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Date: 2002-05-04

US: Safire ueber die Intruders

William Safire, Starkolumnist der New York Times ist seit Jahrzehnten für stock/reaktionäre Thesen und Posen bekannt: hervorragend verfasste Haudrauf/prosa zu Zeiten des kalten Kriegs und dem Feldzug gegen den Irak an prominenter Stelle in der NYT, Attacken gegen die Europäer und die EU per se samt Lob & Hudel für die "American Virtues" - die Tugenden Amerikas. Zu denen gehört nun einmal auch das Recht des In/ruhe/gelassen/werdens weshalb Safire gegen die "Privacy Intruders" aus dem Bereich, wo Marketing am aggressivsten ist, zu Felde zieht: polemisch und parteiisch wie immer, schneidig & mit Stil.
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The Intrusion Explosion WILLIAM SAFIRE WASHINGTON Forget all about old-fashioned consumer surveys or even focus groups. The hot new technique in exploring your buying decision is called "observational research" or "retail ethnography." This buying-spying uses hidden surveillance cameras, two-way mirrors and microphones concealed under counters. Stephanie Simon reports on the front page of The Los Angeles Times that cutting-edge market researchers are now zooming in on faces and fingers as customers ponder a decision to buy a product. Though a subtle sign at the entrance says the experimental store is "in test mode" and "your opinion counts," most people are unaware that their every facial tic is recorded and analyzed. All perfectly legal in today's Intrusion Explosion. Coming soon in a bookstore, video store or newsstand near you: a close-up recording of your examination of a girlie magazine or lusty movie, a left-wing weekly or a right-wing book. Your reactions go in the marketers' dossier on you, available for a fee to advertisers, telemarketers or political opposition researchers. Back in the presidential campaign of 2000, I asked candidate George W. Bush a specific question: On the issue of consumer privacy, did he favor "opt-in" or "opt-out"? He had been well briefed on the terminology: "Opt-in" places the burden of obtaining the consumer's consent on the seller of goods and services. "Opt-out" puts the onus on the customer, or medical patient or borrower, to demand that no record of the purchase, prescription, mortgage or academic record be sold or revealed. Merchants and professional snoops much prefer "opt-out" because most people don't understand the fine print or can't be bothered to defend their privacy. To my delight, candidate Bush took a position that was foursquare on the side of the customer and patient: "I'm for opt-in," he said firmly, repeating the word "consent," promising all us libertarians help against the intruders. That was then. This year, with White House approval, his health and human services secretary, Tommy Thompson, did exactly the opposite. He eliminated the mild privacy rules put in place by Bill Clinton's Donna Shalala to require hospitals to get the written consent of patients before disclosing sensitive medical data to insurers, drug firms or others. The Boston Globe reported Thompson's spokesman telling patients scornfully, "You never did have federal privacy rights." Bush's retreat was a triumph for the intrusion lobby. Hospital administrators teamed up with the Financial Services Coordinating Council - a pressure group put together by bankers, insurance agents and stockbrokers - all of whom found the need to get consumer consent "cumbersome." When the G.O.P. senator Bill Frist, M.D., went along with the lobby's "modifications," Bush's man caved. (Who's on Frist?) However, this stirred pro-privacy forces in Congress that had been quiescent after last year's security scare. In the House, "Mr. Privacy," Georgia's conservative Bob Barr, joined New York's liberal Jerry Nadler on a bill to require regulators to include a "privacy impact statement" on all proposals. Adam Clymer of The New York Times noted that bill would allow judicial review of sweeping anti-privacy regulations. What about Internet privacy? The Commerce chairman, Fritz Hollings, a Democrat, backed by the Republican Ted Stevens, brought up a bill that infuriates that part of the intrusion lobby: Hollings would require "opt-in" consent of Web users before any disclosure of their intimate data about health, finances and religious and political beliefs. To get the presidential candidate John Kerry aboard, Hollings had to weaken his bill to allow disclosure of all other internet purchasing data without affirmative consumer consent. Now that the issue is rejoined, privacy advocates should create a simple "privacy index" so voters can see which politicians are on their side and which don't care. This will reveal some surprises: for example, Senator John McCain is an opt-outer, weak on the privacy issue. We should also expose the intrusion lobby as it yells Yahoo! to the sale of private data without consent. Who contributes to the intrusion lobby's fund - and which legislators in Washington and in state capitals get its largess? Finally, libertarians of left and right should hold President Bush to his pledge to require merchants to ask the consumer's consent. How would he like to have "observational research" in the Oval Office?
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edited by Harkank
published on: 2002-05-04
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