Back in 2001, Scott McNealy, the CEO of Sun Microsystems, roused the media with a zinger delivered at a new product introduction. “You have zero privacy anyway,” McNealy told a group of reporters and analysts, “Get over it.”

That may not have been exactly true then, but now an Iowa University professor, Mark Andrejevic, says that “the data trail left by technology users allows public and private monitoring agencies to track users’ locations, preferences and life events for purposes including consumer marketing, targeting groups of voters for campaigns, background checks and government surveillance.

Andrejevic’s recently released book is titled iSpy: Surveillance and Power in the Interactive Era. He’s concerned about two things.

His big worry is that technology is advancing much faster than privacy laws. There’s probably not much any of us can do about that. The history of technology is that it runs far out in front of the laws and regulations that ultimately develop to deal with it.

His other worry is that the technologies allow people to become “do-it-yourself private investigators.” He’s right and wrong about that.

On one hand, people everywhere are using new technologies to check each other out. Dating couples Google each other to see what can be found. Job applicants research companies and companies head to MySpace and Facebook to check out applicants.

Where Andrejevic is wrong is the idea that there are no rules and no controls. If you use background checks as part of your hiring or tenant selection process you know he’s wrong. There are rules you have to follow, most importantly getting permission from the applicant to run a background check.

I hope the good professor’s book does very well. Then I hope he uses the proceeds to buy some rental property. He’ll find out soon enough why employers and landlords use background checks. And he’ll find out that there are rules that need to be followed.

By Published on: October 23rd, 2007Categories: Legal0 Comments on You have no privacy

Add a comment