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A Dark Vision of Vegetarian Pizza


I've resisted long enough; I've got to say something about the ACLU's dark vision of a world in which our government's policies on surveillance and invasive technologies erode personal privacy to the point where -- instead of being left to enjoy our double meat pizzas and Nancy Drew novels under cover of blissful anonymity -- we will all be shamed into eating tofu and sprouts AND paying extra for it. Now, I'm not one to be critical of the ACLU, especially when they are addressing important privacy concerns...but, come on, is that really the most disturbing scenario you can imagine?

Check out the Flash animation at http://www.aclu.org/pizza/, and then read on....

Actually, I think they had a good idea with tapping into the experience -- which most of us have probably had by now -- of calling up the pizza place and being greeted by some kid on the other end of the line who lets you know, within microseconds of hello, that she knows who you are and where you live. It's a creepy interaction. But mostly because it's handled badly. I mean, I was going to tell them where to deliver the pizza anyway. I just don't want them telling me they know my street address and what sort of pizza I usually order before I volunteer that information.

They've got the issue right: a general sense that it's probably a bad idea to let either governments or corporations pull together too much of our personal data in one place or have access to a complete picture of who we are. That's the kind of stuff we want to dole out in small amounts and on a need-to-know basis...and preferably to someone who's there in front of us asking for it. Yeah, it's scary to lose that much control over identity disclosure. But I'm honestly not all that frightened by the idea that the chick at Pizza Palace might know I've maxed out my credit cards, that I've got a problem with impotence, and that I bought a 48-pack of condoms (which, BTW, why if I'm impotent?).

August 18, 2004 in Private / Public | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

What It Takes To Have A Real Name

There's a short editorial in The New York Times today about Amazon's Real Names program, by which reviewers are encouraged to attach their "real-world identity" to the scathing critiques and effusive endorsements they write of books and other random junk you can buy online. (Wow, some of these people put a lot of effort into being rated amongst Amazon's Top Reviewers!) The whole "real name" thing's a reaction to last February's accidental revelation that authors were favorably reviewing their own books and mercilessly slamming their enemies'. Amazon's come up with a pretty cool system for the establishment of reputation in the community of that online marketplace -- ranking products and affiliate vendors in addition to reviewers. (Others have too, of course: Epinions, eBay....) But the NYT editorial (offhandedly) makes an good point about the connection of modern identity to credit cards, purchasing power, and purchase history. (You need to have a credit card registered with Amazon.com or a "reasonable purchase history" to get a real name.) We already use credit cards to establish our reputations in purchase transactions -- our trustworthiness as paying customers. So it's really no surprise that -- in the marketplace -- our reputations as individuals with trustworthy opinions might be tied to that same system of credentials. Maybe the public libraries should institute a parallel system for those folks who might have helpful critiques of books they didn't buy.

August 3, 2004 in The Social Life of Technology | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack


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Updated: May 8, 2004
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