Not that I’m suggesting that trends in our modern service-based economy might ultimately make the headline a ‘grabber’ for many more of us in the future than might find it appealing at this moment – but the simple fact is that our government has opened a floodgate that will madden the mainstream even as it fills the wallets of fringe factions. Like telemarketers. Here’s how:
Way back in 2003, the US Federal Trade Commission implemented a Do Not Call (DNC) list and began enabling registration of phone numbers by those wishing to ‘opt out’ from receiving calls by telemarketers. And, since then, the average number of telemarketing calls received by the more than 70% of households signed up with the FTC fell off by a significant percentage. Enough to consider the program a success – though Wikipedia notes that “… many journalists and victims of fraudulent calls and Do-Not-Call violations have extensively documented ongoing and widespread inaction and lack of enforcement by the FTC.” Some such ‘shades of gray’ notwithstanding, the greater good seems obviously served.
Yet, notably absent from the regulations those many years ago and lasting up to today: political organizations, pollsters, and charities. Oh, my. I won’t waste words complaining about the increasing numbers of calls from charities I must fend off each month. That might make me seem petty and uncaring; and I prefer that those traits not be inadvertently attributed to me by mere exposure to my blog when instead they could be gleaned by a tedious process of interviewing my family and friends. Such as they are.
When politicians were asked to agree to respect the DNC and shut down their direct connections to constituents (they could not otherwise reach via any other means) to deliver important rhetoric personalized for household-level consumption… they said NO. How many NO’s have to be said to qualify for capitalization of both letters? Consider this: among all the politicians across the local, state, and federal levels of government – numbering 513,200 by a Web authority – only 3 agreed to respect the DNC list by suspending contact. So, am I sensationalizing the issue? NO.
Thanks in part to the Supreme Court’s decision on Citizen’s United, the degree of difference between political parties, their fundraising arms, Super PACS, pollsters, and fraudsters in general has become indistinguishable to the average citizen as they field growing numbers of phone calls each day as elections grow closer. Moreover, just as ‘Christmas Season’ for retailers now precedes Autumn and extends to Spring, the political season seems to be in continuous harvest mode without pause for either thought or action, as evidenced by the incessant ringing of my DNC-listed phone. Sadly, it seems to be a prudent course of action to avoid complaining too much about politicians being exempt from respecting the Do Not Call list given that they also have access to the Do Not Fly list. I do not want unfairly to become a ‘person of interest’ as a consequence of being a person with little interest in politics.
I had slightly more interest in politics in prior years. Back in 1976, for example, I was a page at the Democratic National Convention at Madison Square Garden in New York City. One thing I learned quickly is that pages do not have a formal training program, so when I was delivering deli sandwiches to Robert Strauss – the Party Chairman at the time – I unwittingly violated protocol and asked him a direct question: “don’t you guys have the money to bring in a catering company?”
The real question could have been: “why would I want to be a politician?” And, to his credit, he answered as if he’d heard that instead of the original one. His answer? “Son, if it was a cushy job, the wrong people would want it.” He was the last politician I’ve had direct contact with. And, to this day I realize that most constituents have had the same experience – limited exposure to the policymakers and more to the administrators. So, if I get a tidal wave of pollsters calling day and night, I’m apt to suffer in silence. I don’t ‘know a guy’ in government, and I don’t think my voice in this debate will turn the tide.
I’ve thereby become inured to repeated violations of privacy at the behest of politicians who would otherwise protect that privacy with DNC – if not for their own conflict of interests. Thus I can tell you that the reason I think we’re doomed to increasing violations of DNC by telemarketers is that they now know that we are getting slammed with calls and have lost the will to document/report/expect justice. The reason I think more of us are doomed to become telemarketers will have to wait for another day/discussion.
So why should a content management expert care so much about violation of privacy, you wonder?
The government snuck in an exemption to the DNC that they now take overwhelming advantage of… and others are sneaking into my house behind them based on the logical presumption that I’m now too weak to fight. My further logical presumption: that even
as people don’t know how to handle reductions in rights personally, they’ll have the same problems professionally. Just as I don’t really know who to call when I have a complaint about calls, I don’t know how to document a complaint about a lost document or email online. Nor do I know who in the government is responsible for consumer protections around Content in the Cloud. So, the logical question to ask is: “If you are working on a document online – in Google Docs, for example – and it disappears, what remedy do you have?”
Privacy is equally tenuous in the online information age as it was in the telecommunications age. Perhaps more so because we’ve been trained to self-serve in response to losses we incur. Put that in the FAQ under ‘disillusionment’. Do you think the government will add protections that might thereby limit its access to huge aggregates of Internet-based information? Uh, NO. And, do you think as consumers we’re engaging in risky content behaviors as a consequence of new devices, collaboration, and storage options? Uh, YES. Maybe those factors have compelled me to work for a company solely focused on Content Risk Management instead of becoming a politician. It’s possible that investigating opportunities to provide better safeguards for information even as the processes surrounding it get optimized for the mobile/Cloud age qualifies as a kind of activism. But it may not change the world. Sorry, Mom.