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Monday, April 10, 2017


"Privacy is now a luxury item"

by Tom Sullivan

A string of Supreme Court rulings affirm that a right to privacy is fundamental and constitutional. But as a defiant President Andrew Jackson is said to have responded to a court ruling that displeased him, "John Marshall has made his decision, now let him enforce it." The question today is: If you have a right to privacy, who will enforce it? Today that right seems beset everywhere we turn.

Sarah Leonard writes at The Nation:

On April 3, Donald Trump signed a repeal of FCC privacy rules passed under Obama, following the previous week’s party-line votes in the House and Senate.

Trump’s new head of the FCC, Ajit Pai, is the telecom industry’s knight in shining armor. Over the past few weeks, as Congress prepared to repeal, he has advanced a truly peculiar argument in the repeal camp’s favor. Currently, “edge providers” that offer a particular Internet-based service, like Facebook or Google, are governed by the Federal Trade Commission’s guidelines, which allow them to sell information about what you do on their sites. But ISPs, because they form the backbone of the Internet, are regulated as public utilities by the FCC, just like phone service is, and the FCC mandates tighter privacy protections. Pai argues that the repeal is simply making data exploitation “fair.” Or, in his own words, overturning “privacy regulations designed to benefit one group of favored companies over another group of disfavored companies.” Poor AT&T.
Your life, your likes and interests, your friends and acquaintances have been commoditized. As such, machines with the wherewithal to profit from you insist that you no longer live for yourself, but for them. We fought a civil war to stop that. A century and a half later, however, the exploitation is more subtle, nearly invisible. Like the many forms of discrimination, subtlety makes it harder to perceive, but that doesn't make it less real. The machines have created a Matrix where humans exist to generate data for companies to harvest and convert into profit.

It is ironic that the decision in Roe v. Wade was built upon the notion that the Constitution's protections assumed a right to privacy:
... the Court summarily announced that the "Fourteenth Amendment's concept of personal liberty and restrictions upon state action" includes "a right of personal privacy, or a guarantee of certain areas or zones of privacy" and that "[t]his right of privacy . . . is broad enough to encompass a woman's decision whether or not to terminate her pregnancy."
Do Roe's enemies understand that in undermining that decision, they are undermining their own freedoms?

Leonard concludes:
Republican lawmakers have managed to pass a bill that absolutely no one but the telecom industry could love. Privacy is now a luxury item, available to the tech-savvy and those who can pay extra for it. The rest of us are now in the position of paying large companies to mine our private information. Call it surveillance, call it exploiting us twice, or call it what even one Breitbart commentator did: “an attack against freedom.
Or simply exploitation.
Morpheus: The Matrix is everywhere. It is all around us. Even now, in this very room. You can see it when you look out your window or when you turn on your television. You can feel it when you go to work... when you go to church... when you pay your taxes. It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth.

Neo: What truth?

Morpheus: That you are a slave, Neo. Like everyone else you were born into bondage. Into a prison that you cannot taste or see or touch. A prison for your mind.
Andrew Jackson's latest reincarnation has declared Americans a natural resource to be exploited in new and creative ways by the same old overseers, however remote. Their goal, as it always was, is to find creative ways to squeeze more profit out of each human without provoking a revolt. The Supreme Court may have decided people have a right to privacy, but who will enforce it?