I’ve Got Your Privacy. Right Here.

camera-monitoring_freeimagesAn irreverent #ResearchPride letter from Mark Noll, The Rhode Warrior

The other day someone stated that he saw me as the Lewis Black of the Prospect Research world. First off, my name should never be mentioned in the same breath as one of the great comedians of our time. I also think that was highly inaccurate to compare me to Mr. Black who feints anger as part of his show whereas I’m a Prospect Researcher who actually lives it.

Like Mr. Black, I am set off by things that pass for issues when in fact they are nothing more than half thoughts; you know, somebody didn’t look at the whole picture. There’s a lot of that going on these days. The most recent one that comes to mind in my work world is the latest rash of articles about how potential donors are having their “privacy” violated by Non-Profit research departments. AND THAT SETS ME OFF!

To begin with, anyone who thinks privacy still exists is not living in the real world. Do people really think all those ads for a pogo sticks popping up on their computers the day after they accidently landed on pogostick.com are purely coincidental? Of course not, they are being monitored. Marketing moguls know more about you than your life partners.

Even your local grocery store is in on the game. Are you still such a rube you haven’t figured out that the little tag on your key chain is not really for discounts? How is that that you suddenly received coupons for Huggies from the local A&P (yes, I’m dating myself here) one week after investing in case of baby formula? They are not only monitoring you, they’re making formulated calculations about you.

Turn on your cell phone, tap in to GPS and the world follows. Cell phone towers pings register your every move. You’ve become your own personal Truman Show. There are a few late members of Isis who belatedly realize that drones work much on the same premise. Be thankful you’re just a lowly citizen.

Type your name in Google and it will not only list your address and a few other incidentals, it will even show the world that frat party picture from ’92 you thought you erased from the internet. And these are just a few of the ways life is being tracked these days. So imagine what it would be like if you were part of the 1%.

Are we as prospect researchers invading areas of knowledge that are not public record? No. We are more aggregators of information than anything else. We follow a code of ethics (okay, most of us do) that keep us away from sensitive but publically available information such as divorce records. All we are doing is making sure – like the grocery store – that we are targeting our audience for specific data to help us do our job.

So this is an open letter to all those “journalists” who think they have uncovered a deep dark world where sinister nerds compile dossiers on the wealthy. Knock it off! There’s no conspiracy here to invade anyone’s privacy. That has already been compromised and we’re not doing anything every other business isn’t doing, including that newspaper you work for. So please stop pretending you’ve uncovered the latest NSA-sized privacy scandal. Go find something real to report about. And don’t forget… I know where you live.

About the Author

Mark Noll is an Advisory Board Member of The Prospect Research Institute and Director of Operations, All Children’s Hospital Johns Hopkins Medicine. Previously he was Associate VP of Research and Development Services at the University of Rhode Island Foundation. A member of AASP as well as APRA, he spends his free time at Starbucks and excels in the art of mediocrity.