The illusion of privacy

My husband and I went to our church marriage class last week. We had quit for awhile because they were having a series on step-families. So now they are doing a video series. And on the first day of this, we notice something new: a little computer kiosk on wheels outside the classroom.

We didn’t think anything of it. But then we noticed that, instead of the usual “Hello my name is” stickers, everyone in the class was wearing printed-out stickers. It turns out that the church has started checking in people who attend the classes. I guess it’s for security, and also probably for statistics. But once I heard this, I had a bad reaction. And I told my husband,

It’s bad enough that there are computers somewhere that store my spending habits, credit rating, TV and internet habits, books I buy and check out from the library, how much gas I buy, where I work, my salary and saving plan and investment strategy, and all kinds of things I’m sure I’m not aware of, which may or may not include who I call and what we talk about. And now they want to make a database of how often I go to church? — Worse, how long I attended a religious-based marriage class?

Now, I’m not generally a paranoid person, but the church database really pushed my buttons. The PATRIOT ACT is bad enough. I actually called into a radio station once when they were talking about how library records could be searched without a warrant and without being officially suspected of a crime. I understand that it sounds silly and paranoid to worry about my library records. “Jeez, she checked out Kushiel’s Dart again, that perv.” It’s not that I’m worried about what they’ll find. It’s that libraries and reading and learning are so critical to our nation’s principles of democracy and freedom– freedom of thought and expression, not just speech and religion and owning a gun. For a government to impede or even intimidate citizens with the threat of “we know what you’re reading” is to violate the principles that make us America, and make us civilized.

Listen to me, sounding all patriotic. It’s Obama Fever. (And the only prescription is more cowbell!!)

My point is, before an investigation, there needs to be evidence of wrongdoing, they need to get a subpoena, and they need to defend it before a judge. It’s about accountability, not just my privacy.

So when someone wants to keep track of where I go to church, it’s disturbing. Hopefully, though, I’ll be dead by the time American turns into the kind of country where non-Christians like myself have to go into hiding.

Which makes me wonder what I’d be willing to confess to in order to keep on living… but that’s another article.


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One Response to “The illusion of privacy”

  1. John H. Says:

    I work in IT so I’m fairly attuned to these abuses. Most people have no clue at all, and I’m undecided which prospect scares me more: churches collecting this data, or most people not knowing/not caring about it.

    Of course, the term ‘church’ may be replaced by any organization with questionable right to one’s personal information.

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