Privacy, schmeivacy

Our editorial board is a carefully constructed balancing act; we tend to be all over the place on a lot of issues, and the key to coming up with a position is to prove daily that we can work together — despite our differences — in ways that legislative bodies seem to find impossible. (Back when he was speaker, David Wilkins once said I couldn’t understand how hard it is to get people to rally around a bill — I scoffed because every morning, we go into a meeting and can’t leave the room until we’ve passed out several bills, so he does not have my sympathy.)

One of our widest divides is between me and Cindi Scoppe on privacy. She is always concerned about protecting it; my own attitude can be represented, with only slight exaggeration, as "privacy, schmeivacy."

So it was that, in an effort to probe the bounds of my extremism, Cindi copied a news story to me, topped with her question, "too un-private even for you?" An excerpt from the news story:

   (This article is part of TIMES EXPRESS. It is a condensed version of a story that will appear in tomorrow’s New York Times.)<
{c.2007 New York Times News Service}=<
   Companies like Google scan their e-mail users’ in-boxes to deliver ads related to those messages. Will people be as willing to let a company listen in on their phone conversations to do the same?<
   Pudding Media, a start-up based in San Jose, Calif., is introducing an Internet phone service on Monday that will be supported by advertising related to what people are talking about in their calls. The Web-based phone service is similar to Skype’s online service _ consumers plug a headset and a microphone into their computers, dial any phone number and chat away. But unlike Internet phone services that charge by the length of the calls, Pudding Media offers calling without any toll charges.<
   The trade-off is that Pudding Media is eavesdropping on phone calls in order to display ads on the screen that are related to the conversation. Voice recognition software monitors the calls, selects ads based on what it hears and pushes the ads to the subscriber’s computer screen while he or she is still talking.<
   A conversation about movies, for example, will elicit movie reviews and ads for new films that the caller will see during the conversation….

My reply to Cindi, kept brief because it was sent from my Treo, was:

No, it’s too PRIVATE for me. I prefer to leave such things to Big Brother.

You just can’t give an inch to these privacy freaks, you know.

3 thoughts on “Privacy, schmeivacy

  1. Karen McLeod

    I don’t think I’d care to utilize this service, but if people, knowing about the ‘listening in’ choose to do so, that’s their business. But what kind of ad’s would they show in response to a couples’ over-explicit ‘romantic’ conversation? consort services? porn shops? x-rated movies?

  2. Brad Warthen

    Excellent point, Karen.
    Does anybody here subscribe to Netflix? I do, and at first I was intrigued with its supposed ability to recommend movies I will like based on my ratings of past movies. I will confess that I have spent hours, over time, rating movies on the site in an effort to “save” myself time by helping the software to be a little more on-target with recommendations.
    All to no avail. The machines still aren’t smart enough to figure out what it is about art that appeals to an individual.
    Netflix thinks that I’ve got a yen for oldies, I guess based on the fact that I give “High Noon” and “It Happened One Night” five stars. Well, duh. But I’d kind of like to get some recommendations on NEW movies, since I know less about them, and yet they keep trying to push on me third-rate “Oaters” and anything from the 30s that is described with the adjective “madcap.” Folks, my tastes are a LOT broader than that.
    So really, this new invasion of privacy would most likely provide fodder for laughs.

  3. weldon VII

    Personally, I’ve always thought privacy was something for me, not other people.
    But this won’t bother me much. I won’t be having any Pudding.

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