Who cares about privacy?

by Pari

This week I planned to write a blog about my experience with voir dire in federal district court. I sat down at the computer and, as usual, checked my email. The first message was from my kids’ school saying that its liability insurance carrier now requires background checks on all parents volunteering for school activities and/or driving for school events.

Screeech! I skipped a grove on the old vinyl and ended up in Pissed-off Land.

Perhaps most people don’t give a damn about privacy. I’ve heard it’s a generational thing. People my age care. The under-50 crowd doesn’t.

Is this true?

I, like my husband, have nothing to hide. Nothing. That doesn’t stop me from hating the idea that total strangers will have copies of my driver’s license. I also don’t want every Tom, Dick and Harry to have my Social Security number. (Why is it even called “Social Security” anymore when it’s used for id’ing purposes anyway? It didn’t use to be.)

I’m not naïve. I know there must be files and records on me, cluttering cabinets and gigabytes all over the place. I’ve seen how some of that information is handled. Hell, I worked as a temp all over DC for more than a year. Confidentiality in most offices is a total myth.

Nowadays this is more worrisome. There’s the little issue of identity theft.

Just as vexing is the pervasive societal presumption of guilt. Are we really assuming that everyone and her brother are pedophiles with crappy driving records full of DWIs?

I find it difficult NOT to take this kind of request/requirement for background checks and other personal information, well, personally even though I know they’re not meant that way. They’re just so damn heavy-handed, on a par with the school principal punishing an entire class for one kid’s transgression.

Perhaps the military is okay with this approach for team-building. But we’re not doing that here. We’re talking systematic suspicion, automatic distrust. Lawyers might benefit from this attitude, but it’s chipping away at civility in our society in the process.

We’re all so angry.

I’m not proud of this, but my first response to the school’s email was to write a snotty one of my own. “Give me the names, social security numbers and drivers’ licenses of the people who’ll be handling my info. Oh, and BTW, what are their credentials? Q Level clearance?”

Of course I didn’t do it. Well, actually, I did write the letter. Then I deleted it and called the school for more info. But my first reaction was there. I could’ve hit the SEND key as easily as the DELETE.

Am I being unreasonable? All I know is that this trend, and the public’s tacit acceptance of it, disturbs me to my core.

  1. Do you care about privacy? Where are your limits on what’s acceptable to request and what isn’t?
  2. Am I’m being silly?
  3. Does the whole let’s-suspect-everyone-of-wrongdoing-until-he/she-proves-otherwise meme upset you or is it just par for the course?
  4. Do you know anyone who has suffered from identity theft? What was that person’s experience?

I’m looking forward to your replies.


54 thoughts on “Who cares about privacy?

  1. PK the Bookeemonster

    Oh baby are you opening a can worms but you’re not silly and you’re not wrong. This isn’t a democracy or republic anymore; we’re in an oligarchy where a few people in power — in any form from schools to feds — who think they know what is best for everyone. That is also why there is such a huge disconnect between us and Congress and others on that level — of both parties. Privacy and freedom are out the window because they think we’re not smart enough to handle it ourselves; they are.
    And you will see that in the generations because the older generations were taught to be proud to be an individual and you earn your way through life and therefore value the pride and self worth inherent in that. The younger generations were taught differently and therefore are more malleable to those with power.
    Pari, I’m glad you got mad and did something. There needs to be more like you.

  2. JD Rhoades

    I think it depends on what you regard as "private information." The key words from a legal standpoint are "reasonable expectation of privacy."

    Driver’s license number? Social security number? The government already knows these (even though it’s true that, by law, the SS# is not to be used as an identity number) . Stores have been asking for your DL for years if you pay by check. Your home address? You’ve been able to get that from the phone book for years, and no one thought it odd. Stuff you buy, at a store or online? You’ve already shared that information with strangers: the store, the bank, the credit card company. Without a prior agreement that your purchases are to be private, they’re not legally within that zone of privacy.

    These entities do have a responsibility to safeguard information that could be used for fraud or crimes against you, and HIPAA (supposedly) protects health care information. But it seems to me that we’ve suddenly become touchy about things that have only recently been regarded as "private."

  3. Vicky

    Right on Pari. When I was a kid, many moons ago, there were just as many perverts around, but our parents taught us to be street wise and how to avoid these characters. Now parents want the government, or any organization will do, to take care of their kids.
    Here in Canada, the big controversy is our federal government’s decision to scrap the long form census. The bleeding hearts who want gov’t in our personal affairs are wringing their hands in distress. How will we ever manage if the gov’t doesn’t know absolutely everything about us?

