Who’s Watching You?

Do you care about surveillance cameras? Or the fact that you’re probably being watched and or monitored whenever you’re in public?

A lot of people care about this very much. A former co-worker from Halifax once created a blog especially to discuss CCTV cameras he hated them so much.

The other day on one of my posts, Brett went off on a rant Big Brother watching us all the time. It had nothing really to do with the post topic, but I guess he was responding to another comment. Brett’s not a fan of heightened airport and border security or surveillance cameras.

Those who are against these excessive security measures say they are a threat to our personal freedoms. That everything we do, every place we go, every person we meet, all of our daily activities, every move we make, can be monitored. This includes our internet usuage, all our electronic communication devices, credit cards – even our cars are traceable and watchable now.  The main issue with all of this is, there is no telling where this information is going to end up or how it’s going to be used or by whom.

Then there are many people who have no problem with this.  They say freedom of privacy is a redundant concept. That if we want the protections of law enforcement against criminals and terrorists then we have to accept being watched. They figure if you’re out in public or using public systems like the internet then it’s fair game.  Don’t do things in public you don’t want people to know about and don’t put information out there you want kept private.

There are arguments that these CCTV cameras and other surveillance devices don’t do anything to prevent crime – that they only move criminals to other areas that aren’t being monitored. Have all the additional security measures at airports stopped any terrorists? Who knows. I haven’t really heard about anyone they stopped who’d been planning to blow up a plane. But maybe they just haven’t told us about it. Then again maybe with all the security measures in place at airports, terrorists are thinking up other, less secured ways to attack.

From all reports – especially from the UK – CCTVs are helping police to catch many more criminals…. but that’s after a crime has been committed.

Britain is the world leader in CCTV usage with an estimated 4 million cameras around the country. They are also world leaders in building a DNA database with almost 9% of the population already logged. The US FBI database has over 6.7 million profiles and expects to accelerate its growth rate from 80,000 new entries a year to 1.2 million new entries annually by 2012.  Canada has logged about 208,000 DNA profiles as of 2009 with its new $10 million database which is said to be the most automated and sophisticated of its kind, located at RCMP headquarters in Ottawa.

It should be noted that, while there is fledgling legislation in place regulating from whom and how DNA samples can be collected, not all of the DNA samples in these databases are from criminals and there have been issues on how these samples are being retained.

So, are you concerned about any of this? Do you care if there’s CCTV camera pointed at your house? Or if the police have a sample of your DNA? Or if you’re watched as you do your grocery shopping or as you meet your secret lover at the Stay-A-While Motel?

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37 responses to “Who’s Watching You?

  1. I figure if you’re on Facebook, write a blog, on LinkedIn, or MySpace, etc, you have lost all right to complain about privacy.

    You said it best: “Don’t do things in public you don’t want people to know about and don’t put information out there you want kept private.”

  2. You know what’s even sadder?

    How some sheeple wilffully, knowingly, contribute to Big Brother’s watchful eye on us.

    Like those who are into “Foursquare”.

    I don’t really know (or care) what’s involved.

    But apparenlty you report your whereabouts everywhere you go.

    It shows up on Facebook with a map and a time and a place.

    If you show up at enough places, I think you get these “badges”. Or you can be made “Mayor”.

    (Whatever the F THAT means!)

  3. Ken – What about if you volunteer to be on a reality show or Jerry Springer? Can you sue the network because the show messed up your life?

    Jazz – Yes. We know all about it. 5:00 – 5:30 every Thursday. Room 4B.

    Glen – Oh…because you want to be famous…I thought..you know… you were just “excited” about being watched. Because I think with a webcam there are online sites where you could probably even get paid.

    Friar – I’ve never heard of Foursquare. You are so hip to happenings on the interwebby. All this and the tweeting – who actually cares what people are doing every second of their lives or where they are? This is what I want to know. I don’t even know what to write on my Facebook status most of the time – I have no idea what I’d Tweet about. And I really have no idea who would care to know my exact location at any given moment of the day. How bizarre.

  4. Usually when folks discuss this kind of thing, they’ll bring up Facebook or the like.

    They’ll say not to post private information in a public place.

    Sadly, the line between private and public is quite blurry, thanks to networked computers and poor security.

