Tuesday, Nov. 2 —
That’s the only word that even begins to fit the news that RealNetworks software has been surreptitiously gathering information about users’ activities and sending it back to the company. Half-hearted apologies, software patches and other measures don’t begin to contain the damage.
What’s most surprising about this episode is that RealNetworks, founded by ex-Microsoft people, has been trying lately to be a good corporate citizen. This kind of sleazy behavior is beyond the pale and only heightens rational suspicions about the way our privacy is being shredded by every corporate, governmental and other party that can find a way to make money or otherwise gain power through surveillance into our everyday lives. See the item below for more on this.
OK, Bub, Fork Over Those Medical Records
Monday, Nov. 1 —
Given Congress’ recent legislative record, one is tempted to be relieved when the lawmakers fail to meet a self-imposed deadline to do something. Maybe we’ll all look back someday and think that’s the case with the privacy of medical records.
President Clinton, however, knows a sensitive political issue when he sees one. Although his White House has been easily the most hostile to civil liberties and citizen privacy since the Nixon mob ran the federal government, Clinton’s team has actually come up with rules that go in the right direction.
Not far enough, of course. The administration, in its normal bent-over posture when law enforcement is in the room, has left a huge loophole open for just about any agency with any remote law enforcement duties. The rules don’t apply to paper records, where most of the privacy breaches have taken place so far.
Coverage of the president’s rule-making prompted a predicable response from a spokesperson for the libertarian Cato Institute, which believes privacy should be a business arrangement between you and the world — Cato worries about what will happen if the rules prevent doctors from getting to your records in an emergency. This is indeed a genuine risk, but there are ways to fix the problem without making your life and medical history an open book.
Monday, Nov. 1 —
I walked around central Hong Kong yesterday and took this picture. It’s a wonderful juxtaposition of eras and styles. On the lower left is the heart of what was: the domed building where the Legislature meets. To its right, also in the foreground, is the old Bank of China building, a sturdy structure from days gone by. It now houses, among other things, the venerable China Club, which I hope to visit while I’m in town.
Behind the two is the essence of the modern Hong Kong. The building soaring into the sky on the left was designed by the great architect I.M. Pei; it is the new Bank of China, one of the most striking structures in the world today. Contrast it to the unremarkable skyscraper to the right. That ugly edifice, says a journalist friend, is known as “the box it came in.”