  4. Jessica Scott

    Privacy is a big deal but I think you hit the nail on the head: the under 50 crowd just isn’t as worried about it. I can’t even get my mom to switch to online banking, let along order something from Amazon but on the flip side, I also realize that unless I go completely off the grid, there is very little I can do to protect my privacy that doesn’t require a significant amount of effort. Just last month, I found my home address listed on a public website. I have two small girls and the last thing I wanted was people to be able to google my house. I think that’s a shame that we’ve lost so much, despite being in the army and being used to have NO privacy, because Big Brother and Big Money are chipping away at our private selves more and more every day. How many of us are willing to sign up for frequent rewards cards, just to get better sales or coupons?
    I admit the school background check is somewhat daunting. I had a similar reaction when I received the same notice from my daughter’s school. I wasn’t a criminal. Hell, I have a top secret clearance and they want me to submit to a background check that probably only involves Google and a call to the local police department? I mean, come on.
    The problem, though, is that if they don’t require background checks, the schools end up being more liable in the end when someone does slip through the cracks. I think the onus for locking up pedophiles should be back where it belongs: in the courts. After all, it is our justice system that releases these scumbags onto the streets where they can harm potentially more children. But how can they single certain parents out for these checks? Do they pick the ones who have bad teeth and tattoos because they look like they’re guilt of something? Or do they go the opposite routes and pick all the moms? In this case, it’s either all or nothing on the school’s part.
    We as a society need to take a step back and look at where we made the shift from presumed innocent to presumed guilty but I highly doubt that will happen. Presumed innocent is a nice ideal but honestly, how many of us actually practice it in real life. After all, western society is built on the foundation that we are all sinners of some sort. Why change now, just because the school wants a background check?
    Great post!

  5. Mary Arrr

    The real problem here is that the school is allowing a private company to decide who may fully participate in their child’s education. You didn’t tell us if the insurance company is revealing up front what will exclude someone. A drug possession charge in college where the charges were dropped? (Note- this will show up in a criminal background check.) Everyone acts like this is all about protecting the children, but I follow true crime reasonably closely. How many incidents have there been where school volunteers have harmed the children in their care? The school already has the information about who the registered sex offenders in their district are, so I’m not accepting the pedophiles argument.

    As I’ve been a victim of identity theft, I am very worried about the privacy aspect. Because this was my only intersection with the criminal justice system (I’ve never even been pulled over while driving!), I wouldn’t fear the background check itself. I would, however, be very worried about the idea of allowing the school to create "Scarlet Letter Parents" who aren’t allowed to participate in school activities. If the parents have done their debt to society, why should their children be punished?

  6. Shiloh Walker

    Eh, I’ve been volunteering at my kids’ school for 6+ years and this has been a requirement there since day one-while I’m not entirely cool with passing out personal info left & right, I’m willing to do it because it’s being done with the kids’ safety in mind.

    I know other people are going to see it differently, but I honestly believe a school’s main concern is protecting children. The way our school system handled it was parents were told up front the policy-‘we do know that sometimes mistakes are made and we know that you’ve paid your debt to society, however any adult convicted of a felony will not be allowed to volunteer’. The principal is the only one who receives that info-she keeps it confidential.

    Is it entirely fair? No and I’m sorry for those who really get the short end of the stick and have paid their debt and want to participate, but can’t. It’s not fair to them. But then again, that’s kind of life. Nobody ever said life was going to be fair.

    When it comes to kids, I’m sorry but I personally would rather the schools be taking some caution than just allowing anybody to come in contact with them-if they aren’t taking some measure, then there’s nothing stopping a predator from coming in there.

  7. Louise Ure

    I’m with you, Pari. I think the wholesale "guilty until proven innocent" image portrayed by their request is ludicrous.

    I had my own raging anti-privacy scream this week. My mobile phone bill had been paid on time, but I deposited the money into my other mobile phone account. When they phoned to ask about the payment, AT&T confirmed that they had the money — it showed up in the wrong account — but they needed both my bank account number and the routing number in order to move it to the right account. What? They’d had the money for two weeks already and now they wanted my bank account number to confirm that the money had actually been sent?

    It sounded like a scam, so I went through the general AT&T phone number to check it out. Sure enough, they couldn’t move the money without my handing over this private information. I wanted desperately not to accommodate this stupid request but couldn’t risk a bad credit report to prove the principal.

  8. pari noskin taichert

    I think I’m basically with you on this one. What I was taught about democracy in school isn’t what I’m seeing in government.

    I’m not sure about the younger generations not being taught "to be proud to be an individual and you earn your way through life and therefore value the pride and self worth inherent in that."
    My kids’ school emphasizes community service and individual responsibility quite a bit . . .

