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Privacy? An Afterthought

6 Dec

Side Story series 

How much internet and cell phone related information do you exchange?

Do you tweet, giving random, anonymous people tweet-by-tweet details of your mental state, your happenings? Is your face all over your profiles, including your family and friends?

Do you use those “discount” cards at local grocery stores or drug stores to get a discount that used to be available without a card tracking each and every purchase? 


Gosh, years ago I saw a 20/20 news report, I believe, that showed where prisoners were processing loads of data from “discount” cards. Those were the first goosebumps that I got from the underbelly of data mining.

But then years later I heard during a presentation that “all the F.B.I. needs is a peek into anyone’s curb side trash to make a “99.999% accurate profile of them.”

That really got me to thinking. 

Of course We the People have never ever had true privacy, of course not. We’re ruled and governed for crying out loud and even with the strides in jaw dropping technology there has always been myriad ways to spy on anyone. (From strategically placed ink pens to cameras in stuffed animals gazing from fireplace mantels–a favorite used on babysitters and nannies–to two-way mirrors.) Of course we were always being watched in some way. But in the last handful of years it’s gotten so much worse and so very many people don’t seem to notice or care that certain aspects of their privacy should stay, well, private. 

And no, I’m not paranoid or hiding from The Man. I just value privacy and refuse to be an information guinea pig for random companies that I will NEVER do business with anyway. 

If you want to put your business out there, fine.  If you don’t mind your photos in your bathing suit ending up on a Russian dating site advertising single “available” women, fine.  But that’s your risk and a choice you make. But what about the truly dirty side of data mining, the stuff you may not know about?

Think this is all ridiculous concern?

Did you know data miners (a multibillion dollar business!) can tell if you’ll be divorced before you do? Did you know a person’s cell phone habits can reveal their depression even when they haven’t texted one clue about feeling down? Hmm.

For you doubters, check this out from ABC News Nightline:

See That Man Over There?

Personally I refuse to use my legal name on those aforementioned “discount” cards.  It’s one of the few choices I have left to maintain privacy.  Or at the very least, not make it easy for data miners, etc., to track what should remain private.  ( If I buy maxi pads or prefer Advil over Alleve it’s no one’s business. If I have a dog or a cat isn’t either. If I pay for a meal at Olive Garden at 2:38 p.m. and what I purchased doesn’t need a record, either.)  All of one’s preferences and movements simply should not be for sale.

Whatever shred of privacy I can keep, I’ll keep it, thank you very much.


Your Coworkers’ Salaries

2 Aug

Ever wonder how much your coworkers make? (Or even your boss?)

Of course you do. It’s only natural that this thought has entered your mind.

Well, Boulder, Colorado based Namaste Solar, a solar panel installation company, allows employees to know what each other makes. 

Can you imagine your coworkers knowing how much you make? Personally it gives me the willies. 

Also at Namaste no employees’ salary is allowed to be four times more than anyone else’s.


Did you know that non-profit organizations, government agencies and publicly traded companies all have to share the compensation levels of at least some of their employees? 

When I worked at a school as an Executive Assistant to the Executive Big-Shot Guy I got to peep the entire facility’s salaries–except his–which was mysteriously not listed, and let me tell you, that salary knowledge was a big deal. The other employees I ate lunch with were always hinting to find out just who made what, especially their own bosses. There were times I slightly feared they were plotting to club me over the head with a batch of files, ducktape my mouth and take me to nearby woods until I coughed up the goods.

Obviously salary transparency is not only a big deal but a sticky subject.

At salaries can be posted anonymously by employees, etc.

The flip side of the coin was that knowing what certain people earned, especially Directors and Supervisors, made me eyeball them from scalp to polished loafer. Like the goofy Director guy who always found time to joke with every employee, twiddle his thumbs in his office and ask me for snacks from my own personal stash in my desk…He made $75,000 per year. Plus bonuses.

Can you imagine the nostril flaring that took place when he used his balls to ask me for, say, candy or peanut butter crackers? Meanwhile I was making a whole $30k/year before taxes. And doing HIS paperwork.  Sure, I’ll feed you snacks while making a FRACTION of your salary WHILE simultaneously making you look good to the organization.

