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The Prescott Daily Courier | Prescott, Arizona

home : opinions : opinions July 10, 2014


7/24/2013 6:00:00 AM
Column: Gadget encourages Big Brother buy-in
Supreme Court ruling.

NJ ruling.


Tom Cantlon
Courier Columnist

I saw an ad for a gadget that I'm sure will become very popular. A little chip or key fob, little bigger than a postage stamp, that you can attach to your key chain and which gives off a locator signal. You can then use a program to track it if it gets lost. You can view a map to locate it down to the address, and when you get close it shows signal strength so you can home in on it. Ah, there it is. The keys must have fallen behind the dresser.

You can also do the tracking from your smartphone. Where is my phone? I'll log in from someone else's and see what the chip says. There it is. I left it at the restaurant.

I'm writing this on my desktop because I don't see the laptop around. Good thing I glued a chip to it. Hey, it's in the house of the neighbor kid who feeds the cat! What's it doing there?

This would be great for parents worried about kids being abducted. Just stash one in the bookbag. Or sew one under the logo of their teenage daughter's tightest jeans, to see where she goes after school. Hey, that would work for couples too, if one of them is worried about the other getting kidnapped... or otherwise not coming home. I swear my coworker doesn't go home on the days he leaves early. I'll drop one in his briefcase. It's just harmless curiosity. Of course when promotion time comes it will be my duty to tell the boss which one of us is trustworthy.

How many of you are going to look this gadget up and get one? Come on, be honest! I know that the time the other cat slipped away and disappeared, if it had one of these on its collar I would have used it.

To be serious for a moment, privacy really is almost extinct. Why not just accept that? Because it makes totalitarianism oh, so easy.

Is fighting the loss of privacy even possible? Yes. There are a few basic laws we could pass that would severely limit both government and commercial use of our information, other than for genuine, reasonable cause. There are rays of hope. New Jersey's Supreme Court just ruled that police have to get a warrant to get the location data for a cell phone. The U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled that police need a warrant before attaching a locating device, similar to these chips, to a suspect's car.

Doesn't money and power always win these issues? When the people allow it, yes. Currently there is serious talk about moderating the way the NSA vacuums up data. That is getting support from a lot of members of Congress. They have their own concerns but they're also feeling the pressure from their constituents.

We probably can't stop a product like this - the spying coworkers can only be dealt with after they're caught - but we can change the laws on government and commercial activity. We are in a democracy. We can even amend the Constitution to give a stronger guarantee that everything in our digital lives is not fair game for anyone who wants to manipulate us. Is this important enough to us to do that? Well, how much would you dislike totalitarianism?

Now back to that wonderful device. A friend's wife is divorcing him. He's sure she must be under the influence of some guy she met. He tried to follow here but she got a restraining order after he punched the wrong guy. I'll tell him about this; I'm sure it will help. I'd love to see a happy ending to such a romantic story, where she ends up back with him, even if she doesn't currently realize it's for the best.

There's that cute woman I approached and she shut me down. Maybe if she just keeps running into me she'll get to like me. I'm sure she will. I'll just drop a chip in her bag, or stick one under her car. There she is at some address. I'll look it up. Same last name, must be family. Maybe I can get to know them? She keeps parking near a biker bar. Well, I can wear leather and just show up. Or is it the bookstore across the street? I like to think it's the biker bar. Oh, this is fun! I'm getting to know all about her! I'm sure she'll like me now!



Tom Cantlon is a local business owner and writer and can be reached at comments@tomcantlon.com.




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Reader Comments

Posted: Monday, July 29, 2013
Article comment by: Attentive Listener

Today's technology definitely offers the possibility of eliminating privacy, whether used by totalitarian governments, corporations gone wild, or crazy neighbors. But fighting the technology is not a viable option- the technology will march ahead, and continue developing, and if it doesn't do so here it will simply do so in other places in the world and we will then merely be at a disadvantage. Instead, Americans must do what they once upon a time were good at doing: use their democracy to vote themselves some rights!

At this point in time, the people writing the privacy laws are mostly very powerful special interest groups (both industry and government) who for a variety of reasons advocate courses that remove more and more privacy from individuals. A variety of arguments are offered as to why this is a good idea, and some of them are good ones (tracking child pron, or example). But the end result is that the potential for individuals to lose all control of their personal data grows every year. This trend is mostly unopposed, because this issue is not often in mainstream discussion.

People need to remember that the power you are willing to give up to a moderate government will still exist when an extreme one takes office, and must take action to safeguard these rights before they are gone. We need privacy rights written into the laws of the land. A good place for citizens to start is the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a group that fights against legislation that grants the government more power to remove individual liberty through diminishing privacy rights.


Posted: Wednesday, July 24, 2013
Article comment by: ed lawrence

@ there you go again - One question - Who votes these idiots into office? Ummmmm,, the answer is pretty clear here.

Posted: Wednesday, July 24, 2013
Article comment by: ed lawrence

@ Tom Steele -

Please do quote a law, any law, that says that it would be unconstitutional a to give a gift with a tracking device. Are you a recent immigrant, or just a run of the mill ----?


Posted: Wednesday, July 24, 2013
Article comment by: Important Vote In Congress Today

Contact Rep. Gosar immediately and tell him to vote YES on the Amash amendment which will de-fund section 215 of the Patriot Act. That's the funding they use to pay private contractors to collect data on all of us. Not only will it save our tax dollars but will be a big step towards stopping them from vacuuming up all our personal data.

Now if we could get the Obama administration to stop blocking every single lawsuit which tries to challenge the Constitutionality of all these surveillance, assassination, and indefinite detention programs that violate our Bill of Rights.

Let's hope the administration doesn't find all those secrets about Congressmen useful right now and force them to continue funding the program. Blackmail can work exceedingly well, especially with a bunch of crooked cheats like those in Congress and tons of their secrets on file.


Posted: Wednesday, July 24, 2013
Article comment by: Gus Patrick

Mr. Cantlon,

How do you equate a private citizen purchasing one of these chips and using it in the ways you describe, which are illegal in and of themselves, as an erosion of our privacy and leading to "totalitarianism"?

Do you feel the same about guns? They can be used in ways other than intended by the manufacturer. Oh, and cars, knifes, and the thousands of other manufactured products that can be used by people to do harm to others!

Yes, Mr. Cantlon, let's have the government pass laws to protect us from ourselves...forget personal responsibility...just hand control of our businesses, manufacturing, and lives over to law passing politicians, that won't lead to totalitarianism.


Posted: Wednesday, July 24, 2013
Article comment by: S M

The authors suggestion that we live in a democracy is a myth. We live in a society where corporations make the rules and laws by way of politicians who have been lobbied and funded and thus controlled. Big money also controls what laws are enforced. It's called Fascism.
Anyone who cannot see this is blind, a fool, or both.


Posted: Wednesday, July 24, 2013
Article comment by: Tom Steele

Tom, Tom. You were doing really well until you started violating that girls rights! Stick with using the device to track your own stuff. I suppose you could offer this woman a "present" with a chip someplace inside. Oh, that would be unconstitutional also.



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