and other thoughts about personal privacy.

As of the writing of this, CNN had just reported that new technology has been released that will thwart the new anti telemarketing device known as the "Telezapper" as well as other privacy/call blocking systems provided by the phone companies. This new technology also has the ability to display custom sales pitches on someone's caller ID display. I've heard both sides of the argument and I know what the first amendment says. However, I also believe in the right to personal privacy and we already have similar laws where the 4th amendment is concerned. i.e. You can't cross the front door of a person's house to search it without a warrant, but you can stand on the side walk and look at the front yard, searching for evidence without a warrant.

To resolve this issue, there needs to be established a clear, legal "zone of privacy" for all citizens. Crossing that line would constitute a new form of trespassing that we can call "commerce trespassing". That line that determines the outer limit of this "zone of privacy" would be drawn at my phone (cellular or otherwise) and my mailbox. Unsolicited flyers in my mailbox would violate my "zone of privacy". Calls to my telephone from telemarketers would violate my "zone of privacy". I do not believe that the first amendment allows me to walk into your house and into your living room to speak to you without having been invited to do so. Similarly, my phone is in my house or in my pocket and well within my "zone of privacy". What to do? Establish a clear, legal "zone of privacy" for all citizens and require that telemarketers have a written request for solicitation (bearing an expiration date) from every single person they call.

There is a thing called an "Opt-out" list which has been tried many times without much success. An "Opt-out" list is a list of names of persons who do not want to receive calls, mailings or whatever anyone else wants to send them. Visa versa, an "Opt-in" list is a list of people who like junk mail and spam and actually intend to buy that crap. There should not be "Opt-out" list because that should be the *default*. Opt-out lists are a huge burden to maintain and expensive. Who pays for Opt-out lists? Those of us who don't want to receive junk mail and phone calls pay for it. Instead, the burden and expense of list maintenance should fall on the telemarketing industry. Not Opt-out list maintenance but rather Opt-in. It would work like this. Any person who wishes to receive spam and junk mail fills out a certificate (standardized letter,I'll be happy to design it) bearing an expiration date not to exceed one year. Telemarketers can maintain duplicate and distribute these certificates amongst themselves. No telemarketer may place a call without a physical copy of this certificate in hand. The exparation date allows the person to change their mind after that year is up. Any telemarketer who forges or alters a certificate, looses their business license.

Now, I know that any telemarketing industry executive who hears of this plan will scream bloody murder and talk about how it will undermine his/her livelyhood and that he /she has to feed his/her children... blah blah blah... Whatever! I say to them that they are not a legitimate business if they are going to violate the personal privacy of others. Just because I have a phone doesn't mean that you or anyone else automatically has a right to call my number. It's my phone, I pay for it, I give the number to those whom I wish to receive calls from. My phone is there for MY convience, not yours, you telemarketer scum!


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