    I have read about people in the US being rejected for jobs because of their credit scores. The companies that did this illegal snooping have been charged, but the fact remains, something that should have been private became public.

    What does my credit score have to do with my ability to do my job, anyway? Maybe I had a hard time making ends meet for a while when I was the sole bread-winner with four kids, two car payments and a house payment?

    Maybe things are better now?

    Another example – a colleague of mine asked me a few years ago if it was safe to order things on the internet with a credit card.

    I said, “it depends”, and I showed him how to search for and obtain credit card information. In about five minutes, we had names, addresses, card numbers and expiration dates from several unsecure file servers in the USA.

    This is supposedly “private” information too.

    My questions are, “why are they collecting all of this information?” and “is it doing anything to stop whatever it is they’re trying to stop?”

    I don’t know the answer to the first question, though I can speculate that it’s just a power play, but I do know the answer to the second question, and it is usually “no”.

    Let’s say you’re doing it to “fight terrorism”.

    Remember those body scanners that can see through clothes?

    Well, last week MI5 released a report that it had intercepted transmissions from operatives saying they planned to start implanting explosives below the skin of their operatives, specifically women, in the form of breast implants.

    Thus making those full body scanners ineffective.

    So what next, are they going to make us submit to X-ray examination before we fly?

    Furthermore, all of the background checks and cameras and so forth do not prevent someone from carrying out a terrible act.

    The last time I checked, in any country I’d care to visit, I can:

    1. Drive up to the Departure building of any airport

    2. Unload 10 suitcases onto a cart

    3. Roll said cart into the building, and push it over beside the hundreds of holiday travelers lined up to be processed

    4. Detonate the 200 pounds of …

    You get the idea.

    Last I checked, they’re not opening every single letter that goes through the mail.

    So all of this surveillance cannot and will not ever be effective.

    But the rights of law abiding citizens will continue to be taken away, in the name of “security”.

    Probably the only way for the citizens of a society to be totally secure is if *all of us* are recording *everyone else*, including and especially government officials.

    We pay the taxes that run the email systems that the Fed Gov uses to communicate while they are reading our email and looking at our web sites.

    As a tax payer, I demand “fair play” and I want access to their emails and web sites.

    After all, they shouldn’t be putting the information out there if they want it to remain private, right?

  5. XUP – You can add reality shows to the list. You knowingly volunteer to put your life on display, and should never expect privacy again.

    And hey, Foursquare is fun 😉

  6. @XUP

    I’m aware OF these things….but that doesn’t mean I’ll have anything to do with them.

    Farm Ville, for example.

    You grow virtual crops. Then announce to everyone on Facebook what you grew.

    Good lord. How about going out and digging in a REAL garden?

  7. I would feel sorry for anyone who had to monitor my life. They would probably die of boredom unless they particularly liked to cook and liked movies, astronomy, archeology and college basketball because those are the things I look up on the net most often. (Back in the day, when I went to Vegas a lot, I would pull my shirt out under those “eye in the sky” cams and let them peek at my bra. I thought it was funny.)

  8. I am not a breaker of laws, therefore I have no fear of cameras.

    Yeah, so they might catch me picking my nose, or pulling my undies out of my crack, or any one of a hundred other graceless acts… so what? Cameras are generally only there so footage of illegal acts can be obtained when necessary, and if some minimum-wage rent-o-cop gets a laugh out of me picking spinach out of my teeth, big deal.

    As for Facebook, blogging and social networking, I say nothing on there that I wouldn’t want my mother or husband to read, and I give away no information that foreign intelligence operatives or low-life scammers could easily leverage.

    At the end of the day, we’re all figuratively standing naked on a pedestal, open for all the world to see, if they should choose. Doesn’t make sense to me to get all uptight about it when we’re all equally vulnerable…. unless you’ve something to hide.

    Airport security, as referenced by Brett, is a different animal altogether. We will always be reactive there; terrorists and loons will always find unique ways to do terrible things. It seems that ever-tightening security in airports is just a prescription for repeated failure… but I don’t have any suggestions.

    Actually, I do. In “The Fifth Element”, Bruce Willis’ character is sedated for a long space voyage. Why don’t we all climb into nice cozy little boxes, are gassed into unconsciousness, and flown like luggage? It would be in agreement with Air Canada’s current policy of treating passengers like cargo, and would sure cut down on the terror when your plane drops out of the sky and you wake up dead…

  9. @Susan,

    If you’re not a breaker of laws, would you mind terribly if CSIS put cameras into your washrooms? Your bedroom? Your shower?

