The Ownership Society: Big Brother strikes again

AT&T is in the news, this time they are alleged to have updated their privacy policy to include language that grants them ownership over customers’ data according to an article by David Lazarus of the San Franscisco Chronicle. Yesterday, the Associated Press wrote about how police agencies across the country have been using private data brokers to bypass privacy laws that prevent the police from legally obtaining that information without a warrant.

It seems that our 4th Amendment guarantee to be safe in “persons … papers, and effects” has been shredded by advances of technology coupled with a corporate dynamic that seems to say that our laws are not meant to apply to corporate treatment of citizens’ information. It further seems we don’t have rights of ownership over our own information, but that’s hardly a surprise: back in the 70s, ownership of DNA was taken from citizens and passed to others; among other things it allows researchers to patent “new” discoveries based upon DNA that’s been naturally evolving for millions of years. I was a teenager when I read that in the paper, and at the time it seemed an outright theft. Our DNA is protected by a cell wall that must be breached to extract and analyze the contents within, and if that’s not a ‘locked door’, then nature must not know what she’s doing. If we own our own bodies, and it would seem that we do since our bodies are jailed upon conviction for breaking some criminal laws, and put to death for breaking others, then surely we must own what is inside each of our body’s cells. But it doesn’t appear that we do. It’s curious how graft and corruption works to undermine such simple logistics of property.

Besides the U.S. Constitution being shredded by various corporate interests over a number of decades, perhaps since Lincoln’s time when corporate welfare seemed to exponentially soar, now even public agencies such as the police usage of private entities to bypass the constitution and laws that are supposed to protect citizens’ information and data is as prime an example of hypocrisy as any. Perhaps it’s correctly called a pinnacle of hypocrisy when those entrusted with enforcing laws are the ones that seem to violate the The Bill of Rights by using private contractors.

I’ve had no recent illusions regarding my privacy, this has been an issue ever since the Internet became a public phenomenon. For some years now I’ve figured that my life was an open book to anyone that was determined to obtain nearly any information they would want about me. At the same time, if I have wanted information about nearly any company, I’ve found it’s sometimes exceedingly difficult to obtain from third-party sources, and many of those sources are high-priced services, some are only available to other corporations, or the exceedingly wealthy private citizen.

Of course there’s a dearth of free information about companies on the Internet, much of this information is shill, purposed to sell the company’s stock.

Why aren’t businesses required to keep their accounting books completely transparent to all? It seems that would eliminate a lot of the fraud we read about daily in the news, if the public had direct oversight and could blow the whistle when something seemed amiss. Why do our laws protect private businesses’ rights to keep “trade secrets”? If private citizens can’t talk to a lover, friend, or business contact on the phone without it being recorded and data-mined without a warrant, then similar privacy rights for private businesses seem fundamentally unfair. If our most private conversations, reading and viewing habits, mouse clicks and keyboard strokes, et al., can be recorded or mined and any original or derivative information about those actions are passed clandestinely to others without a warrant, if our unlisted telephone numbers can be passed on to others without our consent, if any information about us can be collected by ‘entities’ of the private kind without a warrant and explicit Judicial Branch oversight, then why are private businesses allowed any secrets whatsoever under a constitutional system of laws that claims to be “for ‘the people'”?

If citizens no longer own any of their own information, then is there a slavish implication that citizens are now owned? Is this the real meaning of the phrase: “The ownership society”?

It seems all of this could easily be remedied by legislation that stated that all information is owned by the citizen who created it (source citizen), and that no one else would be allowed to pass this information to any other entity, without prior permission unless a warrant is presented, and in the event permission is granted, only if a reasonable royalty is paid to the owner for each occurrence, said owner to be absolutely defined as the creator or source citizen, irregardless of the parties involved in the information transference, without any rights of ownership transference.

The above idea is the only solution I know of that respects property rights of citizens. Another alternative might be to go to a system of laws promoting complete transparency, the current constitution notwithstanding, where every entity and citizen is equally open and sharing. Unfortunately, recent history suggests that citizens have become very open information wise to large entities, while large entities seem much less open to citizens than at the beginning of the recent millennium, all of this in the name of security.

Without legislation to solve these current conundrums, ‘The Ownership Society’ seems to be a modern day euphemism for what used to be called slavery. But this more modern, shadow version of slavery has its benefits to the new owners: it appears to absolve them of any ‘general welfare’ (in the constitutional sense), or even humane obligations to the animals they appear to own.