Oy to the mountaintops.  That guy rattled my innermost fibers.

Salary disclosure has always been a weird subject. When I was in my 20’s and fresh out of college I knew what all of my newly full-time employed friends were making and they knew what I was making. Then as time went on suddenly it’s confidential what everyone is earning. These are people I’ve known for years. But for some reason no one will discuss their salary anymore. (I wonder if this comes with age.)

Some workers think that if pay scales were fair, based precisely on skill set, education and years of experience, then there should be no “secrets.”  Hmph. We all know that upper-level management at most jobs earn more than they’re worth.

I mean, I’ve been an Administrative Assistant for years and have seen countless executives of various levels lounging in their offices daily while picking lint from beneath their fingernails and Googling Jaquar styles after taking three-hour lunches (that the company paid for).

Whoops. Now my nostrils are flaring.

Workplace Privacy

9 Jul

Ahem, do you ever wonder if your boss or your boss’s boss or The H.R. Lady knows about your, um, utmost private conversations that you’ve snuck in while at work on their telephone?

Like the time you called your special doctor to make an appointment about your special problem?

Or the time you were fighting with your significant other and whispered as loud as you could–you were so angry at him/her that you were shaking when you got off of the telephone. Then you looked around your cubicle wondering if someone, anyone had heard you.

Increasingly employers are monitoring employees’ usage of their (the employer’s) own equipment: telephones, e-mail, etc.

Regarding e-mail, employers can use computer software that enables them to see what is on the screen or stored in the employees’ computer terminals and hard disks. They can also monitor internet usage such as web-surfing and e-mail.

This makes me nervous.

What about social networking? Can a person be fired for questionable stuff they posted on their personal social networking pages? A new report predicts that by 2015, 60 percent of corporations are expected to put formal programs in place for “monitoring external social media for security breaches.”

This makes me not so nervous, as I’m SO not a social network head. I’m old school, meaning I don’t personally participate in social networking stuff. I believe personal pictures of me in two-piece bathing suits should remain in photo albums and that my hourly whereabouts (status) are not the general public’s (or friends’) business. I mean, I grew up using phone booths that cost a dime to make local calls from. I can live without much of social media.

Well, if you’re concerned about your company telephone whisperings, check out this site and know not only your rights but The Man’s rights. After all, you’re in his cubicle.

Whisper legally out there.

Odd College Degrees

24 May

I once read or heard that someone actually did a thesis paper to earn their doctoral degree on–are you ready for this?–GLITTER.

Its origins and its life on earth, how it never truly goes away once made. Gosh, ever get a piece of glitter stuck to your eyelid to the point of poking your eye out trying to rid yourself of it? Me no likey glitter personally.

Well, there are some peculiar college degrees out there, too.

There’s a degree in puppetry. I know, right?

(Though for Jim Henson, the creator of The Muppets–I’ve always adored Kermit; I even have a small stuffed Kermit from 6th grade that has traveled well with me through hells and high waters–this career proved insanely successful.)

There’s even a degree in packaging.  After all, someone had to decide that potato chips should come in a bag and not a box and that the very bags they come in should be loud in a crinkly way. Don’t even get me started on the Sun Chips issue with those super noisy bags. There’s even a series of YouTube videos on the very “noise pollution” of Sun Chips bags. Take a look via the link. What I want to know is why doesn’t someone with a degree in packaging figure out a way to give us more than scanty chip volume, to get rid of those half filled bags of AIR. Now that would be impressive.

Photo & below from

A Frito-Lay customer rep confirmed that chip bags are half-filled. But why? Delicate items pose several challenges. Chips can be broken by rollers on the packing line or pressure from machinery that seals the bags. Extra air limits pressure on chips when bags are stacked. Even altitude matters. If a bag lacks the “headspace” to accommodate pressure changes when a truck passes through high-altitude regions, for example, the seal could break.

