Crime Essay, Research Paper
“She’s just another Hollywood whore, an immoral porn queen. She’s beyond redemption,” he muttered to himself as he paced back and forth outside her apartment building. He had been constantly walking around outside the building for hours now, harassing people passing on the streets with crazed questions. Suddenly, overcome with resolve, the man stomped back to the building and rang the bell. She had rejected him once, but never again. He had given her a chance, but she had turned him away from her life. How could she do this to him, her biggest fan? After letting go of the buzzer, Robert Bardo hid himself in the bushes by the door. This was the only choice he had left after such a rejection.
Twenty-one year old Rebecca Schaeffer, actress on the sitcom My Sister Sam, answered the door for the last time in her life. She had politely turned away a disturbing man earlier that day after explaining to him that she had to study her lines for her next show. However, when she answered the door this time, there was no one there.
Bardo saw his chance and acted on it. He burst from the shadowy confines of the bushes and pushed a gun into Schaeffer’s chest, pulling the trigger after he had her in his grasp. The bullet barely missed the young actress’s heart as she fell to the ground, bleeding from a mortal wound. As Bardo flew from the scene, he stashed the incriminating evidence into the bushes.
After interrogations performed by the LAPD, it was found that Bardo had been stalking Schaeffer for a very long time. However, this was not the usual case of a voyeur or a stranger trailing someone throughout their day. Bardo had traced Schaeffer through the use of the computer and its vast resources. With the use of computer databases, Bardo was able to find out where Schaeffer lived, what her telephone number was and who she called, what kind of vehicle she drove, and where she spent her money. It was as if Bardo could look through a window and clearly see all of Schaeffer’s personal, intimate secrets (Rothfeder 13-14).
This is the perfect example of a modern crime, in which all of an individual’s privacy and personal information have become little more than a commodity, easily accessible to anyone with very little hassle. In the highly modernized society in which everyone lives, people compromise their privacy in order to live comfortably. Do people really need credit cards, key cards, or check books? Of course not, but it makes things more pleasant for them in their everyday life. Because of these unnecessary whims of society, individuals have lost their right to secrecy, when in fact, their rights to privacy should have been a number one concern. In this brave, new world, people compromise their privacy by giving out their social security numbers too frequently, by not being careful when surfing the Internet, and by inadvertedly putting themselves onto blacklists.
The road to giving up privacy all begins with the social security number. “Most people would be astounded to know what’s out there,” states Carole Lane, the author of Naked in Cyberspace: How to Find Personal Information On-line . “In a few hours, sitting at my computer, beginning with no more than your name and address, I can find out what you do for a living, the names and ages of your spouse and children, what kind of car you drive, the value of you house and how much taxes you pay on it.” (Quittner 33) How is this possible? It is very easily accomplished, according to several professional Internet searchers. People are asked to give out their social security number for millions of reasons other than social security. Banks, phone companies, retail stores, phone marketers, and even barber shops ask for social security number. Each of these businesses or companies keep some kind of record correlated with someone’s social security number, whether it be how much they owe on a mortgage to how many times a year they get a haircut. A major key in protecting people’s privacy is for them to not give out their social security number unless they feel it is really necessary. It is easy to trace people because of their social security number, as the number leaves behind a sort of electronic trail through the vastness of Cyberspace.
Another privacy problem that arises because of the computerized age occurs within the realms of Cyberspace itself. The Internet provides watchers with a very good profile of someone who “surfs” on through their site. As it currently stands, it is possible for any website to put a “cookie” into your Internet browsing program. The “cookie” is actually a small bit of code that can track someone as they visit sites on the Internet (Quittner 34). With these tiny bits of code, the watchers (anyone who has access to the originating website’s code) can see what someone is interested in by analyzing the sites they visit. If someone constantly visits sites dealing with sports, then obviously that person shows some interest in sports. As a result, the person may start receiving solicitations from sports magazines and catalogs. If the person constantly visits an Internet newsgroup, the watchers will know about what kind of things the person is interested in and even in some cases, writes.
Most times, people give up privacy unwillingly. However, giving up privacy in order to be able to use credit cards or EZ-passes is a necessary evil. The sacrifice of privacy becomes an admittedly good thing in light of what it allows someone to be able to do in today’s society. Automatic Teller Machines, cellular phones, and various satellite services could not be possible if privacy was a prime concern. It is not an invasion of privacy when people know that others can easily find out what they are doing or where they are, as is the case with credit cards and EZ-passes. It does, on the other hand, become an invasion of privacy when there is nothing that can be done from stopping the spread of private information electronically, as is the case with electronic blacklists.
Blacklists are devastating and have the ability to destroy someone if they are not careful. Take the case of Rosa Delgado, a woman with two children living in an apartment just outside of Los Angeles. After making a claim that he needed the room for his sister, Rosa’s landlord evicted her. Rosa eventually moved out of the apartment after suing her landlord, and then tried to find a place to live elsewhere. However, each apartment Rosa tried, she was rejected for some reason or another. It finally came to her attention one day that her name had been added to a list of “bad tenets” because she had filed a lawsuit against her previous landlord. The list was available electronically to all property owners by simply subscribing to the registry (Elmer-Dewitt 104). The blacklists have been a problem in America since the old union days, and now with the advent of the computerized age, blacklists have become an even greater problem. By simply logging onto some sites, people can find out whether or not to trust doctors based on the number of malpractice suits filed against them, find out whether their neighbor is on a list of “welfare cases”, or find out whether they should rent to someone based on their past relationships with old landlords.
The true problem with privacy occurs because personal information is available to nearly everyone, and there is nothing people can do to control it. When technology has outpaced the law, then clearly the law needs to be upgraded to compensate. Marc Rotenberg, director of Washington-based Electronic Privacy Information Center, believes that the government needs to form a new agency. This agency would be a kind of “privacy agency” and would be set up to sort out all of the privacy issues that arise. “We need new legal protections to enforce the privacy act, to keep federal agencies in line, to act as a spokesperson for the Federal Government, and to act on behalf of privacy interests.” (Quittner 35) Clearly the government must do something to straighten things out, but if it takes a new agency to do it, then let it be so. However, maybe the true answer to the privacy problem lies in control. If people controlled, or in most cases were able to control, where their private information was heading and who was reading it, then society would be in much better shape then what it is today. There would never again be a reason to have to worry about the crazed lunatics, like Bardo, the manipulative credit card companies, the malicious phone scam artists, or the continuous stream of junk mail that floods every household everyday of our lives.