The amount of data stored on each of us has soared dramatically in recent years. It is estimated that between government and corporate information centers as many as fifty files are kept on each and every one of us. The US government maintains computer tabs in excess of 500 billion files, files which concern citizens, residents and even foreigners. Records arealso maintained by private credit bureaus, state and local governments, the census, the military, insurance companies, employment agencies, doctors, car dealers, banks and financial institutions, clubs and organizations, churches, brokerage houses and investment funds and of course by who ever is in charge of extracting taxes from you. The types of records maintained include:
• motor vehicle licenses and registrations
• professional licenses
• federal, state and local tax returns
• school records
• birth, marriage and death certificates
• military and veteran records
• police records
• criminal records
• court documents
• passport applications
• census forms
• medical histories
• insurance applications
• credit applications
In short, a host of information concerning you, including detailed financial information, is stored where you have absolutely no control over it.
Even in the so called private sector, privacy has become virtually nonexistent. A recent survey showed that almost half of the top 500 companies in the US collect data on their employees without telling them. Eighty per cent of American workers in the telecommunications, banking and insurance industries are monitored in some way while they are working.
Even if you don’t work for your bank, expect that it is probably compiling information about you for marketing purposes. Also expect it to frequently make use of such information to your disadvantage. American Express recently suspended a cardholder’s “privileges” after sneaking a peak into his bank account, without his knowledge or permission. They discovered that he did not have enough money in his account to cover his next bill, but did not bother to check if he had other sources of revenue. In other words, they cut off his credit before they even billed him.
Under modern law, creditors or litigants or private detectives are often given the right to find out how much money you have in the bank. With little effort, a private investigator can uncover your entire financial situation and expose you in an embarrassing lawsuit. Overall, financial transactions are increasingly subjected to careful scrutiny. Every time you cash a check, apply for credit, purchase an insurance policy, seek employment or attempt to enter a facility with controlled access, you are asked to provide information regarding your personal money matters. Furthermore, the courts repeatedly find that once such information is not actually in your possession, it is not protected legally from outside interference. In effect, you have little or no legal right over the collection, exchange or control of such information concerning you.