I saw a TV advertisement recently for a company offering online background checks (I won't provide a link, or name them because I think their service is disgusting and wide open to abuse). Simply stop by their website, drop a credit card number on 'em, and you'll be able to find out if your boyfriend is a convicted pedophile or not. Of if that prospective employee has a history of drug use. Maybe you wish to know if your future father-in-law was ever caught inflagrante delicto with a three-legged poodle, a half-pound of ground pork, and a jackhammer. In fact, you can use this service to find out if someone is a Deadbeat Dad, on a Terrorist Watch List, was ever cited for speeding, littering or spitting on the sidewalk, and their financial status.
Why, that sounds like a great service to have access to, doesn't it? It could save you an awful lot of trouble (or give you the means to get even with your enemies, real and perceived), and if you really need to make certain about that woman sharing your bed, or that cute guy who just asked you out -- or even your hairdresser, dogwalker or podiatrist, should you have nagging doubts about them -- then why not? I mean, peace of mind and all that, right?
The commercial in question made a great show of letting women (specifically) know that there's a lot of cads out there (no shit; they do the same with all the burglar alarm commercials). If you were a devotee of Lifetime television (Where I saw the ad, loooong story) then you already knew there's only two kinds of men in the world; the homicidal/polygamist/sadistic/serial-wife-killer/abuser/rapist and the pussywhipped limpdick who's subservient to ultra-powerful, career-woman wife. The sort who would eat a mile of her shit just to get the chance to sniff at her asshole.The commercial is pretty much aimed at those women -- the paranoid, brain-dead kooks who live and die by the Movie of the Week. The ones who think that all male/female relationships cleave close to the way they're portrayed on TV, who can't separate the fantasy of television from reality. They believe that a rapist lurks about every corner, and that every man is out to "get" her; the service is presented as a valuable tool that no woman who wants to avoid being raped/ripped off/murdered/disappeared/mistreated/disrespected/dumped for a younger model should be without.
Nothing like a little fear-mongering to drive up sales, is there? Besides, if you are the kind of person who really is this paranoid, then you're probably pretty lonely in any case, so the chances of a new boyfriend/girlfriend being a masher -- the chances of there being a new boyfriend/girlfriend AT ALL -- are pretty low.You're either the type that's building a bunker in your basement, or others just notice the crazy in you and give you a wide berth. Get used to it.
Naturally, I can see men using this service, too. And some of them might actually be stalkers -- or like a great many of the women who will use this service, petty idiots with an irrational axes to grind -- who are basically being given a valuable tool. Then there's the racist who doesn't want to hire minorities (more likely to be the Minority who Won't Hire Whitey) so he goes out and uses the reports he pays for hoping they've had even minor brushes with the Law in order to justify not hiring them.
Of course, it never occurs to anyone who would do this that if they're using the service to get the goods on their potential friends and employees, then it stands to reason that someone's doing it to them, too. And judging from the parade of morons who routinely show up on shows like Judge Judy, Judge Jeannine, Judge Alex, Judge Karen, etc, etc. (no wonder crime rates are so high; all the fucking Judges are on TV!), I can just see an endless line of mouth-breathing morons running into courtrooms all over the country with similar reports offered by similar websites, submitting them as "evidence" of the "defendant's character". If aliens landed today, and if they formed a profile of mankind by monitoring our "Courtroom Shows" they'd come to the realization that about 75% of us couldn't find their own asses with both hands and a flashlight, and look like we were a genetic experiment gone horribly wrong. They'd probably come to the conclusion that no intelligent life was here, and just for good measure, they'd better destroy the planet before we pollute the galaxy. You have to ask yourself a few questions about this sort of thing: What standards are there? What are the criteria under which this information is handed out? What guarantees do you have the information is accurate? What happens if someone is injured by information on that report? Are such reports admissible in a court, or to deny employment, and under what criteria?
What happens if you're the victim of identity theft? What if this service actually helps a criminal to steal your identity?
I'm thinking of the day when someone is denied a job because of a 15 year old pot bust when they were 18. What happens when someone is wrongly put on a Sex Offender List because the information on those reports was abused by someone looking to get even with them? What happens when someone's marriage is destroyed by that information? Why should such information be so easy to get and be available to anyone without your permission in the first place?
Way back in the Dark Ages the Anglo-Saxon Kings of England commissioned a detailed study of their kingdom, to include all the people in it, their professions, their possessions and their holdings, right down to the last sheep and cooking pot. It was called the Domesday Book (Doomsday Book), and whenever the King needed to raise some taxes or take some land from one noble to give it to another, they consulted The Book. It was used to tax, and to punish. The King knew who could afford his new taxes and how much they could afford to pay, but he could also use the information in that book to take from one noble and to give to another, and thus, everyone had a reason to be very, very loyal to His Majesty.
Nowadays, thanks to the magic of computerized data collection and storage (the process is known as Data Warehousing), we have a much more extensive Domesday Book; not only is your financial life available to anyone willing to pay for the records, but now almost every aspect of your PERSONAL life is an open book to anyone who'll cough up the $49.95. Since we live in a culture in which there are no boundaries, and absolutely no common sense, let alone respect for others, we're probably all in for a lot of trouble from now on because someone has just made your life available to a legion of doofuses ranging from the "Simply Curious" to the "Criminally Insane" now can gain access to your personal info.
If I ever hear anyone complain about their "Right to Privacy" being violated again, I'll shoot them. You violate your own right to privacy (such as it is) every day when you fill in online surveys, surf the web, use a debit card or join the local gym. You were stamped and numbered the day you were born, and you've complied with every request for information from the time you registered to school to every job application you ever filled out. And someone's gone to the trouble of collecting that data; they've been collecting it for decades. Now, someone, even complete strangers, can pay for the privilege of violating what shreds of privacy you have left for a fee...and somehow this can be peddled to you as a virtue that can save your life.
It'll get worse when the government decides that it shouldn't have to pay for that information -- if it doesn't have most of it already -- (never put past your government to make a small fortune by selling the information it has about you to anyone who wants it) and simply starts issuing warrants or subpoenas for it. And you just know that some of them will be based upon the flimsiest of pretenses, but some brain-dead judge will allow it anyway.
One more Civil Liberty lost thanks to the confluence of technology, stupidity and complacency.
This country is soooo screwed.