FC: Why Ralph Nader is a privacy hypocrite, by Aaron Lucas and Lizard

From: Declan McCullagh (declanat_private)
Date: Sun Jul 01 2001 - 06:12:53 PDT

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    Date: Thu, 28 Jun 2001 17:01:28 -0400
    From: "Aaron  Lukas" <aaronlat_private>
    To: <declanat_private>
    Subject: Nader's double standard on privacy
    Ralph Nader declares that "Your personal information is your personal 
    property." If that's true, his own organizations are engaging in "theft" 
    and he doesn't seem to mind. For more on Nader's hypocrisy, See my article 
    from yesterday's National Review Online: 
    I wish I'd had his latest privacy screed when I worte it!
    Respect Us! (Or Else)
    The anti-trade left will stoop to anything.
    By Aaron Lukas, an analyst at the Cato Institute's Center for Trade Policy 
    June 27, 2001 11:20 a.m.
    The trouble with anti-trade activism is, as you may have noticed, the 
    anti-trade activists. They just can't seem to shake the image of 
    window-smashing radicalism that has dominated television coverage from 
    Seattle to Quebec City. Such pictures have led to a general public 
    perception that the activists will go to any length to advance their 
    menagerie of retrograde causes. No tactic  with the possible exception of 
    careful analysis and reasoned discourse  is out-of-bounds. "Doing whatever 
    it takes," as one prominent protester in Quebec City said, means that 
    vandalism, violence, and harassment are acceptable behavior for the Black 
    Blockheads and Ruckus-Societarians of the world.
    But such nastiness, we're inevitably told, is limited to small groups of 
    rascally anarchists. (By the way, am I the only one who thinks that people 
    who embrace tariffs and an industrial policy haven't fully grasped what the 
    word "anarchist" means?) The "vast majority" of globalization's critics are 
    respectable, thoughtful, peace-loving pillars of society. They may 
    understand the "frustration" that drives the actions of the fringe, but 
    they certainly don't condone their antics. "Kids will be kids," they say, 
    "We'd like to stop them, but there's nothing we can do!"
    Well, here's a thought: The "respectable" groups might start by not 
    actively encouraging criminal behavior. For example, an e-mail from 
    Margrete Strand Rangnes, the field director for Public Citizen's Global 
    Trade Watch, recently appeared in my in box. Trade Watch is another fine 
    organization brought to us by the Left's patron saint, Ralph Nader, and its 
    goal is basically to dismantle the international economy. In furtherance of 
    that goal, Ms. Rangnes decided to distribute the personal contact 
    information for the steering committee members of USTrade, a business 
    coalition that supports open trade and the passage of trade promotion 
    authority for the president.
    The names and contact information were collected by a member of the Sierra 
    Student Coalition, the student-run arm of the Sierra Club  another 
    supposedly reputable operation. A Sierra operative "disguising himself as 
    an elite," the e-mail reports, "infiltrated the [USTrade] meeting and 
    emerged with important documents."
    Public Citizen clearly has no qualm with embracing a "diversity of tactics" 
    in its war against the freedom to trade. While the personal information in 
    its e-mail is offered "only as a public service," the purpose of 
    distributing it is spelled out for those who don't take the hint: "A little 
    birdie has told us that this list could be used to send large numbers of 
    e-mails, faxes, and phone calls to these corporate free-traders." The 
    message concludes with a plea not to "let those wealthy white men from 
    USTrade win this fight!" (Of course, over a third of the names appear to be 
    women, and likely no one on the list is as wealthy as Nader himself.)
    So, Public Citizen thinks it's acceptable to distribute material 
    encouraging the harassment of specific private individuals. Bravo. Very 
    grown-up, very respectable.
    Remember, we're not talking about elected representatives here. There 
    wouldn't be anything wrong with Public Citizen and the Sierra Club 
    exhorting their minions  uh, members  to harass congressmen with phone 
    calls and faxes. Listening to complaints is a politician's job. We pay them 
    to take that kind of flak.
