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Big Business would like to know everything about you . . .
so they can use it against you! And sell it to others without
letting you know what they know or who they're selling it to!

On first thought, you might ask "why should I care what others know about me?" The truth is, we all have facets of our private lives that we would rather be kept private. More importantly, there are facts about our personal preferences, buying habits, medical conditions, professional and political associations, etc. that Corporate America and government agencies would love to know about us. And many of the uses they have in mind for this data are often not in our best interest! Consider:

Sound far-fetched? Not really. Companies have been keeping and trading information on us for years. They use it to develop ad campaigns, target mail advertising (better known as junk mail!), and determine what we like to buy so they can make and sell us more of it! However, this data was never much of a privacy issue in the past because each company had only a small amount of information on us, based solely on our dealings with them. And the computer storage and sorting power necessary to collate and sort data from numerous sources was limited to a few very large computers located in companies and government agencies with more important things to use the systems for (usually defense related!). However, with the advent of faster small computers and networks of them, and the ability to connect them real time via the Internet, what once was a Herculean task increasingly becomes easier and easier to do. Look at Google and other search engines, for example. And companies have learned that there are other companies out their willing to pay good money for that small amount of data they have on you. When the buyer brings all those little pieces together, it is absolutely scary what they can learn about you. And infer about you from what they know!

To make matters worse, the people who develop these databases look on the personal information they have collected about you as their property, not yours! In fact, there have been several attempts in Congress to pass laws that would treat data compilations as copyrighted property! The industry argues that it took a lot of work to compile the data, so the compiler should own it! But with today's computers, such compilation is easy to perform, so this argument isn't really valid. Rather, their primary desire is to limit your ability to view or control the data they have on you, so they can continue to profit from it.

So where does all this data come from? Almost anywhere you can imagine:

So what can you do to curb this troubling behavior? If you are concerned about keeping your private information private, then:

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