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February 25, 2008
Privacy Schmivacy: Get
Over It, Everyone Is Watching You
Not much work is getting done at WE Energies in Milwaukee. But the
employees are sure busy!
Since the utility’s customer base consists of just about everyone, its
customer database includes the financial information of the entire
Milwaukee world. And documents in an employment case, reported by the
Associated Press, reveal that employees at WE regularly help themselves
to information about whoever interests them.
One guy owned rental property and looked up information about some
tenants to find out if they were likely to default on the rent. A woman
repeatedly accessed information about her ex-boyfriend. (So you’re
really over him, then, right?)
Supposedly people were also looking up information about “local
celebrities” as the AP calls them. The term “local celebrities” is
generally a euphemism for the self-important doofuses who read the local
news from a teleprompter in between station promotions. Why anyone would
want to know their finances is a mystery to me, because I guarantee they
make more than you and you’ll sit there all night trying to figure out
One employee went to the news media with information that a candidate
for mayor was often late in paying his heating bills. The media, which
loves to wring its hands about how everyone’s privacy is under assault,
of course ran the story – contributing to the guy’s defeat in the
OK, so the jig is up. If you live in Milwaukee, unless you live and work
by candlelight and heat your house with a wood stove, everyone knows
your financial information. This has the entire community up in arms, of
course, because everyone in America is hysterical about privacy.
There’s even a guy in Traverse City, Michigan – Larry Ponemon,
interviewed by the AP for this story – who fashions himself a “privacy
expert” and even went so far as to create a “think tank,” the Ponemon
Institute, where I guess they sit around in a tank all day and think
think that one good Institute involves another, so I’m going to start my
own institute that reflects my own view on the question of privacy. I’m
going to call it the “Get Over It Everyone Is Watching You Institute.”
The GOIEIWY Institute. Pronounced the way it’s spelled.
Now don’t misunderstand me. I wouldn’t want everyone seeing me naked or
anything like that. At least not until I work out a little. But if you
ask me, which you didn’t, everyone is becoming just a bit over-the-edge
on the question of privacy. And it couldn’t happen at a worse time in
Look. What’s your name? It’s what? OK, thanks. Within one minute, I can
find out your age, who you’re married to, who you used to be married to,
who your former roommates are and where you work. I can find out every
city where you’ve ever lived.
That’s what I can do in one minute. If I work at it a little bit, I can
probably find out if you pay your bills on time, if you’ve been fired
from a job, if you have a criminal record and if you like sauerkraut on
your hot dogs.
And this is just what I can find out about you if you don’t have
hate to tell you this, but there is no such thing as privacy on 21st
Century Planet Earth. If you’re the kind of person who’s freaked out by
this, you’re going to spend an awful lot of time wandering around the
bus terminal looking over your shoulder at geeks with laptops, wondering
if they’re reading about you. (They are.)
Me? I don’t care. There’s nothing very interesting to know about me, so
if you want a cure for insomnia, have a look. Get over it. Everyone is
the GOIEIWY Institute, we celebrate our shared exposure. Bob is
bankrupt. Felicia is a felon. Cody is a cross-dresser. Everyone knows!
Look at it this way: If you put a classified ad in the paper, you feel
fortunate if a few people see it. If everyone’s private information is
available to everyone, what are the chances anyone is going to find
their way to yours? And if they do, what are they going to care? They
can find out if a “local celebrity” has paid his utility bills. What
have you got to compete with that?
There’s no privacy, folks. It’s 2008, and your secrets are out. I just
looked at them.
You’re even more boring than I am.
© 2008 North Star
Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.
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