The Ultimate Telemarketing Database

Playing “My Country, ’Tis of Thee” on the piano for my evening relaxation and hearing my daughter sing about the “sweet land of liberty,” I thought of the NSA’s Prism surveillance system. The U.S. government should thank whistle-blower Edward Snowden for providing a way for them to reduce the U.S. budget deficit. Now that everyone knows that the U.S. government harvests data on every person on the planet not living in a cave, why doesn’t the U.S. government mine the data — after all, it has the most computing resources — and sell the results to telemarketers?

The government could charge each telemarketer $1,000 for search results of up to 1,000 names. Bronze members ($100,000 annually) would also get a promise not to enforce court orders on violations of the E.U. Data Protection Act. Gold members ($1 million) could be exempted from the federal “do not call” database requirements. Platinum members ($10 million) would also get a suspect’s (sorry — “potential contact’s”) workday website usage and any evidence of extramarital liaisons.

There are disadvantages. Cutting the deficit would give the politicians involved in efforts to reach a “bipartisan” consensus less of an excuse to cut Social Security (leaving fake inflation statistics as the best remaining option). A “do not call” exception might violate the law, not to mention facilitating blackmail. But what’s another legal violation or two among friends?

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  1. Kyle says:

    Names are not included in the metadata, only phone numbers and what numbers they called when.

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  2. Bill R says:

    They had the pledge of allegiance at graduation who Pledges to a country that spies on its own people. The Pledge will be forever dead to me just a 3rd grad memory of how a country tried to use mind control over its people.

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  3. Eric C says:

    Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

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  4. David D says:

    Yes, Kyle… It’s nearly impossible for the government to match up names and telephone numbers.

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  5. Eric M. Jones says:

    In the late 1920′s a company marketed a home doorbell that only rang if the caller first deposited a penny. If the homeowner recognized the caller, she could give you back your penny if she chose.

    I think all email and phone numbers and mail should incorporate such a feature. It would all but prevent spamming.

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    • James says:

      I think it should be pretty simple to write a screening app for any cell phone. Call the number, you get a message saying “enter the extension/access code for the party you want”. If you enter the right code, you’re connected; if not, you roll over to voicemail, or get disconnected.

      You could even have different codes for different people, for instance for current girlfriend, your employer, etc.

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  6. Jen says:

    I know, I know, this is just satire or humor or whatever.

    But, the data is already out there and already being mined — just by private companies, for their , own profit. The government doesn’t own that data, but it is owned and used.

    It’s never endingly amazing to me that people willingly give up their locations, their information, their data, in exchange for the use of, say, facebook and then are shocked, shocked, I say to learn that the government has access, with a court order to chunks of that data.

    If it’s out there, someone will get it. Maybe now is the time for everyone to decide how to regulate it — for both private companies and governments. Recognizing of course, that once there’s data, it’s there forever.

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    • James says:

      Sure, there is data out there, and it is used, but used how? Do I really care if e.g. Amazon mines their data in order to send me ads for a product I’ve either already purchased from them (weeks ago!), or decided I didn’t want? Do I really care that the Freakonomics website is apparently mined so that (because I read the Disney thread before this one) I see an ad for Legoland in Central Florida?

      The point here is the old first law of computing: Garbage In, Garbage Out. Just as the government can spend untold millions on snooping that will not and can not produce any useful result (whatever lies the people responsible may tell), so this ad targeting does nothing but produce a bit of income for the Freakonomics guys.

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      • Jen says:

        If your information is just garbage, then why would you be concerned about the government having it? It’s the same information.

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      • James says:

        1) Because it’s my tax money they’re wasting on this stuff.

        2) The “camel’s nose” principle. If it’s accepted that the government can do this form of snooping, it opens the door for other, more intrusive forms.

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      • Jen says:

        Oh, I agree with the camel’s nose concept — but the point being that if the information is being collected, ANYONE, not just the government can use it. You can tell yourself it’s just for silly ads you ignore, but that doesn’t mean that’s all it’s used for. As we’ve now seen.

        My point isn’t that the government shouldn’t necessarily be doing this, it’s that private businesses shouldn’t be doing it on this scale!

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      • James says:

        But what do I care if businesses have such data? All they want to do is sell me stuff. Worst case, that means that instead of getting random spam & junk mail, I will get targeted spam & junk mail.

        Unlike government, which could conceivably use such info to put me in jail, or private individuals (like the woman I briefly dated a while ago, who became MUCH more interested after she snooped around to get an idea of my net worth), there is really very little that businesses can do to to hurt me, because I can choose whether or not to buy their products.

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  7. Stan Conley says:

    Selling to telemarketers is bad idea. If they call you- they should provide you with their name and home address……

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  8. mrG says:

    the BBC was doing something like this years ago: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xrRZVCg31fE?
    (Blackmail sketch from Monty Python’s Flying Circus)

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