NWA-PCUG Newsletter Article
Privacy Revisited
Don Two, June 99
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Surely many of you remember or have at least heard of P. T. Barnum. He was the early 20th century impresario who promoted Tom Thumb, Jumbo (the world's largest elephant), and other curiosities. P. T. was also famous for saying "There's a sucker born every minute!"

I stand in living proof of the accuracy of that statement.

Remember my recent article on the most recent onslaught on our computing privacy?

I have quietly fumed for years about the long progression of invasions of my computing privacy. I first sensed it years ago with Copy-Proof software. Then came software with embedded serial numbers. Then, software upgrades demanding that they be able to locate an earlier version onboard before proceeding with installation.

More recently was the reality of cookies. Then the revelation that Intel was embedding a unique Processor Serial Number (PSN) in each of the new P III chips, providing Big Brother oversight of our computing activity. And then Microsoft's admission that they were embedding a unique serial number in the code of each copy of Windows 2000, which will permit identification of any computer by Internet sites the user visits.

With all this, I was primed to react strongly to Paul Somerson's editorial in the April 99 issue of Computing Magazine, which revealed the development of a PC/Telephony standard applied to all computers manufactured after 1996. Under this standard, computers have a small obscure microphone, which pick up and store all sounds within a five-foot radius. Network administrators and others with the proper software can then access these recorded sounds.

There was even a horror story about a sexual harassment case being proved by the captured sounds.

It was all a hoax. And my reaction proved again that Barnum was right! Not only that, I shared my new indignation with you!

I am a little put out at Somerson - whom I have long respected as a source of news, insight, and reasonable predictions. However, in all honesty, I am even more upset that my own paranoia and conspiracy complex frame-of-mind set me up for his joke.

The results of Somerson's April Fools joke have bounded and rebounded around the Internet ever since. That will probably continue for months - or at least as long as the discussion continues to reach new suckers like me.

So, I apologize to you all, for foisting my gullibility off on you. But, tell me, how many of you believed me -- at least at first? "

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