    You’re right about the government having this info; it had this info all along and in past decades — for example when Hoover was head of the FBI — it was abused. However, I disagree that we’re suddenly more sensitive than we used to be. The personal Social Security number used to be PROHIBITED as a form of identification. It was guaranteed to be private . . . safeguarded.

    With the advent of credit cards and demographic marketing, people who had no business getting our personal info began to get it and use it in ways no one anticipated. I don’t buy that all of this is just fine. You can’t keep info you care about private easily anymore. You NEED a credit card for ID in many places, your signature is now expected to be electronic etc etc . . .

    I’m going to be interested to see what other people think here.

    Maybe i AM overreacting.

    BTW: I despise HIPAA. Privacy? Nope. I know of one case where a hospital refused to give a dying woman’s husband any info because of it. They had a happy marriage. To me, that was a form of abuse.

  9. pari noskin taichert

    Yes. We were taught the same thing. And, yes, there were bad people around. I’m not sure the numbers/ratio has changed all that much.

    I remember my kids’ school counselor telling them (this was in elementary school) that you should never judge a person when you first meet them. I LOVED that counselor, thought she was wonderful. But in this case, we told our kids that if someone they met the first time gave them a bad or strange feeling in their stomachs . . . to just get away from him or her. So what if you miss one potentially wonderful friendship? There are others to be made in this world.

    And the census? Wow. I was actually amazed that more personal info wasn’t asked on ours.

  10. pari noskin taichert

    Oh, man, Jessica . . .
    How do I even respond to your post except to praise it for how articulate you are on the matter? Fantastic and thorough response. And I do know why the school is doing it. I love my kids’ school; that’s why we’ve committed to eating mostly beans and rice for the foreseeable future. But I don’t love insurance carriers and paranoia.

    I hadn’t even considered that angle of the "Scarlet Letter Parents." When I called the school and asked how the info would be disseminated, the woman in charge told me that the names of the parents who could participate would be posted on an internal school website. The others simply wouldn’t appear. I admit when I heard that I felt I could live with it.

    But I don’t trust third parties, big offices with clerical workers who often aren’t screened for their ability to keep information confidential. That’s one part of this that sticks in my craw. The other is, indeed, the assumption of guilt.

    There HAVE been some awful incidents with school staff in Albuquerque. However, I’d put that more with a failed justice system that let these people go the first time with only slaps on the wrist.

  11. pari noskin taichert

    I do understand the response. And I do understand that it’s done to "protect our children."
    I care deeply for the safety and welfare of my own kids as well as others, but I’m not sure this paranoia is actually effective.

    I think that someone who wants to commit a crime will find a way to do it. If it’s not at my kids’ school it’ll be somewhere else. So where does our responsibility end? Do we need to have background checks to go to Micky D’s, to play putt putt?

    I’m not sure. That’s why I thought I’d put it to our ‘Rati readers for their opinions.

  12. pari noskin taichert

    I’m sorry you’ve had to deal with ANYTHING unpleasant, given everything else that’s happened this year. But you bring up a good point. In this computerized society, we’ve become less individuals than numbers. I’m wondering if we’re dehumanizing ourselves in ways we can’t begin to fathom.

    And it’s gotten to the point where simple transactions can’t be done anymore. Again, there’s the trust issue. But I think it’s more than that. Everything is being designed for the convenience of machines rather than people.

    Oh, man . . .

  13. Judy Wirzberger

    Interesting that we so often choose to react to those things that affect us personally or when something finally affects us personally.

    I have been outraged FOR YEARS about the government’s ability to confiscate personal property without due process. Of course, these actions are never blatant. They are insidious. They start with the attack on what the general populace perceives as wrong.

    Drugs. Illegal drugs. So they start by confiscating suspected drug dealers’ autos. The citizens are not outraged. They broke the law. They shouldn’t be able to buy personal property with drug money. The thing is, there has been no due process.

    I’ll skip over a myriad of other items and get to that old devil – tobacco.

    First, the government (now washed clean from their involvement in the tobacco process) stands on the capitol steps and proclaims tobacco is bad, smoke is bad, second smoke is bad. We all agree. Even the smokers. But does the government stop the legal production and sale of tobacco? No. They use it to make money. Tax Tax Tax.

    And we sit and we let it happen because sin is bad so let’s tax people so they have to pay to sin and then they won’t be able to sin because they are out of money and then the government won’t get its tax tax tax and so we will find another sin to tax.

    And, Pari, I won’t even start on what we have sacrificed for perceived safety. Yes, “the schools are only trying to protect our children.” Is it a sheep in wolf’s clothing or a wolf in sheep’s clothing?

    Does the phrase "I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it any more?" mean anything to anyone?

