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Privacy Protection in the Electronic Age

Personal privacy in the global village is a topic of major concern for all of us. With current Internet technology, personal data that was once relatively inaccessible may now be only a few keystrokes away.

With just your name and address, virtually anyone who wants to can find out the names and ages of your spouse and children, what kind of car you drive, the value of your home, what organizations you belong to, where you invest your money, etc. Still others can gain access to your employment, medical, prescription and credit histories. In short, personal privacy as it relates to information about you is quickly vanishing.

Every time you use a bank ATM, the time, date and your location is recorded. Everything you charge with a credit card is in a database that police, among others, have access to. Grocery stores offering club cards can use their scanner records to track what you purchase. Sweepstakes and online transactions are gold mines for telemarketers of all sorts.

What steps can you take to preserve your privacy? Here are just a few ways to avoid leaving traceable footprints in your wake. The less you buy with credit cards the fewer details anyone has about your buying habits. Pay with cash whenever possible. Resist giving out your Social Security number except for Social Security reasons — many organizations want to use it as your ID number, which makes your interests and associations very accessible.

Begin saying, “No, thank you!” to telemarkers as you hang-up the phone — every time they successfully pitch you they sell your name to other phone-sharks who are eager to join the feeding frenzy. The same holds true for returning Warranty Cards on low value items and entering sweepstakes — you’re simply throwing your name into the hot prospect hat for list buyers.

Absolute personal data privacy is no longer possible, but these simple steps can help you control your public record footprints.

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