I’m a privacy freak. I like quiet. But I sometimes like to play my music loud and Ellen says that’s because my hearing is getting worse. That may be true to a small degree, but it’s largely debatable. I won’t debate that here other than to say that my preoccupation with the state of the world, or whether I should pull weeds after breakfast, gets me to thinking so hard that I don’t really listen until she gets my attention. Growing, seemingly intractable problems—things such as oceans rising and many people’s continuing interest in killing those they disagree with—keep me from really hearing Ellen ask me to take the compost bucket out.
Congressional hearings this week about the US National Security Agency’s (NSA’s) tracking of gazillions of phone calls of citizens has a good number of people worked up into a tizzy. Should I be worried? Is my privacy being violated?
I decided to take an inventory of ten recent phone calls from my smartphone, admittedly a small sample, but a sample nonetheless. As I write this, and before I look to see what those calls were about, it occurs to me that I might possibly find a call among those ten that I would not have wanted my federal government, or any other government, to monitor.
Here goes. The substance of those ten recent phone calls is as follows:
- My pharmacy called to say one of my prescriptions is ready for pickup.
- A representative from a pharmaceutical company called from Pittsburgh to resolve a dispute I have had for several days with the company who offered a 24-month prescription discount that they apparently had no intention of honoring when they cancelled the agreement after only 3 months. I said it seemed like a bad faith arrangement on their part.
- I called my sister-in-law to help her diagnose a Facebook problem that was indeed a sign of a goofy quirk on Facebook.
- My wife Ellen called to say her keyless remote for her car would not open the door and would I please bring her the other remote to see if it would open the door. (It did. Luckily she was only about 10 minutes from our house. We learned later when we got a new battery for the remote that an emergency key is inside each remote! Better to learn late than never. Maybe those of you who have keyless entry remotes already knew this, but if not, now you know.)
- I called a friend to thank him for a particularly thoughtful letter he sent me about my recent memoir.
- I called the nurse who works for one of my doctors to discuss that “bad faith” pharmaceutical company that I mentioned under #2 above and what could be done about it.
- Another friend called to say he had finished reading my memoir and was previously unaware that I had experienced so many unusual things. (It was nice of him to call.)
- I called a customer service number at the above-mentioned pharmaceutical company to find out why they reneged on an agreement I entered into with them on April 24.
- My publisher called to see what I thought of a package of promotional materials they sent me a few days ago. (I can’t think of a nice way to hand anyone promotional materials for my own book.)
- I called an 800-number about something, but have no idea what it was about. Wracking my brain doesn’t help. Maybe the NSA can refresh my memory.
Just think what a nice service it would be if our National Security Agency could tell me what that 800-call under #10 above was all about. If those NSA people were not so busy testifying before Congress, or getting data to those who were testifying this week, or monitoring that avalanche of calls, they might have time to help jog my memory.
But back to my question. Should I be worried about my privacy being violated because the NSA may be monitoring my phone calls? I don’t know if I should be worried about all this, but I am not.
To the contrary, I would like to receive a daily or weekly summary of my phone calls from NSA so I could remember what the heck all of my calls are about! While I most likely would not have time to look at those summaries, it would be nice to know they were available.
I wonder if my US Congressman, Lamar Smith, could look into this for me. He’s the type of guy who could take this idea and run with it. He runs with scissors all the time.