Internet's Window Into Personal Lives Needs To Be Shuttered

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In the Aug. 10 issue of USA Today, a front-page story appeared about the new computer-aided detective that has spawned a $5-billion industry -- an article that would tend to lend credence to the Orwellian theory that Big Brother is watching.


That paranoid prognostication of yesteryear may have finally come true.


Today, it seems, one can find out everything from bank records to traffic tickets to credit card purchases, all thanks to the space-aged super sleuth - the Internet.


"Years ago, you could move from the West Coast to the East Coast, and leave your past behind you," the article states.


No longer. It would seem that there is nowhere on earth one can hide without risk of exposure to this modern-day gumshoe. Naming it the World Wide Web was rather Freudian. Don't get us wrong. As card-carrying members of the cherished Fourth Estate, there's nothing more satisfying than the discovery of a skeleton in one's closet - the remnants of a checkered past that seem to confirm or justify the present-day behavior of your subject.


Just think how Lucinda Franks felt when she unwittingly unearthed President Clinton's abuse excuse - the First Lady's apparent offering that her husband's abusive childhood at the hands of a power struggle between mother and grandmother justifies his philandering. The days of sifting through one's garbage to dig up dirt are over. While unpleasant, at least that practice was legal - as long as the garbage was at the curb, and not in the subject's back yard.


Today, all it takes are a few keystrokes and a subscription to the right on-line spy network to dig up the same information - a form of high-tech trespassing, if you will. It scares even me, and I don't have any skeletons... at least none I can remember.


It would appear we've gone too far. These kinds of Big Brother tactics, the kind used to find out how many packs of bubble gum you stole as a 6-year-old, have become way too invasive. We can only hope that when the government figures out how to deal with copyright infringements on the Internet, it will then get around to our rights of privacy.

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