Tuesday, March 22, 2011

We want your telephone number.

The Girl Scouts want my social security number to verify I'm safe around my daughter and her friends during GS activities. Google wants my telephone number in case my blog gets hijacked or I lose my password. The library wants to see my driver's license every now and then to make sure it's really me checking out the latest bestseller. The United States government wants to see my in my altogether before I can board a plane. Every website I visit wants to leave a few unsavory cookies on my computer to track my interests.

I am not comfortable with mandatory identity-proving procedures, the loss of privacy, and the increased demand by governmental and commercial entities for personal information. I am more comfortable with anonymity. (I know, that seems a bit perverse considering the very public nature of this blog.)

It's insidious. Gradually, over time, I've grown accustomed to the relentless demand for personal information everywhere I go, from the grocery store to my kids' schools. I am asked to share my address, telephone number, and social security number for a background check, my socioeconomic status and interests "for marketing purposes," and proof of medical insurance and liability waiver to have my cholesterol checked.

I am pragmatic about the reasons for these intrusions. I recognize that our culture and way of life are in flux, wrestling with the transition from everybody-is-the-same to an uneasy imbalance among government, commercial, and personal interests.

Another morning is dawning. I'm packing school lunches, Preschool Phonics gear, and freelance paperwork for several projects due today while I hold down the fort at Dunwoody Nature Center as interim director.

I'm also making sure I have my driver's license, insurance card, frequent customer card for the grocery store, checking account card, credit card, smart phone with contact information, remote log in for my desktop, personal hotspot, and memorized passwords and user names for the many accounts I work on each day ... without which, I could not function at all and all of which reveal so much about my personal life to strangers around the world.

Kinda creepy, isn't it?

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