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1. True or false: Under the U.S. Constitution, you have a right to privacy.

There is no constitutional guarantee, per se, to privacy in the U.S. Constitution. However, the Supreme Court has begun to create these guarantees. And in Minnesota, the Supreme Court issued a ruling in 1998 which, for the first time, recognized the right of its citizens to privacy.

For more information, read The Right to be Left Alone.

2. According to a recent survey, where are you most likely to find violations of your privacy?

Offline. The number of Internet sites that post privacy policies telling consumers what data is collected from them and how it is used has risen sharply over the past year, according to a study released in May 1999. Nearly two-thirds of the Net's 7,500 most popular commercial sites voluntarily post privacy policies, compared to the 14 percent that did so one year ago when a similar survey was conducted by the government.

3. True or false: The National Security Agency has secretly built into the Windows operating system, a method by which the government can get access to your personal computer.

Answer: False. Well, for the moment anyway. Microsoft Corp. continues to deny that it had built a secret "back door" into its Windows operating system to enable the National Security Agency to read encrypted information. But some experts cast doubt on the credibility of Microsoft's explanations. The controversy arose at the end of August when code specialist Andrew Fernandes, of a new company called Cryptonym Corp., was routinely reviewing software updates for fixing bugs. He found a key.

A second, "mystery" key that is used by an outside party to install security components without the user's authorization, was labeled "_NSAKEY." Fernandes' posting of his findings at, set off a worldwide debate. The key exists in all recent versions of the Windows operating systems, including Windows 95, 98, 2000, and NT.

For the moment, we're ruling this question "false," but check back later.

4. You download the hot new audio player, Real Jukebox, to place on your computer. You play a tune or two and enjoy what you're hearing. What else , if anything, is happening?

Answer: Real Jukebox is collecting and transmitting data to assemble a profile of my musical tastes.

RealNetworks admitted in early November that a unique identification number tracked users' listening habits. Software analysis has shown that the same identifier is also transmitted by version 6 of the RealPlayer. The unique identification numbers could be tied to personal information that is collected by RealNetworks during user registration. RealNetworks claims that more than 85 million people use the RealPlayer. The company has posted a patch on its Web site to remove the ability to track.

5. True or False: It is illegal for the government and private entities to use your Social Security number for purposes not connected to Social Security and taxes.

Answer: False. Up until 1971, the Social Security card actually came with a printed warning against using the number for identification purposes. But that was never more than a suggestion, and one the U.S. government itself has rarely followed. For more information, see Martin Kaste's story, Your National ID Number.

6. Which of the following can lead to personal information being collected about you:

Answer: All of the above. The warranty card, in particular, is little more than an attempt to gather consumer information. The warranty is usually in place upon purchase, and is obtainable with a sales receipt.

7. True or false: It is legal for companies to access health records to help make personnel decisions.

Answer: Theoretically, it is illegal. But according to a survey in 1996, a large percentage of companies in America do it. For more information, see Brent Wolfe's article, Medical Records: Open Files.

8. According to a recent survey, how many companies check medical records before they hire or promote.

Answer: About a third. See the remarks of President Clinton contained in Brent Wolfe's article, Medical Records: Open Files. You can also learn more about workplace privacy in Bill Catlin's Desktop Monitors.

9. You're in line at an appliance store holding a TV which you want to purchase. Before accepting your credit card, the clerk asks for your Zip Code. You don't want to give it to him or her. Can the store refuse to sell you the TV until you do?

Answer: Yes, the store can refuse to do business with you. There's nothing illegal about asking you for the information. To learn more, see The Information Trade.

10. The Federal Trade Commission can be the source of regulations to protect consumers' privacy. Orson Swindle is one of the commissioners. Recently he commented on the commission's role in these matters. Which of the following is attributed to him.

Answer: Swindle said, "The consumer ultimately is the guard of his own privacy. The government cannot take care of everybody." He made the remarks in a November speech. He is one of several commissioners, however.

11. True or false: The Communications Assistance to Law Enforcement Act, which the FBI pressured Congress into approving in 1994, requires taxpayers to pay for phone companies to rewire their networks to make it easier for police to eavesdrop on conversations.

Answer: True.

12. You work for the federal government. You become famous, then a co-worker releases your personnel records to a reporter, including information that you were once arrested. The reporter writes about your arrest, to your great embarrassment, since none of your current friends or colleagues knew about it. Who's in the wrong?

Answer: Your co-worker. Federal privacy law forbids the government to release personnel records without the consent, or at least knowledge, of the subject.