    Can they read your mail? Listen to your telephone conversations without a warrant? Bug your home?

    Interrogate your children at school, to see if you are “loyal to the party”?

    Read your thoughts?

    Still not a breaker of laws?

    Guess what, these sorts of things happen in other countries around the world.

    (Except for the thought-reading, though I’m sure that this is coming.)

    Someday, somewhere, someone will take offense to what you do, say, think (rightly or not), and then you might wish that you had not been so passive.

    It is so easy to say, “I have nothing to hide, and so I do not fear surveillance”. It is so easy to say, “anyone who opposes this, has something to hide”.

    Of *course* I have something to hide, and so do you. We all do, and if you say you do not, you are lying.

    I will leave you with a quote from Benjamin Franklin:

    “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

    As far as I am concerned, my privacy (and yours) is an essential liberty.

    Perhaps, luckily for you, there are people who *are* concerned about your privacy, even if you are not.

  10. A little paranoia goes a long way, Brett, and you’ve got enough for both of us and then some. That’s exactly why I don’t worry about such things… there’s fringe elements already hard at work doing it for me. Thank you!

  11. Bett – Information is power. The more a person can find out about you before hiring you or getting into some other business or personal relationship with you, the better, right? As far as the credit reference goes, I guess they’d think if you can’t manage your own money why would they hire you to manage anything in their company? As for the other stuff, I have no idea how effective all this surveillance is as a deterrent or as a method of capturing criminals. A lot of people are spending an awful lot of money on it though for some reason.

    Ken – Foursquare is fun how? I don’t understand it. What’s the point?

    Friar – Ha ha. I played FarmTown for a while and then Café World for a while. It was fun briefly. Then I got bored.

    Geewits – Most of the time no one is watching those cameras anyway. They only get used when there’s a problem. But I’m sure someone, somewhere, somehow saw your bra at least once.

    Susan – Bwah-ha-ha. I don’t think your air travel scenario is that far fetched. I don’t even know why I’m laughing. I’m sure Air Canada would love it – no annoying passengers to deal with en route. No more flight attendants. Forget the seats and movies and food and drinks – just lay us all out on slabs and slide us off the plane when we get there. They could (and will) charge extra for the special “slumber flight” option….which is mandatory.

    Brett & Susan – Please continue. I haven’t quite made up my mind about this yet. I can see both of your viewpoints. There is the practical here-and-now and the wider-ranging philosophical view of the issue.

  12. @Susan

    I dunno….I think Brett makes a good point.

    There are cases where people miss out on jobs, because they’ve been googled by prospective employers, who found out personal information they didn’t like. This never would have been a problem 10 years ago.

    Or, have you ever made an unusual purchase, and have VISA phone you up? That’s because every time you’ve used a credit card or interact card, your spending habits are being tracked. You’re being watched, and they know when something’s changed.

    Not to mention, if you have a recent cell phone, your position can be tracked with the GPS it contains.

    Every website you’ve ever looked up….your preferences, your friends, your tastes, likes, dislikes….that’s all recorded, and if need be the cops or government can look it up.

    Which they can, and HAVE done, countless times before, when required to investigate someone.

    Wake up. This isn’t’ fringe paranoia. This is fact…this is what’s happening NOW.

    And while some people seem perfectly happy with this, I suspect the majority of us don’t like our lives under such close scrutiny.

  13. I’m a Fed, and I know that due to where I’ve worked (specific agencies) that I have a much better idea than most people how much we’re being watched. I’m a computer programmer and technically savvy and I *know* the level of surveillance that we are under. And I’m still okay with it.

    I think the government has a right to know who is looking up websites on how to build explosives from home. I know many people who have been alerted to skimmed credit card numbers by a timely call from their credit company. People in car crashes who don’t know where they are thank their lucky stars that their cell phone has a GPS.

    Yes, it’s true that there is a wealth of information being collected about our every move. So what? I admit it’s irksome when it feeds marketing, but if used for purposes of law enforcement, it’s of benefit to society in general.