  14. Zoë Sharp

    Hi Pari

    I’m with you all the way on this. I used to use a telephone banking service, where I would post payments to them and contact them by phone, rather than having an actual branch. Every time I rang up, they would ask me security questions which involved my name, date of birth, address, inside leg measurement (all asked outright, so anyone sitting next to me in a crowded office, say, would have had full access to my details) and then would not give me their names. I’d get a first name (often, I suspect, made up) but would not give me a full name so I had a complete record of who I’d spoken to. When they ‘lost’ a couple of cheques, this infuriated me to the point where, as soon as it was sorted, I pulled the plug on the account.

  15. PK the Bookeemonster

    Mary said: "The school already has the information about who the registered sex offenders in their district are, so I’m not accepting the pedophiles argument."
    That hadn’t occurred to me and you’re absolutely right. So for what are they checking? Are they being the morality police then if they already have access to the info they need?
    Thanks for the food for thought today.

  16. Sylvia

    I’m torn on this for a number of reasons. I work in the tech field and at times, the ONLY way we can verify to protect people before giving out access is to know who they are and if they match information they had given to us in a secure environment. If they choose not to give us the information the first time around, then they weren’t being helped in the first place.

    There is privacy and then there is privacy. Legally, the only entity that can use your Social Security number is the SS Admin and IRS. Did you know that? Banks legally can’t ask for it – but do along with your cell phone provider and anyone else. For anyone who is worried about a "national ID" program and privacy – you already have one that you use called your Social Security Number.

    How many of you shop at Safeway or other grocery stores that as long as you give your card a swipe you get the discount rate? What about Costco? What about your gas card? All of this information is being collected and your habits are being tracked, analyzed and exploited. Do you really know HOW this data is being used?

    Online – how many of you clear or block your cookies after every visit? How many of you store passwords? All of this is similar to the Safeway program. Your actions are being tracked, analyzed and monetized. You simply don’t know how.

    So now to the question of the school. Our school asks that if you are going to drive you have to have your DL# and vehicle info on file along with your proof of insurance. OK, I get that and I don’t have an issue with it. As for the background checks – to what extent? Being a chaperone on a field trip shouldn’t require a background check but if you are volunteering and one of the duties is to take my kid to the bathroom – I’d need to think about that.

    As for those under 50 – I’d say those under 35 🙂 don’t give a damn about their privacy. After all, they are posting their T&A online and sharing this stuff across iPhones, YouTube and whatever else. What we call violation of privacy they call exposure.

    I do know someone who has had the dreaded identity theft experience and it is horrible.

    When I was going to school we had a Jr. Varsity coach that was arrested for molesting players. That pretty much tainted me for the "you betcha we’re going to do background checks".

  17. Dana King

    I’m with you all the way. I particularly like your idea to request the information on those who will be checking yours. How can you be sure the information is safe with them?

  18. Kagey

    We have started refusing to give SSN# to medical offices and other places that ask, but don’t really need them. My FiL who runs a medical practice actually admitted that some of the information they ask for – SSN but also "next of kin not living with you" — aren’t for medical reasons, but actually data to help them collect on any bad debt you may rack up. And they don’t train their employees on the distinctions — we were nearly denied treatment at a local hospital because we wouldn’t give SSN, until we insisted we speak to a supervisor, who backed up our assertion.

    I don’t give my phone number to the hair cut place. I don’t give it at every store that asks for it. I’ll give zip code, since that’s usually just the owners trying to figure out where to market in general, not to me specifically. My store "loyalty" card is linked to a wrong phone number. You don’t actually have to fill in any of the personal data to get that card. You can leave it all blank, and they’ll still give you the card.

    There is an age divide on this issue, but the 50+ crowd needs to understand how much is public – you bought your house? You sued your last boss? You were sued by your neighbor? That’s all public record, and much more easily found now that many counties have records online. "Public record" used to mean buried in a paper file in the courthouse. Now it a few clicks away. I work to protect my identity information, but I know that I can only stick one finger in one hole in the dike, and there are dozens of holes.

    I don’t know how I feel about the school thing. Our church requires training and a background check before you can work with kids. The reason the insurance guy gave at a presentation I attended was that when Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, and other youth organizations got tougher on "2 deep leadership" (no single adult every alone with kids), the creeps turned to churches for access to young children. Yikes! I know that, when I tutored children, I always met in their homes with a parent present or at a public place like the library or a coffee shop. My brother, an art teacher who takes private students, is the same way. We have nothing to hide, but we keep ourselves beyond suspicion. We’re being smart, but I saddens me that we have to be so vigilant.