    But prank-calling private citizens to punish them for their political views 
    is another matter entirely. Not that prank-calling isn't fun. I got a huge 
    kick out of dialing random numbers from the phone book  when I was ten. 
    ("Ima Hogg? You've just won a year's supply of pork rinds!") Obviously the 
    anti-globalization folks have some maturing to do.
    "We could tell who they were at the meeting," jokes Caterpillar's Bill 
    Lane, a member of USTrade and one of the targets of the harassment 
    campaign. "They were drinking Starbucks coffee and brought in their own 
    Lane isn't surprised by the e-mail, and sees it as a desperation tactic. "I 
    think they were a little overwhelmed at the number of people that were 
    there," he told me.
    Desperation or not, the spectacle of supposedly responsible adults 
    encouraging juvenile behavior is just downright sad. But it's to be 
    expected, really, from people who think tearing down traffic signs or 
    chaining yourself to an oil tanker, as activists did during President 
    Bush's recent trip to Europe, is acceptable behavior. Speaking of Europe, 
    it's interesting to note that the Public Citizen e-mail is illegal under 
    the European Union's Data Privacy Directive. That law forbids the 
    dissemination of personal information over the Internet without the 
    subject's consent. I wonder if the European recipients of this list realize 
    that they're trafficking in forbidden data?
    The anti-globalization left demands that people take it seriously, but 
    that's hard to do when confronted by a PR strategy that vacillates between 
    tantrums and pranks. I suppose with no facts on their side, that's the best 
    the activists can do.
    Date: Thu, 28 Jun 2001 08:57:38 -0700
    From: lizard <lizardat_private>
    To: declanat_private
    CC: politechat_private, excalibur25at_private
    Subject: Re: FC: Ralph Nader demands more privacy regulations: Opt-out 
     > Source:  PrivacyRightsNow!
     > http://www.privacyrightsnow.com/
     > Opt-Out for Your Privacy
     > By Ralph Nader
     > June 21, 2001
     >       Your personal information is your personal property.
    But since Nader is a socialist, and socialists believe that 'property is
    theft', he should be applauding the actions of the corporations! After
    all, as he himself as noted, corporations are de facto governments, and,
    under socialism, all personal property is seized by the government.
    Thus, the current corporate data collection schemes are simply socialism
    in action -- property taken by the government.
    So why does he object?
    (It always amazes me how the leftist of the lefties become ardent
    defenders of private property and individualism once it's their own ox
    being gored -- or socialized.)
    From: "Thomas Leavitt" <thomasleavittat_private>
    To: declanat_private
    Subject: Re: FC: Ralph Nader demands more privacy regulations: Opt-out not 
    Date: Thu, 28 Jun 2001 17:10:53 -0700
    Well, I'm certainly going to be sending in *my* opt-out notice ... I was 
    wondering why I suddenly got this, guess now I know.
    My immediate reaction was, "How nice. I wish they were required to do an 
    'opt-in', like all of us in the on-line world." (and I mean, all of us) ... 
    off-line companies an unfair advantage over their on-line competitors when 
    it comes to gathering and marketing customer information.
    Off-line corporate America could easily do something similar to the little 
    checkboxes on each form that most on-line companies include - of course, 
    this would result in a significant decrease in the amount of postal spam we 
    all receive, and the level of information they can assemble on us without 
    our consent - so it won't happen.
    In a sense, if you think about it, we owe the pioneering spammers a huge 
    debt: their obnoxious behavior forced the "opt-in" standard upon the 
    on-line world - without it, we'd probably still have the same pathetically 
    weak information distribution regulations that off-line companies have.
    Of course, of the dozens and dozens of companies who have my information in 
    one form or another, an insurance company I use is the only one who has 
    sent me anything so far, thus it would seem that compliance and/or the 
    number of companies affected, is pretty weak.
    I'll give my insurance company this: the notice was clear, and sent 
    separately from my bill. I intended to send it in, even before I saw this 
    note... reading the fine print, the opt-out option is as full of holes as 
    Swiss-cheese, so I don't regard it as counting for much, but anything to 
    stem the flow of crap into my mailbox is welcome.
    Thomas Leavitt
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