ACLU Links Pizza Delivery to Privacy Erosion in New Online Video

July 26, 2004 12:00 am

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Summer Surveillance Campaign Serves up Details of Government Intrusions


NEW YORK–In a new online video unveiled today, the American Civil Liberties Union takes a break from its serious side to illustrate how new technologies and weak privacy laws can be used to reveal sensitive information about a person involved in even the most mundane of business transactions, including ordering a pizza.

“The fact is that new technologies and new government policies are eroding our personal privacy and creating a 24-hour total surveillance society,” said Anthony D. Romero, Executive Director of the ACLU. “We need to reach people on a basic level and show them how this massive erosion of privacy could have a real impact on their daily lives, even in their late-night pizza deliveries.”

In the video, a pizza parlor is able look up a caller’s medical records, employment history, credit card purchases, travel plans, library loans and even the magazines that his wife subscribes to, all with the click of a mouse. In one spot, after noticing that the caller recently purchased a pair of 42-inch khakis, the parlor employee suggests he change his order to a “sprout submarine combo” instead of his usual double meat pizza.

Text accompanying the video urges the viewer to help prevent a “Total Surveillance Society” and notes that “the Bush Administration’s policies, coupled with invasive new technologies, could eliminate your right to privacy completely.”

The ACLU said that policies like the Patriot Act give the government broad surveillance powers that can be used to intrude on the private lives of innocent citizens.

“Astonishingly, if he deemed it necessary, Attorney General Ashcroft could get authorization from a secret court to place wiretaps on your phones without probable cause,” said the ACLU’s Romero. “He can demand records of your reading habits from bookstores and libraries. He can even make and keep a copy of the key to your house.”

The video comes in advance of the ACLU’s Summer Surveillance Campaign, which will be launched in August with the release of a new report detailing the government’s use of businesses and individuals in the construction of a surveillance society.

To view the ACLU video, go to /pizza/index.html?orgid=EA071904&MX=1414&H=1

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