  19. billie

    My first reaction was that I have so much other stuff to spin my energy wheels on – this would not be one of them.

    Second reaction, once I paused longer to think – if my children were in school, I’d probably want parent volunteers, as well as teachers, and all school personnel, to be checked out. This is assuming they actually DO check people out and it’s not just a check-box that gets ticked.

    The first reaction is probably coming more from the fact that I’m a homeschooling parent, so haven’t had to deal with the school bureaucracy, ever.

    The second is more from my child therapist self who has seen more than my share of sexually abused children, some of whom were abused by adults encountered under the school umbrella. In some cases, background checks would have indeed saved the children from abuse. But clearly it’s just one more layer of possible protection.

  20. Kagey

    Oh, and I have my public library account set to not save my checkout history, and we don’t have a TIVO, so nobody has record of what we watch, or how often we watch it. I was startled by the stats the day of the Super Bowl "wardrobe malfunction" – TIVO had stats on how many times it was replayed. That means SOMEONE could figure out our exact viewing habits. We still use a VCR to tape shows to watch.
    Uh, am I too paranoid?

  21. Eika

    1. Do you care about privacy? Where are your limits on what’s acceptable to request and what isn’t?

    Yes. I’m in teh under fifty- heck, I can’t even drink for another few months- and I DESPISE how much information people feel they have the right to. They’re allowed to know my name. If I’m applying for a job, they can get more information; if I know them, more information. But most of it’s private, because it’s MINE.

    2. Am I’m being silly?

    No. Ever read LITTLE BROTHER by Cory Doctorow? He released a free copy of the e-book; if you read it and aren’t paranoid, then you’re a fool, because most of it is based off what’s possible today taken a step further.

    3. Does the whole let’s-suspect-everyone-of-wrongdoing-until-he/she-proves-otherwise meme upset you or is it just par for the course?

    It drives me crazy. I don’t let it rule my life, when I can, and try not to judge others… but I hate being looked at that way.

    4. Do you know anyone who has suffered from identity theft? What was that person’s experience?
    Not yet. I give it one year after my sister leaves home, though.

  22. pari noskin taichert

    I’m amused. When I went for voir dire, one of the questions the judge asked was if any of us had an opinion about "The War on Drugs." Suffice it to say, I think my answer disqualified me for that particular case. <g>

    I usually vacillate between sad and angry.

    Yep. I always ask for full names now and if it’s important, I keep a log with time and date too.

    I am SO glad you chimed in.
    My university used my SS number, my health care provider uses it, my doctor’s office uses it, my bank uses it.
    You’re also right about all of the info that’s collected on us and that we blithely give. I don’t like it, don’t know how it’s used and don’t know how to do anything about it except to opt out when I can find a way. But I also use technology all the time to communicate with readers and friends, to find people I care about etc etc.

    So I’m a bit of hypocrite, or at least a confused person, about all of this.
    re: the school
    I don’t mind a bit that they want to know that I am a legal driver and have insurance. But I wonder about the volunteering stuff. My husband wondered if we could carpool, if the school and carrier would intrude on that activity too since it’s transporting students to and from the locale.

  23. pari noskin taichert

    You can’t.

    I simply agree with you. Pretty much on every point.

    Thanks for chiming in. There’s no right or wrong here. You know that. I just noted my reaction and wanted to know how others felt/feel about it. The layers of protection to which you refer might truly be that. I wonder though. Background checks catch some of the offenders, but what about all the others that never get caught? They’re still out there . . .

    I just don’t know.

    Too paranoid? I’m not sure. But I love your name.

    I don’t know exactly why, can’t put my finger on it precisely, but your response gave me a lot of hope. I’m delighted that you’re pissed. How odd is that? <g>.

    We’re trying to raise our children to be aware of these things too. I hope they won’t fall for the "exposure" line that Sylvia referred to.

  24. Dudley Forster

    A can of worms is right. Most of what you think of as private information is now out there in one or multiple databases. It is virtually impossible to eliminate your digital footprint. (http://articles.sfgate.com/2010-07-06/business/21939148_1_search-digital-footprint-ad-networks ) If you want to know more about the problems with privacy, including governmental intrusion you should checkout the Electronic Frontier Foundation or EFF. http://www.eff.org

  25. toni mcgee causey

    You would not believe the stuff I could find out about almost any one of you on the internet. There are several large legitimate services out there that allows me to do a background check. If I know enough about you, I don’t even have to have your SS# or your DL# to find the right person (duplicate names will show up, but identifying data, such as where you live and who your relatives are). Assuming I can narrow it down to the right person, I can pay a small fee $19.95 for your general information, and a slightly higher fee (usually about $39 or $49) which will include a lot of your credit history, anything you’ve ever done in court, your arrests records, your assets, your children’s names, DOBs, DL#s, accidents, etc.

