White House campaign hopeful Steve Forbes, son of the late eccentric capitalist Malcolm Forbes, emerged yesterday as the nation’s first presidential candidate to attack the role of marketers in the nation’s ongoing debate over privacy.
Speaking in Washington at the Free Congress Foundation’s Center for Technology Policy, Forbes lambasted marketers and big government alike saying the Clinton/Gore administration is “trying to create a Soviet-style healthcare system,” and that corporate technology has led to American consumers “experiencing a sweeping epidemic of lost privacy.”
Employing sensationalized rhetoric similar to that waged against marketers by protectionists, Forbes quoted from George Orwell’s cataclysmic novel, “1984,” while asking, “Did you know that private companies will track down and then sell your unlisted phone number to a client for just $49?” He said that marketers buy and sell consumer data like stocks and bonds — even saying that Social Security numbers go for $45 and that driving records were available for just $35, despite recent Supreme Court rulings protecting such information.
“Technology is making it increasingly easy for government and private companies to track down and monitor every detail of our personal and financial lives — what we buy, what we eat, how often we use an ATM, where we live, the names of our children,” said Forbes.
“Serious privacy issues have arisen in the private sector, from how marketers accumulate and disseminate information about interests, tastes and hobbies to how far private detective agencies and Internet search companies should be allowed to go toward developing a dossier on fellow citizens. And they deserve serious attention.”
Forbes followed his comments with promises to protect the financial privacy of the American people by ending the Internal Revenue Service as we know it. “We will create a simple, new tax code that can be filled out on a postcard or single page,” he said. “We will create a new culture of tax collection that protects the privacy and dignity of the American people.”