Author Robert Ellis Smith, a Harvard graduate has delivered a rather disappointing title in terms of accuracy. While all of the arguments he makes are fundamentally correct and he does end up making the point he intended to, some of the things that he cites as fact are based on outdated laws and practices while others are simply incorrect. This reviewer found several of the aforementioned errors to extend beyond a mere typographical error or casual omission.
For instance, the author attempts to make an argument against the popular Caller ID services offered by the vast majority of telephone companies today. He claims that because the service allows the number of the caller to be displayed, it can be misused and abused by business and others with less than honorable intentions. One example would be cross-referencing the number displayed by Caller ID to other databases to learn the customers' address and then using this information to pull up even more information about the customer such and spending habits, consumer profiles and other private information.
For instance, on Page 40 Smith states "Officials at high levels of government and business will not be able to make telephone calls without revealing their direct office numbers... whether they are listed or not". This is an untrue statement as most business and government offices use commercial telephone systems that are serviced by "trunks" of telephone lines. When those lines are ordered and the system installed, the telephone company provides the customer with option to 1. suppress the transmission of Caller ID information, 2. allow its transmission or 3. transmit another number (like the main switchboard number).
While Smith does make compelling arguments against Caller ID, several United States Postal Service programs that disclose or misuse consumer information, important information is left out. He also does not state that telephone services and the privacy implications of each vary widely from state to state and even from phone company to phone company, leaving the reader with only half of the story. This book is riddled with many such omissions and inconsistencies, most of them in this Caller ID argument.
By contrast, Smith's argument against Social Security Numbers and their use for purposes other than that of collecting Social Security is factually accurate and quite informative even to someone who keeps up on privacy related issues.
Our Vanishing Privacy is by no means a 'bad book' and it should still be read. But it is important to keep in mind that details are missing and much of the information is outdated. However, the reader still does come away with valuable knowledge