    And that’s someone who is not even remotely a hacker, who isn’t trying to do you harm.

    What really freaked me out on one of these research forays [when we were checking out a potential employee–with his permission] was that I could click on the person and see all the names of their neighbors, and pertinent information about them–like anyone with a federal conviction living in their vicinity (and what those convictions were). And much much more.

    Sadly, the idea of privacy in today’s internet world is non-existent. If you think you have privacy, you are simply misinformed–unless you live completely off the grid.

    It bothers the hell out of me. I see people blogging (in great detail) about their kids and they’ll make general references about where they live and they think they’re hidden, and they’re not.

  26. pari noskin taichert

    You’re right, of course. And I didn’t even go there. Boy. I’ve never paid for any of those sites, but do know the amount of info and how easily it’s acquired. I think about it a lot too. There’s no way to take back any info once it’s out there.

    Yeah. I know. But I still don’t like it. And just because it’s easy, should I make it easier? Again, I don’t know.

  27. Dudley Forster

    To all you Brits, including Zoe, how do you feel about all those CCTV cameras everywhere? Some cities, like New York, are trying for that level of coverage. It just makes me kind of cringe to think that there is an exceedingly good chance that if I am in any public place I will be under a uniform surveillance system. I also remember reading that in some places they were going for sound through directional mikes.

  28. pari noskin taichert

    You’re talking about over the pond when surveillance cameras are everywhere here too. While my hometown doesn’t have them as part of a governmental push, the television stations seem to be picking up the slack. Almost every major road intersection in the city has them.

  29. Emma

    Hi Pari

    You’re right to be concerned and right to ask who is handling this information and how securely it will be kept. Surely for volunteer parents all the insurance company needs to know is that you have a driver’s licence and you’re insured. UK insurance companies have access to a database of insurance claims so they can check if you’re made a claim on your motor insurance for an accident anyway. The school can check of the list of volunteers against the register of paedophiles on behalf of the insurance company. Given that the school (presumably) know the children and their parents, then the school should be able to weed out and refuse the riskier parents. Remember too children are at greater risk from someone related to them then they are from a stranger.

    There was a case in the UK recently where a parent was barred from watching his child on a school sports day because the school "had not done a criminal records bureau (CRB) check on him". A CRB check simply identifies whether someone has a criminal record and records spent crimes. Ironically the parent concerned was a taxi driver so his employers had already made a CRB check so they could employ him, but that wasn’t good enough for the school.

    I does concern me that all these background checks and personal information that gets collected simply becomes a tick box exercise because no one has chance to properly vet the information and ensure it checks out.

  30. pari noskin taichert

    I responded, but I guess it didn’t take.
    Basically, your comment made me worry about what’s going to happen here, too. There are kids’ plays and concerts, in-class presentations to which parents are invited. There are sporting events and school dances etc.

    How far will the insurance companies go in demanding this information?

  31. gayle

    Requiring a background check to volunteer at your child’s school is going to become more typical. The school where I teach just started requiring this last year. I found out that many of the school districts in our area already had this requirement. One big problem is that my school corporation started this not at the beginning of the school year, but during the last 3 months of school. Basically if you are going to be around the students in any capacity a background check will be required. Adding to the confusion, there are 2 types, a more extensive and expensive one for certain activities and a cheaper one for other activities. I work in a poor area and the parents will be required to pay for this yearly, which also causes a hardship for some of our parents. I did find it humorous that one parent who was also a police officer was highly upset that he too would be required to submit to a background check just like everyone else.

    Personally I think it is a shame that we as a society have come to this. But as a teacher I will appreciate the parents who will do this so that they can continue to go on field trips, pop popcorn, help out at class parties, tutor students, etc.

  32. pari noskin taichert

    Yeah. I just made the copies. I do know that I refused to do it at my children’s other school and so did many other parents. That meant less good parents in the classroom. Volunteering fell off dramatically.

    Everyone says that parents should be involved in their kids’ education, that they should know what’s happening at the school. But when we penalize most parents — most of whom have done nothing wrong — we’re sending the message that they’re not really valued.

    The financial hardships will become more and more of a reality too.


  33. Mike Dennis

    Before I comment on this post…
    please insert your credit card number here_______________________,
    then your Social Security Number (for verification, of course) here__________________________, then your home address_________________________________,
    cellphone no.__________________,
    email address______________________,
    bank account number_________________________

    Did you sign your check?

    Must be 21 years of age. Not valid with any other offer. Not to be used by women who are nursing, pregnant, or may become pregnant. Void where prohibited. Some assembly required, Talk to your doctor. See dealer for details. Certain restrictions apply.