Hmm. Sounds like trillion-dollar lingo to me to sell the least chips for the most price.  I’M TIRED OF RUNNING OUTTA CHIPS WHEN I HAVE TOO MUCH SANDWICH LEFT!!  I always find myself balancing how many chips I have left vs. how many bites of sandwich I have left.

Chips left. Sandwich. Chips left. Sandwich.


Back to the program…

There’s also a degree in decision making. Sure, its offered at Indiana University’s School of Business.

There’s a degree in wine making. Now that one I get. Not so weird considering the wine industry is a big kahuna.

There’s a degree in turfmaking called turfgrass specialization where students learn to manage the greens on golf courses.


There’s even a degree in Aromatherapy.

But the oddest degree, based on the fact that only ONE person in the world has ever earned it, is in ENIGMATOLOGY, the creation and solution of puzzles. It was earned in 1974 by Will Shortz at Indiana University as a graduate degree.

We live in a colorful world. It never ceases to make my jaw drop a bit. Or a lot. I wonder if there’s a degree in jaw dropping.

Workplace Discrimination: Looks Matter in CubicleVille

19 Apr

From HealthDay News — Obese Americans have smaller paychecks than those who aren’t overweight, and this difference is especially strong among women, a new study finds.



But then not shocking really.

The analysis of data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth revealed that in 2004, overall average annual incomes were $8,666 less for obese women and $4,772 less for obese men compared with normal weight workers.

What beyond annoys me is that what does a person’s filing, faxing, typing, management, etc., skills have to do with how wide they are?

This annoys me.

Really annoys me.

Oh, but there’s more…

In 2008, obese women made an average of $5,826 (15 percent) less than normal-weight females, George Washington University researchers said.

I’m so annoyed I may write a scathing letter to someone. Somewhere.

There’s more:

White women who were obese had lower wages in both 2004 and 2008 than normal-weight white women, while wages were lower for obese white men only in 2004.

See, the thing about discrimination is that it can be difficult to prove. I mean, it’s not very likely that an employer will state to you that your weight (or skin color or even physical disability) is why they didn’t hire you or promote you or give you a higher annual salary increase. Employers know that’s illegal.

Ah, and corporate America has attempted to cut healthcare costs by–ahem–“encouraging” the obese to slim down, even offering incentives to those who do.

Right now the only state that bans weight discrimination is Michigan.   In fact, that 1977  induced law has seldom been used but appears to be getting more and more recognition since the rise in weight discrimination.

My thing is this:  If a person’s weight/size doesn’t negatively affect their performance, STAY OUT OF THEIR BUSINESS. 

So what do obese workers do who feel they’re being/they’ve been discriminated against?

Write to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in your state. Name names.

Power to The People.

“Please Include Salary Requirement”–Or Else

24 Sep

Searching for a new job is a job. Not to mention how annoying it is when they ask for your salary requirement. Or when they threaten you with “All resumes failing to include salary requirement will be disqualified for consideration.”


See, the thing about asking for your salary requirement is, it’s a SET-UP.

Don’t fall for it.

If you’re applying for a job that is willing to pay you $48,000 per year but you put your salary requirement at $42,000 per year…Do you really think they’ll pay you $48,000?

As mentioned before they’re Goons.

So there you are sitting there in your beige colored partition working for $6,000 less per year but you’re still expected to perform at $48k per year. The best thing to do in a case of shanghai is to pretend you’re ok with lowballing your own self. I mean, what’s $6,000 per year anyway? After taxes it’s not even that much.

Just trying to make you feel better. 

I’m here for you. I’ve been in nearly every imaginable salary hole.

Me no likey employer set-ups.

Goony Goons

29 Aug

Are you sitting down? Is your boss near? You may want to have a drink of water before reading this:

Chief executives at 299 U.S. companies took home a combined $3.4 billion in 2010, enough to employ more than 102,000 workers, the labor group AFL-CIO said in study released in April.

They’re goons. Robbers. Thieves hovering over us.

They’re bandits. They’re shafters.

Get. Out. Now.

Find a way to do what you love. You cannot remain in that cubicle stance for the next 25 years. You just can’t.