Privacy freak

Social Security clownA couple of years ago I took my son to a local college to register for a class. I filled out the required paperwork and when I handed it back to the clerk she said, “Oh, you forgot to fill in his Social Security number.” I replied that no, indeed, I had not forgotten but that Social Security had nothing to do with studying Plant Biology and therefore I was unwilling to give his SSN to them. “But we need it because it will be his student ID number.” I disagreed and informed her that she could simply assign him a student ID number like 999-99-9999.

I am sure I’ve never seen anyone look quite as perplexed as the clerk did at that moment. It took over an hour and several different administrators “reasoning” with me before my son got his random student ID number and off we went to the bookstore.

First mini-moral of the story. You people are giving out your Social Security numbers way too readily. This is obvious because with thousands of students registering every year I was apparently the only privacy nut in the history of the college unwilling to cooperate. Your SSN should never be given to anyone except a company/individual who is required to report your earnings or wages to the IRS. Period. Period. Period.

Next, remember in the not-too-distant past when brilliant geeks in labs participating the the Human Genome Project discovered that the presence of certain genes could predict possible future diseases or health problems. What an amazing discovery, one that could benefit mankind mightily. Enter bastard medical insurance companies. “Oh, we’d sure like to get our hands on that kind of information so we can deny coverage.” Enter corporate assholes. “Oh, we’d sure like to get our hands on that kind of information so we can deny employment.”

Second mini-moral of the story. Guard your medical information in every way that you can. Start by refusing to give doctor’s offices and insurance companies your SSN which is, as we’ve learned, a number you must only give to an employer, possibly a bank or a broker. If you are insured under a group plan, talk to your employer about keeping those numbers private. There is absolutely no reason that Kaiser Permanente needs your fucking Social Security number. Make some noise about it.

And if you ever need to seek treatment for substance abuse or mental health problems, do not do it with the knowledge or assistance of any insurance company. Pay cash, use a fake name. I know this sounds like paranoia (oops! a mental health problem) but this is a monkey that will hang onto your back forever. Once again, denial of employment, medical coverage. Don’t even think of running for public office or being a teacher or a policeman or a firefighter. Medical care providers pretend that our privacy is protected. It’s not protected. Talk to Bill O’Reilly.

The Patriot Act gives the government the right to mine the entire spectrum of public and private sector information. Any walls of privacy that may have formerly existed, shaky as they were, have come crashing down.

Third mini-moral of the story. Teach your children to protect their privacy. I’m not advocating that we make them hate or fear the government, or insurance companies, or school counselors, or Kaiser Permanente (actually I am). But young people should be made aware that personal information in the wrong hands can make life a nightmare.

I saw my son this morning and he showed me his new cell phone. “Guess what?” he said. “I got it at Wal-Mart. Sixteen cents per minute prepaid, no contract, I gave ’em a fake name. Kubla Khan.”

Mission accomplished.

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