b h a g . n e t visual and conceptual exchange b h a g . n e t
October 26, 2003
PROTECT YOUR RIGHT TO PRIVACY
by John Clay, editor-in-chief
The New York Times and Los Angeles Times want to get to know you better—much better. At a time when Microsoft is developing a reputation for building fences in cyberspace, charging tolls, and gathering personal information on users, two of America's preeminent newspapers have decided to take a stand—alongside Microsoft.
The New York Times online and Los Angeles Times online began by demanding fees for articles from past issues. These fees per article can be more than the cost of an entire print issue. But now they have gone a step further. Both newspapers are demanding private personal information in return for the news.
The Los Angeles Times online demands registration for access to national and world news. Calendar Live, their arts section, is still viewable without signing in. LA Times registration requires: full legal name, home address, phone number, country of residence, gender, year of birth, and household annual income. To read any story in the New York Times online—even the weather—you must be registered. NY Times registration requires: gender, year of birth, zip code, country of residence, household annual income, job title, and job function.
These are not pop-up surveys. All these categories of personal information are required for access to the newspaper. And nothing is stopping either company from requiring other information—maybe marital status or how many nights a week you eat out. The choice of questions is arbitrary and suited to the company's marketing strategy.
Having to pay for articles, old or new, is a nuisance, especially considering these companies already make money selling advertising space on their websites. But the new demand for private personal information goes a step further. When grocery shopping, you expect to pay a few dollars for milk and bread. But what would it be like if one day the cashier said: Sorry, to complete this purchase you have to tell us your annual income and marital status?
You are being asked to make a cruel choice, between a needed product and your right to privacy. Just say no. Boycott the New York Times online and Los Angeles Times online. And email them to tell them why.
© 2003 John Clay
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