    I’m not claiming it’s fringe to believe we’re being watched and recorded and entered into databases. I think it’s fringe to allude that our government is doing it for some nefarious purpose.

  14. I find it a bit eerie to think that someone cares about my spending habits and internet sites. I’m not consistent enough for it to be accurate or useful anyway, which makes it rather pointless.

  15. @XUP,

    “As far as the credit reference goes, I guess they’d think if you can’t manage your own money why would they hire you to manage anything in their company?”

    As far as I know, all of the people responsible for the recent financial crash probably have better credit ratings than you, or I, or anyone on your blog.

    May I present the results of management by those who can manage their own money and have stellar credit ratings.

    🙂

    @Susan,

    I am a pseudo-Fed, and I find your insinuation that I am “fringe” and “paranoid” interesting, but you have the right to your opinion, and I respect it.

    Aren’t you happy that you may express it without fear that it will end up in some database somewhere?

    Or will it?

    Anyway, if I keep talking like this, it will simply give you more “evidence” that I am a fringe paranoid.

    So…

    I am a nuclear engineer by trade, and I have probably got a higher security clearance than you because of my work. I certainly know that my prints are on file at RCMP Headquarters, and CSIS will have a file on me for sure.

    I am smart enough not to tell you exactly the kinds of things I have done, but trust me, I have seen and touched things that you do not even know exist.

    I am also a computer programmer, a system builder, and I run a company that does (among other things) security audits and penetration testing for other companies – in my spare time.

    So, I could probably run with your skills or perhaps exceed them, meaning that I, too, am aware of the level of surveillance people are under.

    But I am not okay with it.

    I do not believe the government has the right to know who is looking up *anything* online if it is *not* causing harm to anyone.

    Did I also mention that before I became a nuclear engineer, I was trained as a chemical engineer?

    You know what that means? I *know* how to make conventional explosives, fuel air explosives, and rudimentary chemical weapons. Poison, too.

    I am also a self-trained machinist, so I can make things out of metal.

    Holy crap, lock me up, I know enough to make a pipe bomb or something!

    Knowledge in and of itself is not dangerous, it is what one does with it.

    If we live in a society where one is considered “fringe” and perhaps even dangerous for *daring* to question the government’s motives – a government that, may I remind you, is paid for by OUR dollars, that was voted in by us, and exists to SERVE US – then count me out, I want NO PART of that society.

    PS – what ever did people do before cell phones with GPS units anyway?

    Oh yeah, the baby boomer generation did just fine without it, if I am correct, there are more of them than there are of my generation (I am 40), and they did so with cars that had no seat belts, drum brakes, poor handling and an excess of alcohol.

  16. Brett… thanks for the interesting dialogue. Your dick is definitely bigger then mine; I’m sorry, I didn’t realize it was a contest.

    I concur with your statement “Knowledge in and of itself is not dangerous, it is what one does with it.” I don’t think people who look at bomb making sites, for instance, should be summarily rounded up for just looking, but I do think that if they are even remotely suspected of bomb-making activity that their Internet usage should fall under close scrutiny and should be used as evidence if applicable.

    Last time I checked, the government *is* us. It’s not some alien entity that we import to rule us… we tell it what we want… and sometimes we even get it.

    PS – what ever did people do before cell phones, period? And that crazy electricity stuff… I bet we’d all be a lot more secure and private without it. Get rid of it all! The benefits are sure to outweigh the costs.

  17. I think it is a useful point that, knowing all this terrifying information about Brett, no one has locked him away for the good of all the rest of us.

    Any info anyone can find out about me on line is very, very bland. Unless my finances got hacked and then I might lose money. But I might get knocked on the head at a pay machine in a parking garage and have similar losses.

    I don’t bother much about being surveilled – life is too short as it is.

  18. Now, there’s no need to be crass, we’re better than that.

    I just figured since you threw down the “Fed card” and the “I’m a computer programmer I know more than you” that I’d quantify things a bit.

    I thought this was a friendly debate, that is all I intended – please note that I was and am *smiling* as I type.

    ‘Tis one of the problems with this form of communication.

    Be that as it may…

    Were I truly paranoid, rest assured that there are ways for one to surf and communicate without being tracked, and that the really dangerous folks know how to do this.

    Encrypted email protocols are freely available, and they can plug into free web mail accounts. Proxies. Onion routers like TOR. SSH. And so forth.

