Privacy in General

Here is the new and improved Privacy Page, which is much smaller than the old one because many of the subtopics have been moved to pages of their own.  The protection of privacy has been a topic of great interest to me for a long time, and while studying this issue I have run across a number of interesting books, and more recently, many interesting web sites.

Cryptography has become a hot topic in the last ten years or so, because many people see a day coming when the federal government will read all e-mail hoping to find evidence of criminal activity.

Technology now exists which would make a cashless society feasible, but when you pay for everything with your "smart card", you can forget about anonymity.  Moreover, if and when those "smart cards" are in widespread use, many other problems will come to light.  At the moment, nobody cares if it's possible to counterfeit a nickel, but an infinite supply of nickel and dime electronic cash coupons could wreck the national economy.

I hope that you'll read some of these articles and develop an awareness and appreciation of the individual liberties we have and the importance of protecting them.

Related topics:

Deleted Files Can Be Recovered.  One of the most popular pages on this web site.

The War on Privacy

Carnivore, Einstein, Tempest, and Echelon:  An assortment of programs and systems developed and implemented over the last 20 years, in an apparent attempt to wiretap the entire Internet, tap every phone call and monitor every radio transmission.

Carnivore Trigger Words:  A discussion of the "suspicious" words and phrases that the Carnivore system looks for.

Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) Technology and its impact on privacy.  Now developing into a web site of its own.

Toll Road RFID Tags and license plate scanners are a threat to privacy, anonymity and individual liberty.  In my opinion, so is OnStar.  This page also includes a section about odometer taxes.

Domestic surveillance has recently become a hot topic.  Maybe that's why the Trigger Words page is getting so many hits lately.

The Use of Biometrics to Invade Privacy including fingerprints, face scans, retina scans, and embedded chips.

Commercial and Industrial Threats to Privacy

        For example, OnStar.

Supermarket Discount Cards

Privacy Compromised by Big Government including the use of the Social Security number as an identification number.

Abusive and Invasive Searches

The Proposed National ID Card

The Privacy of Medical Records

Cryptography and Internet Anonymity

Snitch on Your Neighbor

A Brief Explanation of Cookies


"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

Articles related to privacy in general:

The Cult of Our Betters.  [Scroll down]  The most closely held freedom to destroy is your privacy.  That threatens them.  They know and understand that they cannot succeed without knowing your innermost secrets.  If control is desired, there must be perfect knowledge about those you wish to enslave.  Individual privacy is a dagger to the heart of COOB.  To that end, governments allow and partner with large tech companies to collect and monetize data on their subscribers.  How many understand that virtually all the big mega-media companies read all your mail and rob you of your privacy, even mining your contacts simultaneously?  That allows them to create individually accessible data points defining your life in over two hundred searchable metrics, which can be bought for the right price or used to support secret government FISA Court warrants.  It can also be for an international warrant, a Justice Department warrant, or even your local prosecutor.  Remember, your information is commercial property for sale to any number of companies and groups, and your control or ability to opt out is limited in practice.

The Freedom to Be Left Alone.  If one were to come up with a bumper-sticker definition of personal liberty, it would be something like "the freedom to be left alone."  A society that respects the liberty of its citizens is one in which the citizen can be left to live his life as he sees fit, beyond the basic duties incumbent upon all citizens.  In other words, the public duties are a narrow domain, while private life is a broad domain, with only a small overlap of the two.  At the root of this, the spring that provides the impetus for such an arrangement, is the cultural understanding that everyone has a duty to mind their own business.  What must animate a "free society" is the understanding that you are not only free of the unwanted gaze from others, including the state, but that you and your fellow citizens must avoid looking into the private lives of others.  A free society minds its own business.  That would be the opposite of what we see in modern America.

Privacy is dead, Harvard professors tell Davos forum.  Imagine a world where mosquito-sized robots fly around stealing samples of your DNA.  Or where a department store knows from your buying habits that you're pregnant even before your family does.  That is the terrifying dystopian world portrayed by a group of Harvard professors at the World Economic Forum in Davos on Thursday [1/22/2015], where the assembled elite heard that the notion of individual privacy is effectively dead.

Your Tax Return Could Reveal Private Information.  Connie Barber of Philadelphia assumed her private financial information stayed between her and the IRS. … Like many taxpayers, she never knew her tax preparer could share or even sell her information, and all it took was her signature.

Cameras, safety and privacy:  For years, privacy advocates have warned of the risks and costs of constant electronic monitoring of streets, subway stations and other sites.  But events in London show cameras have a distinct upside. … Like any crime-fighting strategy, this one has to be evaluated on whether it produces tangible gains.  But for the police and citizens of London, who may have been saved from further carnage by video cameras, I suspect the debate is over.

