In sweep for data, U.S. enters new realm | June 9
Government power and control
Data mining is a wondrous thing. It permits the holder of the information to know whom you phone, how long you talk, where you were at the time, and who calls you; what sites you visit on the Internet; what you buy with your credit card; what books you read; to whom you correspond via email.
In other words, it reveals your interests and much of how you live your life. It's enough to form a very accurate profile of how you think, what you believe and what sort of citizen you are.
Perhaps you trust the government to always "do the right thing." If that is so, then you trust the IRS. Maybe, at this moment, the government can largely be trusted, but what about the government 10 or 20 years from now — can that be guaranteed?
We must understand that the information currently being collected on a mass scale is more than sufficient to form profiles of attributes the government deems troublesome, or politically dangerous to the party in power, and to seek out the individuals matching that profile for whatever form of retribution they find appropriate.
An enormous data facility in Utah soon will open that will be capable of storing years of this information, so we are not dealing with just what occurred last week or last month, but what has occurred over a very long period, adding to the accuracy of the profiles that can be constructed.
Do you want the government to be capable of knowing how you live and what you believe and how you live your life? They say it's for our safety. Yes, it is, but beyond that the temptations are almost irresistible. Can a burgeoning bureaucracy withstand the temptation to further its power? That's what it's all about: power and control. Have you read George Orwell's 1984? If so you know what I mean when I say you are close to becoming Winston Smith.
Robert Seitz, Land O'Lakes
In sweep for data, U.S. enters new realm June 9
Security vs. liberty
Regarding the recent revelations that the National Security Agency is snooping on Internet data and call records, I have to ask: Where is the oversight? Congress seems to launch an inquiry at the slightest partisan issue, but now all we hear is senators stating they tried to warn us.
How about reading the Patriot Act bill before it is recertified next time? How about some explicit limits next time? Congress is as guilty as both recent presidents. It is too easy to get caught up in the rallying cry of security and forget essential liberty.
We have to do better and limit power. Ironically, if this story was framed as the NSA gathering call records from gun shops or tea party members (which they surely did), the most dangerous place in Washington would be between Rep. Darrell Issa and a microphone.
Thomas Schaefer, Palm Harbor
Watching the watchers
With all of the news lately about the NSA, I am reminded of a 1998 book by Dan Brown, Digital Fortress. It is about an NSA supercomputer that reads every email in the United States, even encrypted ones. Of course it is all done for the good of the country, which prompts one of the characters to ask, "Who is watching the watchers?"
In this age of people giving up freedoms for the sake of "security," we would be well advised to heed this warning.
Michael Hoylman, St. Petersburg
Monday was the official ribbon cutting for the opening of MetroRapid North-South bus service in Tampa. As a professional working in downtown Tampa, I want to commend Hillsborough Area Regional Transit for this great bus system. It's reliable and safe, but most of all, it's economical. We are no longer a two-car family thanks to HART.
Elva Kennis, Tampa
Gay pride ban repealed | June 6
Stop the hateful rhetoric
Is this ever going to end? This was not a gauntlet being thrown down by alternative lifestyle members. It was simply evening up the playing field for community events. And, yes, the community means all citizens of Hillsborough County regardless of gender, religion, ethnicity or sexual orientation.
Pastor George Thomasson might try remembering Jesus' philosophy of love and acceptance before stating that we (Hillsborough County) are risking losing the favor of God. I don't imagine God has any more intention of punishing the gay community than any other segment of society. Show a little compassion and stop the hate rhetoric, please.
Patricia Lee-Lucardie, Tampa
America's worst charities | June 9
Guidance on giving
Thanks for identifying the 50 worst charities in terms of how much of the donated money goes to the needy. As a result, I'm not giving any money to any charity until you print a similar article identifying the 50 best charities.
A.T. Barnard, Beverly Hills
Making Social Security numbers more secure | June 7, commentary
What a timely column. I recently turned 65 and signed up for Medicare. I was shocked that when I received my initial correspondence and Medicare card that my case number is my Social Security number with a letter behind the number.
There are millions of elderly out there in the same situation, and these are the folks who need protection from fraud the most. Apparently the good people over at Social Security never heard of the Social Security Number Protection Act of 2005 and Identity Theft Prevention Act of 2005. Each seeks to limit the distribution of an individual's Social Security number.
I would hope the representatives' proposed legislation would address this gaping hole in personal information protection.
Doug Bauer, Clearwater
Knee deep in bliss | June 8
Thank you for the article about the couple who married in Fakahatchee swamp. It was such a feel-good story.
We need more of its kind to offset all bad news we are inundated with daily.
Sharon Hallax, Brandon