Saturday, March 29, 2008

Coke Classic

Here is a fascinating Flickr photo album: The Cocaine Photos. It really captures a certain 80's vibe. Though the 80's were my high school and college years, I didn't participate in the drugs, but I do remember those jackets, those hairstyles, that Duran Duran poster, and the furniture. Huh? What happened to their furniture? They must have sold it all to buy the drugs.

I had another random thought while staring at these pictures. They didn't have digital cameras back then, so they had to actually get their film developed at a convenience store or photo booth, but I bet nobody turned these guys in to the police. Maybe the guy at the Fotomat was a stoner too, or maybe people simply understood the concept of privacy back then.

Of course, by "back then" I mean before 9/11 when we suddenly became very comfortable with the government invading our privacy. There are two interesting federal laws most of us (including me) don't fully understand: the Bank Secrecy Act, and the USA Patriot Act. By these two laws, banks are required to report any transaction that they suspect is intended to violate or evade any federal law or any federal regulation. Americans took solace that these laws would certainly only be used to fight terrorists, drug traffickers, and money launderers. But no, of course not. This is how Elliot Spitzer was caught. He withdrew a few thousand dollars which required the bank to file a “Suspicious Activity Report" (SAR). The Feds followed the money, and discovered the prostitution ring.

So, this is great, right? We are catching all kinds of criminals now! But I, for one, am not enthusiastic about this. From, "In total, 919,230 SARs were filed in 2005. You cannot find out if one has been filed on you; anyone revealing that information is breaking the law." Many of these reports are triggered by legitimate financial transactions, and the transactions can be blocked or frozen while being investigated. I wish we valued bank secrecy as much as the Swiss.

Now I am stumped by the irony of my own blog post. That first link above goes to a photo album which somebody found at a swap meet. They scanned the pictures and posted them on Flickr without the permission of the people captured in the photos. I'm on a soap box about the government invading our privacy, and yet, by circulating that link, am I doing it too? I guess because I did not create that Flickr album, I don't feel guilty... I feel a bit voyeuristic though.

Update April 5, 2008: The owner of the Flickr photo album has now marked the photos "private" probably because there was some talk of a lawsuit over on Boing Boing. However, some creative types have been kind enough to recreate the original photos. They're just not the same without the Duran Duran poster.

1 comment:

Teala said...

Yeah I know but still when I saw COKE it made me thirsty anyway hahahahaha