hoover didn't have the technology that's available today. Its innovative technologies that allow for mass data collection.

    What exactly do we voluntarily give to credit reporting agencies, Yahoo, Google, Microsoft, or any other private entity. I have never given any of those organizations permission to use my personal data in the way they use it. They take it for granted that if I use their services they can use my information however they see fit. That's not the same things giving them permission.

    Nearly everyone that's been financially active in their life has errors in their credit report. The vast majority of the people don't even know it. Most wouldn't even be able to name the major credit agencies. People don't have a clue.

  10. Gerry: Under U.S. law, if you give your private information to a company, it becomes THEIR property to use as they see fit with no obligation at all to tell you about their plans, much less to ask if their planned use is OK with you. It would take FEDERAL legislation to change that. And I can't even IMAGINE the lobbying such a proposal would pull out of the woodwork. It would overwhelm anything "WE the People..." could possibly counter with.

  11. renorobert: "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me." If a commercial firm treats you badly or with disrespect, you have the opportunity to spit in its eye by never dealing with it again and by telling everyone you know not to do business with it. There a number of huge corporations I no longer do business with, some I had bought products from for years, because of their employees attitudes or their taking stances I disgree with. I know I've cost at least a couple of them sales and I feel good about that. Unfortunately, they are dumb as dirt and haven't a clue. Too many folks are willing to put up with bad customer service, long lines, indifferent employees and shoddy treatment. I am not one of them. I hope you are not, either.

  12. I don't like being spied on, whether it be by commercial enterprises or by any government.
    I'm also not a fan of social media. A few moments ago I received an e-mail from the Las Vegas Sun explaining the new system of posting comments.
    I choose not to partake in the new system.
    As a result, this will be my final posting on this fine newspaper, which I will continue to read every day on-line.
    Goodbye all my fellow posters. I've enjoyed the past few years exchanging opinions.

    Donald W. Desaulniers

  13. Donald and Don,

    I would not be too hasty in leaving. You may find that you can submit letters but choose not to engage in the social media piece of it. I hope you check before you leave.


  14. Robert.. Maybe you can send me the document that you signed authorizing Trans Union, Experian and Equifax to have all your personal financial information.
    Millions of Americans have never heard of these companies much less authorized them to compile the data that they compile.
    These companies along with many others are compiling massive amounts of data without Americans even knowing about it. Let's get real here.

    I have run public records searches on numerous participants that I have blogged with and done business with through the years. You'd be amazed how much stuff you can come up with by paying a few bucks.

    Americans have willingly given all this up. Sure!

  15. gerry, the credit reporting agencies didn't get the data from you....they got it from the companies you deal with such as American Express, GMAC, Sears, etc.

    Those companies are allowed to share the data they OWN as they see fit. If you choose to take a car loan with GMAC, there is nothing that says that GMAC can't share any information about that loan with anyone they choose to. You get no say in the matter. If you don't like it, don't borrow money from them.

    It's no different than if you and I had a conversation and you chose to share the content of that conversation with someone else. I would have no inherent right to privacy with regard to things I voluntarily told you.

    The same thing applies when you voluntarily tell a company something. Once you've done so, they can share it with whoever they want.

    If I don't want you telling the world my secrets...I need to not tell them to you in the first place. If I don't want American Express giving information about my credit card balance to the CRAs then I need to not do business with American Express. It's my choice.

    In your case you chose to give information to other private parties (individuals and businesses) and then whine that they didn't keep it private. Really? Can you point to one thing they showed you that guaranteed you that the information wouldn't be shared? Because if not, then once you shared it with them, it's theirs to share further as they see fit.

    "I have run public records searches...."
    "Americans have willingly given all this up. Sure!"

    What part of "public records" eluded you? Didn't the name clue you in? This is distinct from your "credit agency" rant because now you're talking about government agencies sharing your information....but again, PUBLIC records are PUBLIC. When I get married, file a lawsuit, get arrested, etc. that information is PUBLIC. I don't have to "willingly give up" that information, the laws declaring it to be public record have been around longer than either of us have been alive.