AC Privacy Lost MSNBC - Privacy Lost Does anybody care It's...

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Privacy Lost: Does anybody care? It's vanishing, but there's no consensus on what it is or what should be done By Bob Sullivan Technology correspondent Updated: 4:14 p.m. ET Oct 17, 2006 Someday a stranger will read your e-mail, rummage through your instant messages without your permission or scan the Web sites you’ve visited — maybe even find out that you read this story. You might be spied in a lingerie store by a secret camera or traced using a computer chip in your car, your clothes or your skin. Perhaps someone will casually glance through your credit card purchases or cell phone bills, or a political consultant might select you for special attention based on personal data purchased from a vendor. In fact, it’s likely some of these things have already happened to you. Who would watch you without your permission? It might be a spouse, a girlfriend, a marketing company, a boss, a cop or a criminal. Whoever it is, they will see you in a way you never intended to be seen — the 21st century equivalent of being caught naked. Psychologists tell us boundaries are healthy, that it’s important to reveal yourself to friends, family and lovers in stages, at appropriate times. But few boundaries remain. The digital bread crumbs you leave everywhere make it easy for strangers to reconstruct who you are, where you are and what you like. In some cases, a simple Google search can reveal what you think. Like it or not, increasingly we live in a world where you simply cannot keep a secret. The key question is: Does that matter? For many Americans, the answer apparently is “no.”
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When pollsters ask Americans about privacy, most say they are concerned about losing it. An MSNBC.com survey, which will be covered in detail on Tuesday, found an overwhelming pessimism about privacy, with 60 percent of respondents saying they feel their privacy is “slipping away, and that bothers me.” People do and don't care But people say one thing and do another. Only a tiny fraction of Americans – 7 percent, according to a recent survey by The Ponemon Institute – change any behaviors in an effort to preserve their privacy. Few people turn down a discount at toll booths to avoid using the EZ-Pass system that can track automobile movements. And few turn down supermarket loyalty cards. Carnegie Mellon privacy economist Alessandro Acquisti has run a series of tests that reveal people will surrender personal information like Social Security numbers just to get their hands on a measly 50-cents-off coupon. But woe to the organization that loses a laptop computer containing personal information. When the Veterans Administration lost a laptop with 26.5 million Social Security numbers on it, the agency felt the lash of righteous indignation from the public and lawmakers alike. So, too, did ChoicePoint, LexisNexis, Bank of America, and other firms that reported in the preceding months that millions of identities had been placed at risk by the loss or theft of personal data So privacy does matter – at least sometimes. But it’s like health: When you have it, you
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