  34. Karen in Ohio

    Did you know that insurance companies in the US already trade information? And that they’ve been doing it for decades? Not just the auto insurance companies, but the life and health insurance providers, as well. There is something called the Medical Information Bureau, or MIB, and 30 years ago I was shocked to realize that they collected data about every American who sought health care. In fact, this group has been around more than 100 years! See for yourself:


    So if you ever wanted complete privacy, well, too late.

  35. Alafair Burke

    I’m not surprised at all that schools require background checks. You know if there were ever a car accident or a crime committed, and there was something shady in the parent’s background, everyone would be screaming, Why didn’t you do a background check?

    I’m more offended by the rampant data mining that goes on for commercial purposes. The only way to truly have privacy now is to live like Ted Kozinski in a cabin in the woods.

  36. Nancy Laughlin

    I too hate to give out my driver’s license, SSN, or credit card information, especially to people I don’t know. I have been a victim of identity theft twice, once when some stole my drivers license number, not my card, just my number. They then used a fake license with my number to open a bank account and bounce checks all over the place. I couldn’t write checks for 9 months until I got it cleared up. Fixing the problem cost me quite a bit of money, time and frustration.

    The second time was easier. Someone stole my credit card number and used it. I put a permanent fraud hold on my card. It isn’t one I use, so I spotted the theft quickly.

  37. Alafair Burke

    And shame on me, I meant Ted Kaczynski. How can I claim to be obsessed with serial killers and misspell that one?

  38. pari noskin taichert

    Thank you, Mike. I appreciate the laugh. Has anyone seen that ACLU video about ordering a pizza?

    Gahhhhhh, Karen! Gaaaahhhh.

    You’re right, Alafair. And I’m not sure that being off the grid is really that feasible either. Salon.com has an article on that right now. (and don’t worry about spelling; you’re among friends <g>)

    Thank you for speaking up. I am so sorry you’ve had to go through that twice. I wonder if it has to do with an easier name? I actually know someone here with the same one, same spelling too. I’ve always thought that the main advantage of having my weird one is that no one else can remember quite how to spell it.

  39. Debbie

    I would be curious based on the little info that I’ve shared what could be found out about me. Anyway, we’ve never thought much about providing a criminal record check but it is grandfathered so the school system has one that is currently six years out of date. I do plan to find out when the schools reopen if the list of pedifiles is available to schools in our district. And not to make anybody further paranoid: my husband calls those checks, ‘The I haven’t been caught YET paperwork.’ I can’t see how it’s detrimental providing that the school doesn’t already have the information. One other question: being designated a pedifile is a clinical diagnosis. If this is required as part of sentencing, a school potentially might have that info. however, if a person were simply charged, the school may not know the person should not have access to children if they don’t also have lists of people convicted of sexual crimes who were not further designated as a pedifile.

  40. Doug Riddle

    My children (24, 22, 19 and 17) also known as the Facebook Zombies, and I argue about this subject on fairly regular basis. It just amazes me to no end how much information about their lives online and who they allow to have their picture. What I get back is…"It is just our friends Dad."…..So what. Why do your friends need to know everything about you….lol. And what makes you think you will even recognize these people at your 20th High School Reunion…..lol.

    But they laugh at me when I refuse the give cashier at a department store my phone number or zip code….."Sure you can have it, just left me photocopy your drivers licence."……That always ends that line of questions….and embarasses the children. I call that a Win Win.

  41. Allison Brennan

    Just saw on Publishers Lunch that someone sold a book about modern parents talking to their kids about sex . . . in light of the fact that 22% of teenage girls have posted a nude picture of themselves on the Internet. That’s ONE IN FIVE and incredibly scary, particularly if you’re the mother of teenage girls (like me.)

    This topic has really made me think, Pari. I tend to be fairly Libertarian in my views and Big Brother is one of my hot button issues. One of my favorite quotes is from Benjamin Franklin. This is probably paraphrased, but it’s something like, "Those who give up essential liberties in order to secure a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety."

    I’ve wrestled with what this means–true individual liberty–in the face of horrific monsters who live in our society. I don’t see killers and child predators around every corner, but they are in every community. But the movie MINORITY REPORT sort of struck home the point–if we COULD stop a murder before it happens–before the person commits the crime, before the person even knows they’ll kill–should we?

    We can’t look at a person and say, based on their background, that they WILL become a predator, even if they have all the signs. Yet, when someone IS a predator, has been convicted, we know statistically that they have a far greater chance of reoffending.

