Super Lawyers
William C. Altreuter

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Via Kottke, Top Ten Consumer Privacy Recommendations, from the Electronic Privacy Information Center. Way back when I started writing "Outside Counsel" I thought that privacy issues would be a large part of what I'd be writing about. After involving myself in the subject for a while, though, I came to the conclusion that there really is no such thing as privacy, and that what we actually enjoy is the illusion of anonymity. Make no mistake, I enjoy that illusion, and I'm sure that many other people do as well, but short of living in Unibomber-like seclusion, there is really no way to keep personal information away from anyone who cares enough to hunt for it. This interesting toy, for example, will find out where you've lived all your life. Not a hundred percent, at least in my case, but an interesting starting place for snooping around. A while back the New York Courts formed a Commission on public access to court records, which went around holding hearings on the question. It was interesting stuff. I've always wanted to testify at something like that, so I signed up; the things the people who spoke before me had to say have been fodder for thought since. The Commission concluded, inter alia, that: "Public case records in electronic form should be made available to the public... over the Internet", although Social security numbers, financial account information, birth dates and the full names of minors should not be included. What's left covers a lot of territory, but the truth is that the barn door has been open for a long time, and the Internet didn't really change much.

Even so, I don't use a Wegmans' Shopper's Club card. Just because I know it is an illusion doesn't mean I can't enjoy it.

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