Parthian has reaped a bountiful return lately from the coin of privacy he invested inadvertently when he downloaded “free” apps or donated to political (or worthy) causes. His inbox overfloweth; his telephone ringeth– most often at mealtimes. These everyday annoyances can be managed with a fast finger on the delete key, or by unplugging the phone. But why should the consuming public be obliged to cope with cybergarbage at all? We need an effective “do not spam” list to supplement other very low bars to intrusive marketing. Unsubscribing simply promotes the naive user to a higher level of harassment, since any response indicates that the “unsubscriber” opened the junk that provoked a sucker’s effort to escape.
Come the revolution, oligopolies will be regulated or dismembered in the public interest, and then we will have a button that enables a user to decline further solicitations, push-messages, and spam, and impose an immediate cost, debited to a bond posted to ensure respect for the privacy rights of the public. Pending the revolution, our providers will persist with their robo-calls. How can the ordinary user of existing technology fight back? Where would a striker picket? How else can we impose costs upon those who waste our time and clog our systems with dross and impertinence?
The latest expression of our rulers’ contempt for the dignity of their serfs is exemplified by a call the Arrow receives from his health care insurer, daily. The caller is a robot, endowed with infinite persistence and zero empathy. The script is short (before the Arrow hangs up): “Hello, this is ___, your insurer, calling about an important matter. Is this the Arrow? Say YES or NO.”
Feeling no obligation to respond at all to interrogation machines, the Arrow replies, “If you want to transact business at this number, have a human call.” The response is “Is this the Arrow? Say YES or NO.” The Arrow responds with “F__ You, Robot!”.
If he doesn’t hang up at this point, the robot demands to leave a message for the Arrow to call back. “Will you take the message? YES or NO?” NO!! “Okay, we will try again at a later time, until we reach theArrow.” Thus, a stalemate is reached between a vexed humanoid and an invective-proof automaton. No mechanized appeal to the Arrow’s curiosity will ever elicit a reply that the robot can appreciate. No business will be done. The Arrow risks “losing” whatever opportunity, warning, notice, or advice that his insurer wishes to communicate in an unsolicited, entirely one-way ‘transaction’. The offending caller loses nothing.
Corporate harassers operate in a very unfree marketplace. They stand to gain if the ‘missed’ call counts as legal notice enough to trigger a forfeiture, or constitutes compliance with the nominal privacy requirements of HIPAA.