    Which, when it comes to kids, makes me want to side with Shiloh. Except . . . I remember the parable about glass houses, and after working in the legislature know too many stories of teachers who have been moved around from school district to school district after inappropriate behavior with students. So why are they doing background checks on parents when they move around their own instead of firing them? Yet, I wouldn’t want a felon driving my children around.

    It’s enough to make my head spin. Hence, I dropped out of politics and into my nice fictional world where I get to kill bad guys and cut the dicks off child predators and get away with it. 🙂

  42. Eika


    Yeah, a lot of people are surprised about how angry I am. The way I see it, I might be a minority, but I’m vocal and informed, which means I vote. Worst nightmare for lots of politicians (and possibly why, during the primaries in 07/08, Bill Clinton and Obama both came to speak at my high school. Well, also because New Hampshire has the first primary and tends to set the stage, but I like to think it’s because of how vocal people are in my area).

  43. pari noskin taichert

    Yeah, that’s the thing that bothers me. It doesn’t really screen for those that didn’t get caught or might commit a crime in the future. It’s stop-gap at best.

    Thanks for the laugh. I also appreciate the secondary benefit of insisting on your rights at the cashier <g>.

    I know that we’re in similar situations (yours is crazier with more kids <g>) and I’m not for one minute advocating letting felons drive my kids around! This all sticks in my craw on so many levels and, I guess, I just wish — as a society — we’d examine these requests more frequently. But unlike the discussion here at Murderati today, where people voiced their opinions pro and con, the larger societal discussion would probably — and rapidly — degenerate into finger pointing and name calling. It’d become a political issue and divide along party lines and NOTHING would get done.

    Just can’t deal with that . . .

    I’m not surprised as much as delighted that you’re concerned about it AND that you speak out. All Hail Eika!!!

  44. Debbie

    Not sure how zip codes work but up here in Canada one postal code can represent one apartment building or as few homes as four townhouses or a triplex. We had a police officer come out to a school council meeting and although the child he tracked online did not appear to give out any personal information, by pulling out a few details (I like playing with my baby sister, I’m selling my DS…), and the nickname, the officer eventually landed right at the child’s front door – google earth image and all! It’s just creepy. Caution vs trust – we just have to create the balance that works for us. The approach the officer taught the children when in the classroom was to pretend that you are on a street corner. Would you peel off your clothes, shoot off your mouth to someone about a teacher, dance drunk with friends while explaining how lazy you are at work…? Online is not secure-it’s world wide and permanant.

  45. Emma


    Over here (UK) we’re not bothered by CCTV cameras everywhere because a) there are too many of them for anyone to actually monitor them 24/7, b) the images are too grainy and poor so the court system refuses to allow CCTV images as evidence, c) not all of them are working or even pointed in the right direction and d) our weather means we’re usually using umbrellas, wearing hats or hoods…

  46. Cornelia Read

    Pari, I’ve been mulling over this post for a while now. I’m not sure whether it’s just that I come from such a long line of conspiracy theory paranoids or just that I saw the Will Smith movie Enemy of the State the other night, but I figure our privacy is merely an illusion these days.

    The government, etc. will always use bogeymen to try to hem us in–whether it’s "strangers with candy" when the majority of child molesters are people close to the family, or "foreign terrorists" when they want to just keep track of citizens… it’s all bogus, and it’s probably too late to think that anyone who wants to CAN’T tap into our most intimate details.

    But I’m a pessimist.

  47. pari noskin taichert

    I’d like that police officer to come to every school and do the same presentation. It’d be a lot more meaningful than parental warnings.

    Where I live, the weather would make every picture clear . . . unless there were a dust storm.

    I remember reading a short story about these issues when I was in my teens. It’s been around a long time. Only it feels more urgent now b/c of the extra layers of paranoia in our society in general.

    You, Toni and others are most likely right about it being too late. But I like deluding myself. Does that make me an optimist?

  48. Debbie

    At the end of the school year, police were investigating a Facebook challenge for teens to nail a grade eight student over the summer and post their results. The police went into schools warning kids about coersion and sexual assault. These are little kids and as grown up as seventeen to twenty-ones may think themselves, I did research for my novel on the date rape drug and it’s damn scary. Colourless, odourless, flavourless. I’d have been grateful for fake ID and flattered by a drink when I was young. I would have trusted the person who got me in to the club: come on, lets face it, they got me into the bar, they must be a nice person right? The drinking age up here is lower. Let the Zombie kids know that it’s not just friends online. Have they ever stopped talking to someone, lost a friend, made an enemy, been treated unfairly? They’re no longer at risk from pedafiles – the risks change as we mature. From candy bars offered to the weak and defenceless to flattery and good times to the insecure. ‘Hey, I thought we were friends?’


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