Consumer Advocate Buys Governor Romney's Social Security Number on the Internet for $30 to Show Privacy Lacking
BOSTON --- Industry groups have long rated regions for how "business friendly" they are. A national consumer organization and Massachusetts state public interest groups today released a scorecard measuring how Boston compares to other major cities in controlling corporate power.
In demonstration of the lack of privacy protections in Boston, Jamie Court, executive director of the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights (FTCR), announced that he purchased Governor Mitt Romney's and Boston mayor Thomas Menino's Social Security numbers on the Internet for $30 each. Privacy was one of nine indicators in the scorecard on which Boston received a "C."
Boston ranks behind San Francisco, Portland and Seattle on factors such as privacy rights, whistleblower protections, commercialization of education, and protection of community space. It rates higher than Philadelphia and Los Angeles. State scorecards are available at: www.corporateering.org
Local and state groups participating in today's release included: the Massachusetts Money in Politics Project, the Sierra Club, and The Judge Baker Children's Center.
The "corporateering quotient" -- on which the scores are based -- is a term coined by Court in his new book, Corporateering: How Corporate Power Steals Your Personal Freedom And What You Can Do About It (Tarcher/Putnam), which Publisher's Weekly says is "keeping the muckraking tradition alive."
"Corporateering" describes when large corporations prioritize their gain over the individual's and society's. Court hopes to introduce the word into popular discourse in order to give the public a way to describe when corporations act inappropriately.
"The public needs a new yardstick to measure corporate power other than a company's stock price," said Court. "Corporations steal more than our money but also fundamental freedoms such as the right to privacy and to raise one's own child free of aggressive marketing. Corporate societal offenses must be discussed if they are to be prevented. The 'corporateering quotient' measures to what degree industries put themselves above the individual and society. If I can buy the Governor's Social Security number on the Internet for $30 then we are all risk."
The quotient gives points for and against the region in nine areas. For example, Boston received points for protecting workers when they blow the whistle on corporate malfeasance. But it lost points because of rampant naming rights and branding of public space and commercialization of schools.
"Marketing in schools undermines education and compromises children's health," said Susan Linn of the Judge Baker Children's Center, an organization affiliated with the Harvard Medical School. "Communities all over the country are saying no to soda company contracts and to the ad-saturated news program provided by Channel One. Boston should be at the forefront of that effort to reclaim children's education. School is a learning place, not a marketplace."
Channel One, owned by media giant Primedia, provides televisions, videocassette recorders and cable to schools that agree to show the 12-minute Channel One News throughout the school each day. Each broadcast contains two minutes of youth-oriented advertising. All Boston middle and high schools have Channel One -- see report for more details.
Following is a list of the grades in each area. The complete Corporateering Quotient is available at: www.consumerwatchdog.org/corporate/pr/Boston_Quotient.pdf
Privacy Rights: C+
The extent to which individuals can protect their personal information from being bought and sold by corporations.
Protection of Community Space: C-
The impact of corporate branding in our cultural lives.
Commercialization of Schools: C
Advertising and commercialism in schools.
Whistleblower Protections & Executives' Duties: B-
The degree to which workers' dissent is respected and executives' disclosure is required.
Public Recourse: C-
The power of the people to counter corporate control.
"Pay to Play": C
The influence of corporate money in the political process.
Legal Rights: C
The power of corporations to limit the individual's legal rights and remedies when companies break the law or harm us.
Media Independence: C+
The extent of corporate ownership of our airwaves and print media.
Environmental Degradation: B-
The impact of corporations on our environmental health.
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