No Place to Hide podcast: When privacy is a matter of life and death

From the Amy Boyer memorial site archive

Amy Boyer, I sometimes say, was the first person murdered by the Internet.  Twenty years ago this fall, she was gunned down in cold blood by stalker Liam Youens. He found Amy by hiring a data broker, and told everyone about that on his website.

“It’s actually obscene what you can find out about a person on the Internet,” he wrote.

It still is.


(Listen to this podcast at Stitcher, or at iTunes)


Back then, Amy’s family launched a memorial website, and urged people to think long and hard about what this new technology is doing to our world.

Alia Tavakolian and I have spent the past 7 months talking to every privacy expert we could get into to studio.  We even interviewed the private investigator who tracked down the data brokers involved in Amy’s death. And this week, we launched a 6-part series on the state of privacy in America. The series is produced by Spoke Media, my partner in Breach and So, Bob. Intel, the chipmaker, sponsored the series but has no editorial control over it. The name No Place to Hide is a tip of the cap to a great book by that name published by Washington Post reporter Robert O’Harrow in 2006.

Episode One confronts the chilling reality that privacy isn’t a first-world problem, a luxury — for violence victims on the run, privacy can be a matter of life and death.  But if we build a tech world that respects these victims, a world that presumes everyone might have a safety risk from privacy violations, we’ll all be better off.

I’m really proud of the result, and I hope you’ll give it a listen. I know there are a lot of big issues facing our time — the environment, cyberwar, extremism — but I think privacy ranks right among them as a crisis that deserves our focus and attention. What’s more, most people — even those on politically opposite sides of the spectrum — generally seem to agree on privacy.  Still, it’s getting away from us. Technology is running ahead of our laws, ethics and institutions.  Just this week, the Baltimore Sun reported on a proposal to have surveillance aircraft in the skies, taking 24-hour-a-day footage of the city, to fight crime.  It’s not science fiction. In fact, the city already tested the idea back in 2016.  It’s a tactic borrowed from war zones. Maybe, if crime was bad enough on your block, you’d agree to this kind of surveillance.  But we’ve barely begun to discuss how to control the images, who gets to see them and why, and if this is really the world we want to live in.

Privacy is very hard to define. You’ll hear in the podcast that I struggle with this, even after writing about privacy for 25 years. I hope this series helps kick-start the discussion.


(Listen to this podcast at Stitcher, or at iTunes). Or press play below.


Meanwhile, a few extra notes on this week’s episode.  You can visit an archive of Amy’s tribute site here:

http://web.archive.org/web/20041112091928/http://www.amyboyer.org/

The Electronic Privacy Information Center has much more information on the case here
You can learn more about privacy investigator Rob Douglas here
http://www.identitytheft.info/robdouglas.aspx
If you or someone you love is at risk, here are some resources:

National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233

National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs Hotline: 212-714-1141

Visit TechSafety.org for information on technology in the context of intimate partner violence, sexual assault, and violence against women.

Here’s what Douglas says to end his segment:
“How as a society do we claw some of that back? I don’t think we’ll ever get it all back. The web is forever, but how do we start protecting our children and how do we start protecting maybe our grandchildren that aren’t even born yet? How do we regain the hill of privacy? And I think the starting point is we’ve got to remember the Amy Boyers of the world. We’ve got to remember that we have a duty to her memory. And a responsibility to future Amy’s to some young woman or young man who’s out there as we speak, who is being stalked, who’s being bullied, who’s being harassed, and they don’t quite know how their stalker, their bully-er, their harasser, or maybe their eventual killer got information about them. How do we retake that ground and start protecting people for the future?”

About Bob Sullivan 1370 Articles
BOB SULLIVAN is a veteran journalist and the author of four books, including the 2008 New York Times Best-Seller, Gotcha Capitalism, and the 2010 New York Times Best Seller, Stop Getting Ripped Off! His latest, The Plateau Effect, was published in 2013, and as a paperback, called Getting Unstuck in 2014. He has won the Society of Professional Journalists prestigious Public Service award, a Peabody award, and The Consumer Federation of America Betty Furness award, and been given Consumer Action’s Consumer Excellence Award.

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