Reflections On Privacy

While putting away the groceries from the food shopping trip yesterday morning, I skimmed the receipt strip to double check for any price mistakes. Then I noticed that HyVee had subtracted 81-cents from the subtotal as “senior discount”.

Naturally, I felt pleased to save a little money. Then I realized that a corporation is retaining more information about me than I realized. To make matters clear, I have never requested a senior discount from any supermarket chain. I do not even know HyVee’s corporate policy regarding senior discounts–that is age of the customer, any sorts of  minimum purchase amounts, use of coupons, etcetera.

Automatic senior discount deduction is apparently something new from the supermarket chain. I checked some older receipts from the store to make sure I hadn’t overlooked discounts before now. There were none. This new “feature” apparently began shortly after the store installed updated credit card/debit card scanning devices at each check-out counter. I’m guessing they plugged into a new system of algorithms.

Ostensibly the discount is given as a courtesy and a reward to customers of the store. I greatly appreciate the chance to save hard earned cash through such discounts. On the other hand, it seems like yet another bit of my privacy has disappeared.

The loss of our privacy is insidious in these days when we witness the repeal of net neutrality and broadband privacy regarding our Internet usage. In spite of organized public opposition to these repeals, special interests influenced our lawmakers and the President to go ahead and shed these layers of privacy anyway.

Way back in the day, one of my broadcasting instructors warned the class that the day we go on the air, we will have waved most of our privacy rights. Sooner or later the broadcaster’s life will be an open book. The broadcaster will eventually realize that once his or her privacy is lost, he or she will have lost something very valuable. The instructor’s words turned out to be true.

Being a public person for most of my life, I’ve taken for granted that I am vulnerable to serious threats to my safety and life. One incident from 1985 is an example of this danger.

The record “We Are The World” by Michael Jackson and a raft of other singers was at the top of the music charts. Our station, like many others played the tune a few times each day. I began to receive threatening phone calls at work and eventually at home.

The caller said he didn’t want to hear the song anymore. He threatened to take my life if I didn’t stop playing the Michael Jackson song. Each time he called, he made sure to cock a rifle near his telephone’s microphone. The stalker said besides knowing where I worked, he knew where I lived, and what my daily routine was.

This is despite the fact that I’ve always had an unlisted private phone number and only family and close friends had my home address. Also, until recently, my mail arrived at a Post Office box. Somehow, the stalker had obtained my private information. This remains a mystery to this day.

The invasion of what little privacy I had had was very unnerving. That little slice of privacy was important as a way of retaining a non-public life. It was necessary in order to “recharge my batteries”, and let my hair down. The loss of privacy was indeed a very high price to pay for a career in the public light. Every bit of privacy that remained was precious.

“Then I realized that secrecy is actually to the detriment of my own peace of mind and self, and that I could still sustain a belief in privacy and be authentic and transparent at the same time. It was a pretty revelatory moment, and there’s been a liberating force that’s come from it.”–Alanis Morissette

Ironically, when I made conscious choices to be open and honest about much of my private life, I gained peace of mind from that openness. I’ve never had to worry about being blackmailed or having certain personal aspects hanging over my head waiting to be revealed to the public. It turns out that once most people find out about you, they don’t really care anymore, even if they were curious in the first place.

That said, it is still important that our financial records, contact lists, and other personal information should remain private and out of the public domain. As the Internet and telecommunications companies have become major players in our lives, we must be watchful over their efforts to infringe on our freedom of expression, users’ rights, and rights of privacy.

The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes former FBI Director James Comey. “There is no such thing as absolute privacy in America.”

About swabby429

An eclectic guy who likes to observe the world around him and comment about those observations.
This entry was posted in Controversy, cultural highlights, Hometown, Politics and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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