    Plus, if the tools don’t exist, computer programmers will make them.

    You must realize this, right?

    These people are not stupid anymore. Fanatical, perhaps, but not stupid. I guarantee that they are communicating, right now, that they are planning things, and that there is not a damned thing that the very best security agencies can do about it.

    Thus, I stand by my position – the only people that this sort of surveillance will affect are the really small time and dumb criminals (not the kind that fly airplanes into buildings), and innocents like you and I.

    Last time I checked, the government I voted in, time and again, has gone against its promises, and due to the system we have, I can’t fire them. Once they’re in, we’re pretty much stuck and there is little accountability.

    “Get rid of it all!” – let’s not. That would be blaming the tools, not the user. Kind of like saying that knowledge is dangerous, I guess – for after all, a gun is just a fancy stick until someone picks it up and points it at something.

    Anyway – let us agree to disagree – shake?

  19. Brett…

    I threw my employment history in not as a play for superiority, but as a token that I’m not some clueless bint who stays home all day and watches her “shows” and doesn’t actually have a clue about the world around her.

    I am not heated, either, but enjoying the debate, as referenced above (that *wasn’t* sarcasm).

    May I call to mind that Mossad assassination that just happened in Dubai? It was an old-style “hit” straight out of a Ludlum novel. The assassins wore disguises, used throw-away cell phones and had fake passports. However, in the end, surveillance cameras have pieced together enough of the team’s movements to potentially break the case, whereas in the day of Ludlum, before the advent of such surveillance, there would not have been a hope of further information.

    See the story at:
    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1251604/Hamas-assassination-Dubai-Mossad-killing-come-thriller-novel.html

    Were these assassins small-time, dumb criminals? Assuredly not, and certainly they are not innocents. Surveillance works, plain and simple. That’s really my only point.

    Pleasure crossing blades with you, Brett. Consider your hand shook… shaken?

  20. Susan,

    Okay, good!

    (I see my point about communication is correct, I assumed the worst, guilty as charged… I don’t get out much, you see…)

    I had not seen that Dubai incident, I will check out the link.

    It was a fine duel, cheers and a hand shake 🙂

  21. I’m with you XUP, I haven’t made up my mind about this either. Loving Brett and Susan’s interactions, though. Wish I was as smart as them so that I could jump in the middle. But alas, I’m not, so I won’t.

    I will say, however, that the more I’m online, the less I am, if you know what I mean. In the early days, I wouldn’t have thought twice about clicking on this or that, or downloading a free program, or even sharing my real name. I cringe when I think of how naive I was back then. Now, I guess you could call me a skeptical paranoid, but I’m more concerned with the presumptions a potential employer will make of what they find out about me online than I am that our Government has nefarious reasons for collecting all this info about all of us.

  22. @skyetrueheart,

    I’m sure you’re just as smart, it all depends on what you study, right? I am not very good at home renovations, for instance, whereas lots of folks I know run rings around me in that department… but can’t turn on a computer. So it’s all relative.

    I do agree with you, employer searches on your web activities are likely to have a greater effect on us – but then again, I still feel this way:

    If a company doesn’t want me to work for them because of what I do in my “off hours”, then I don’t want to work for them, because the relationship between employee and employer would be a lie, and furthermore, I think they’re a bunch of idiots, because it is *their* loss that they did not hire me!

    Certainly all employers know that a sizable portion of their employees drink alcohol, or smoke, or listen to music they don’t like, or go to church, or whatever – but should it really matter, as long as we’re getting the job done?

    No, it shouldn’t, and any company that thinks it *does* matter… well, quite frankly, I wish them a speedy demise or a hostile takeover by someone more progressive.

    (Okay, I can see if I had affiliations with a known terrorist organization that they might not want to hire me. But since that is not the case…)

  23. @Brett

    Of course, one option is to blog under a pen-name, like I do. I’m suprised so few people do this.

    Not that anyone couldn’t find out about our personal lives if they really wanted to dig.

    But a pen name is like a lock on your car.

    It won’t stop serious car thieves from breaking in.
    But at least it’s one more buffer that will thwart some of the less-competent amateurs.

    Seems to be working for me so far. Because when I google my real name, hardly anything comes up, except a few conference presentations and such.