Technology and Privacy:  A handful of voices – mine included – have long insisted that sacrificing privacy for security represents a Faustian bargain that will have decidedly undesirable repercussions over the long term.  Unfortunately, the weight of history strongly confirms what thinkers from Machiavelli, to Benjamin Franklin have told us for centuries:  faced with a choice between liberty and security, the majority will choose security.

What privacy?  What caused American society to pay particular attention to privacy issues in the 1960s and '70s?  More important, what now causes the average person to yawn when Congressman Bob Barr and a precious few others try to warn us that our liberties and privacy are on the chopping block, being sacrificed to big business in the cause of commerce, or big government in the cause of national security?
This is an original compilation, Copyright © 2021 by Andrew K. Dart

"Privacy" by decree:  Nowhere does the Constitution guarantee the right to privacy.  The word "privacy" isn't even mentioned in the text.  But if all you had to go by was the obsessive interest in the subject whenever there is a Supreme Court vacancy, you might imagine that privacy is the very bedrock of American constitutional law.  Few legal cows today are more sacred.

Trashing Privacy:  You probably wonder why you haven't read about this.  Frankly, there's not much reason you would have, unless you read some relatively obscure publications that focus mostly on technology issues.  Another reason you wouldn't likely have heard of it is, of course, that most major media outlets ignored the issue entirely, largely due to how the Senate essentially trashed your online privacy — by voice vote the night before heading home for another summer recess.

Speaking of trash...
Agent poses as sanitation worker, now trash evidence is in doubt.  Agent Mark Nickel [of the North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation] slipped on a blue jumpsuit and hopped into the garbage truck, just like the other city sanitation workers on the morning of April 13. … Now, attorneys are arguing over whether Nickel lawfully grabbed the garbage, which helped lead to murder charges against a Fargo man.

Voting 6 to 2, the Court held that garbage placed at the curbside is unprotected by the Fourth Amendment. The Court argued that there was no reasonable expectation of privacy for trash on public streets "readily accessible to animals, children, scavengers, snoops, and other members of the public." The Court also noted that the police cannot be expected to ignore criminal activity that can be observed by "any member of the public."

California v. Greenwood, 486 U.S. 35 (1988)

Privacy 101:  by Bartlett D. Cleland, director of the Center for Technology Freedom at the Institute for Policy Innovation.

Right to Privacy Destined for Endangered List.  While electronic surveillance or eavesdropping was obviously unknown to our Founding Fathers when they crafted the Fourth Amendment, 20th-century court decisions have made clear that Americans' electronic communications are covered within the sphere of privacy protected by the Fourth Amendment's edict.

Threats to privacy highest in history:  Threats to individual privacy have never been greater due to the spread of electronic databases in government, medicine, business and the workplace.  However, unwise legislation could destroy many benefits of information sharing for private individuals, according to a new study issued today by the National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA).

Internet Encryption and the Second Amendment:  The founding fathers blessed us with the right to keep and bear arms so that the people would always have a safeguard against tyranny.  Encryption techniques are a similar bulwark protecting liberty.

Growth of Wireless Internet Opens New Path for Thieves.  Federal and state law enforcement officials say criminals have begun to use unsecured Wi-Fi networks to help cover their tracks.

A constant state of insecurity.  Passwords are in the air, and it isn't even spring.

Fifth Amendment:  Passphrase cannot be forced.  U.S. Magistrate Judge Jerome Niedermeier ruled that a man accused of transporting child pornography has a Fifth Amendment right to keep his password in his head, not give it to prosecutors.  In other words, the Fifth Amendment protects the right to keep passwords.

Data Mining:  What if every telephone call you make, every credit card purchase you make, every flight you take, every visit to the doctor you make, every warranty card you send in, every employment application you fill out, every school record you have, your credit record, every web page you visit … was all collected together?  A lot would be known about you!  This is an all-too-real possibility.  Much of this kind of information is already stored in a database.

EPIC's web page about Student Privacy.  Students do not shed all of their rights at the schoolhouse gate, including the right to privacy.  Although recent Supreme Court decisions have diminished this right, there are substantial federal and state protections for the privacy of students' educational records.  The most prominent of the federal protections for student privacy is the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) [which] protects the confidentiality of student educational records.  The Act applies to any public or private elementary, secondary, or post-secondary school and any state or local education agency that receives federal funds.  All public schools and virtually all private schools are covered by FERPA because they receive some sort of federal funding.

Seven Misconceptions about E-mail:  This is an article about the many hazards of sending personal e-mail messages to or from your office.

Top 12 Ways to Protect Your Online Privacy:  You may be "shedding" personal details, including e-mail addresses and other contact information, without even knowing it unless you properly configure your Web browser.

Privacy Concerns:  More than just cookies.  When you submit a form (a warning box comes up when you do this unless you tell it to never warn you again) it is often sent to the website by means of "method=post, action=email." When you submit a form this way, your web browser uses the email software which comes with it to send your name and email address to any site that requests it so long as you send the form.

Trust and Privacy Online: Why Americans Want to Rewrite the Rules

Web Bugs FAQ:  A Web bug is a graphic on a Web page or in an Email message that is designed to monitor who is reading the Web page or Email message.  Web bugs are often invisible because they are typically only 1-by-1 pixel in size.  They are represented as HTML IMG tags.

Document Web Bugs FAQ:  Within Microsoft Word is the ability to link an image file located on a remote Web server.  Each time the Word document is opened, the Web bug image is automatically requested and fetched from the remote server.  In other words, this causes Microsoft Word to "phone home".

Secure Deletion of Data from Magnetic and Solid-State Memory:  With the use of increasingly sophisticated encryption systems, an attacker wishing to gain access to sensitive data is forced to look elsewhere for information.  One avenue of attack is the recovery of supposedly erased data from magnetic media or random-access memory.  This paper covers some of the methods available to recover erased data and presents schemes to make this recovery significantly more difficult.

Are We Becoming A Society Of Snoops?
(Numerous examples of privacy loss resulting from federal regulations.)

IP Address Changer:  Concerned about Internet privacy?  Want to hide your IP address?  This easy to use tool lets you change your IP anytime by routing your Internet traffic through overseas servers.  A small dropdown box appears on your Internet Explorer toolbar with a list of 15 foreign countries.  Select one and your IP address will change so that you appear to be located in that country.  You can quickly jump back and forth between the 15 locations around the world.

ENUM   is a developing technology that enables a user to store contact information that can be accessed by another person through the use of a single number.  The system may facilitate spam and other unsolicited commercial messages.  [i.e., spammers, telemarketers, stalkers, bill collectors, TV reporters, the IRS.]


Privacilla:  A massive collection of privacy-related information, and "an extremely efficient, high-quality resource to use when researching or formulating positions on privacy."

The Privacy Foundation

The Privacy Page

Privacy Times

EPIC's Privacy Page: addresses numerous privacy issues.

About CALEA:  The Center for Democracy and Technology maintains this compendium of information of the FBI's pet wiretapping law: the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act.

Other privacy-related stories

IP Address Changer:  Concerned about Internet privacy?  Want to hide your IP address?  This easy to use tool lets you change your IP anytime by routing your Internet traffic through overseas servers.  A small dropdown box appears on your Internet Explorer toolbar with a list of 15 foreign countries.  Select one and your IP address will change so that you appear to be located in that country.  You can quickly jump back and forth between the 15 locations around the world.


Ben Franklin's Web Site:  Privacy and Curiosity from Plymouth Rock to the Internet.  Explore the hidden niches of American history to discover the tug between our yearning for privacy and our insatiable curiosity.  This 407-page book provides the complete story of privacy in the U.S. since its beginnings.  It delves into the hidden niches of American history, from monitoring during the Colonial period and the devotion of the Founders to privacy, to the clamorous newspapers of the Nineteenth Century and the creation of a right to privacy in 1890; then the story of wiretapping and of credit bureaus and how Social Security numbers grew into national ID numbers, and finally the impact of all of this on our current use of the Internet.

Invasion of Privacy:  How To Protect Yourself in the Digital Age:  The intimate details of your life — your home address and phone number, Social Security number, bank accounts, credit history, shopping habits, work history, medical records, travel habits — are readily available to anyone who might be interested in them.  And you may be shocked to learn just how many groups are clamoring for your information:  corporations, criminals, private investigators, government agencies and more.  Although we’ve embraced the Internet and other technological innovations that have brought convenience to our everyday lives, these technologies have made us more vulnerable than ever.

Database Nation: The Death of Privacy in the 21st Century,  by Simson Garfinkel

Privacy in the Information Age,  by Fred H. Cate

The End of Privacy: Personal Rights in the Surveillance Society,  by Charles Sykes

The Future of Financial Privacy: Private Choices versus Political Rules,  by Declan McCullagh

The Transparent Society: Will Technology Force Us to Choose Between Privacy and Freedom?  by David Brin

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Updated October 14, 2023.

©2023 by Andrew K. Dart