  24. @Friar,

    Blogging under a pen-name is a good idea if one is trying to avoid trouble from ordinary people.

    Unfortunately in Canada and most other similar countries, the governments have fairly recently implemented legislation that allows certain parties (e.g. law enforcement, or the company for which you and I work) to demand – without warrant or cause – records from any internet service provider.

    So… what this means is that any time you or I post here, or on our own blogs, or anywhere, even if it is from home and under a pen name, it can be traced back to you.

    Not only that, we in Canada are moving towards “cooperation” with other countries, so that various parties in countries such as the USA (e.g. law enforcement, or even media companies interested in copyright infringement) will be able to demand the same.

    I await the day when a Canadian citizen is sent to a US prison for downloading a song.

    Now, given the propensity for leaks in any system that involves human beings, prove to me that someone, somewhere cannot obtain this information on you or I.

    We live in a small town called Splat Creek, right?

    The police sort of resemble those on Dukes of Hazzard, right?

    Well, those same police can without warrant obtain *your* surfing records from your ISP.

    Think about that one for a while.

    I don’t really care too much that the readers here know my real name, when the people who could do some real damage can find me whether I try to hide or not.

    (Okay – I do know how to hide – but then I wouldn’t be interacting with anyone, and what would be the point?)

  25. Violetsky – Ya, most of us lead very benign lives so we reckon we’re okay. However, as Brett points out it’s possible for someone to decide to interpret some of your information in a way that’s not benign and you suddenly find yourself in hot water. There are have quite a few people falsely accused of crimes over the years who were just going about their business when something about them made someone suspicious for some reason and then normal life was pretty much over for them.

    Brett – I want to respond specifically to your point about the question of whether your private life has anything to do with how well you can do your job. That’s a blog post in itself and I believe I did one on this once. That question comes up frequently with people in public office. Clinton and the stained dress is an example. Do his sexual peccadilloes have anything to do with what kind of President he is/was? A lot of people seem to think so. If your personal life is a mess does that not impact your professional life? Does it speak to your character in general? If you cheat on your spouse this tells people you are a liar and untrustworthy. What’s to say you won’t cheat and lie at work, too? I don’t know that you can separate the person you are at work from the person you are at home.

    Skye – Like I said to Brett, I think it’s fair for employers to find out as much as they can about their employees. When you are privy to a company’s business, their secure systems, their financials, etc., etc. they want to be able to trust you. Things like you running an online porn site or having 30 creditors after you should make them think carefully about what sort of employee you might be.

    Friar – It’s sensible to take precautions in all walks of life. We lock the doors to our home. We lock our cars. We don’t wander around alone in the middle of the night in dangerous neighbourhoods, we don’t run with scissors or play with fire, etc. As you say this is no guarantee that nothing bad will happen to us, but it reduces the chances. We just need to use the same common sense with technology.

    Susan & Brett – Excellent discussion. I don’t think Brett is wrong about the possibility of someone using our information against us. But I also don’t think Susan is wrong for refusing to get too worked up about it. Even before technology started recording every moment of our lives, if someone was out to get us for some reason they could have done so. As I mentioned previously, many, many innocent people have been convicted of crimes based on biased interpretations of their actions or things they wrote or said.

  26. @XUP,

    I know what you’re saying, but as history has proven time and again, a squeaky clean personal life and credit record does not mean one is trustworthy.

    I am willing to bet that the majority of the bankers who engineered the financial fiasco:

    1. Are loyal to their spouses
    2. Have excellent credit
    3. Go to church
    4. Are kind to animals.

    Some of the most judgmental, untrustworthy and unfriendly people I know in my little neck of the woods can answer “yes” to each of the above points, and I would never hire them for any company I run.

    It works the other way, too. It is a bit of a stretch (in my opinion, of course) to say that someone who practices infidelity is likely to cheat and lie at work. Those are two completely different situations and environments, and unless one takes into consideration the reasons for the infidelity, can we say it is fair to the person(s) involved.

    Ten thousand years ago, if you cheated on your spouse, you risked (probably at worst) a rock to the side of the head, at best, each partner found someone else to share the animal skins at night.

    Today, you risk losing your entire financial portfolio, at least if you are the male in the relationship, whether you separate, divorce or cheat – maybe that’s why people lie?

    (Note – I am *not* advocating this, just free thinking here, and I hope I did not offend anyone who has been a victim of this.)

  27. Geez poor Brett.
    The government might be out to get him, businesses might be out to get him, and spouses might be out to strip all his wealth cause he is a man.
    But I agree with you Brett. Just because your paranoid it doesn’t follow that they are not out to get you.

  28. @Friar,

    Yeah, and the evil government has read all of them heh heh…

    @Dave 1949,

    Thanks bro 😉

    (This has been an enjoyable discussion, I hope that no one takes any of it too seriously!)

  29. Brett – I don’t dispute that you can have a squeaky clean record and not be trustworthy. Just look at the Colonel Williams case. The other way around however – having a messy record/personal life speaks to your overall character. For example, there is a couple in our neighbourhood – late 40s/early 50s, no kids. Every freakin’ weekend they have a big loud something at their place. I don’t even want to say party because I rarely see other people there, but from 5:00 pm Friday until about 8:00 am Sunday they have the music cranked up really high, There’s yelling and hollering. Beer bottles fly out the doors and windows. The husband can be seen half dressed drunk/stoned out of his mind, half naked walking his dog at 7:00 am and he’ll spit on you and curse you if you get too close to him. He lost his driver’s license years ago. Just from seeing this every week, I’d be extremely reluctant to hire either of them. There is a chance that they’re both brilliant employees, but I doubt it.

  30. XUP,

    Fair enough, but where does one draw the line for deciding that one’s personal life is an indication of how they perform at work?

    Let me give you a personal example, then.

    I am an engineer, I am clean cut, I have a good job, I have a lovely wife and four children.

    I do not listen to normal music, at all.

    I listen to black metal, death metal, grindcore, you name it.

    If you ask me what shows I have seen, I would tell you I have seen Slayer several times, Bolt Thrower, Cannibal Corpse, Impaled Nazarene, Nile, Marduk, Carcass, Napalm Death… etc. etc.

    So if you heard the music I listen to if I had it cranked, you might *assume* that I am a stoner or something.

    After all, some folks assume that the people who listen to that kind of music are skids.

    Nothing could be further from the truth. I just like weird music.

    (FWIW I also listen to classical music, trance, a variety of electronic stuff…)

    Of course your example is a good one. Then again, it is highly unlikely that those people even have the capacity to assemble a resume that can get the past the HR department of Walmart, let alone a Fed Gov agency, so there’s little need for anyone to keep tabs on their personal lives…

    It is all relative of course, I merely point out the dangers inherent in looking too closely at someone’s personal habits and assuming things carry over to the workplace.

    (Translation – I don’t blast Slayer songs from my cubicle.)

  31. Brett – Actually those neighbours do have jobs – the wife is a fed and the guy is some union guy. And it’s a nice family neighbourhood we live in – which makes it all extra weird. And yes, depending on the employer if he knew you were into that music scene he might not hire you; then again he might hire you partially because of your musical tastes. Of course government hiring has to be all unprejudicial and transparent, so none of that would factor into it. They do security clearances where some people might get eliminated based on stuff in their personal lives, but there is no room to factor in musical tastes. Private employers have more leeway. It’s a big risk to take on an employee and you don’t have a lot of time usually to make a decision. Someone can give a great interview and turn out to be a nightmare you can never get rid of. And vice versa. I don’t blame them for wanting as much information as they can get. If they make the wrong decision based on the information they get, then it’s their loss. Too bad we don’t all have the same access to information in our personal relationships!

  32. XUP,

    I hear you, and in a perfect world, it does work that way.

    But at *this* pseudo-government workplace, the local league hockey team you play on has a lot to do with your chances for jobs.

    If you don’t play hockey at all, you probably can’t work for certain groups.

    If you choose to drive a foreign car instead of a domestic pick-up truck, same thing.

    And heaven forbid you listen to anything other than country & western music.

    Don’t live in the wrong town either, that can be a black mark against you.

    I know what you’re saying – it is understandable that they want as much information as they can get.

    And yet, it isn’t working all that well in a lot of sectors.

    Even people who appear to be squeaky clean on paper can be corrupted.

    Personal relationships – oh yes, I hear you, it would be good to know if the person you’re going out for dinner with on Friday is a nutcase!!!