Friday, March 28, 2008

Choosing a new Miss FVSU

In a regal event last night on FVSU's campus, the following young ladies were selected as finalists for Miss FVSU 2008-2009: Sherisse Liggins, Shanoria Morgan, Leah Preston and Brittany Campbell

The ladies will campaign over the course of the next two weeks and one will be chosen to represent FVSU in the next school year. All are rising seniors.
In other awards, Miss Leah Preston was selected winner in the following categories:
Business Wear/Oratorical Performance, Talent, Swimwear, Evening Wear and Question & Answer

Other Award winners:
Most Advertising- the contestant whom raised the most funds towards the Royal Court’s expenses- Miss Leah Preston
People’s Choice Award- selected by the audience -Miss Shanoria Morgan
Miss Congeniality- selected by her fellow contestants -Miss Leah Preston
Most Valuable Participant - selected by advisers Anette Johnson and Kina Tolbert - Sherisse Liggens

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Get the most out of your campus tours

It's tour season, and a multitude of young people are spending their spring breaks visiting college campuses. Here are some tips for getting the most out of your visit:

1. Explore on your own - Of course you should take the official campus tour, but be sure to allow time to poke around on your own. Walk the extra mile to visit the areas you'll be spending the most time in. If you know your major, find out which building those classes are taught in. Find out if there is something new coming for that major (like a new lab building) and what scholarship or grant opportunities there are.

2. Read the bulletin boards - When you visit the student center, academic buildings and residence halls, take a few minutes to read the bulletin boards. They provide a quick and easy way to see what’s happening on campus. The ads for lectures, clubs, recitals and plays can give you a good sense of the types of activities going on outside of the classrooms.

3. Eat in the dining hall - You can get a good feel for student life by eating in the dining hall. Try to sit with students if you can, but even if you’re with your parents, you can observe the activity around you. Do the students seem happy? Also, is the food good (keeping in mind it's a cafeteria, not a restaurant)? Are there adequate healthy options? How much is the meal plan and will you use it?

4. Visit a class in your major - If you know what you want to study, a class visit makes a lot of sense. You’ll get to observe other students in your field and see how engaged they are in classroom discussion. Be sure to call in advance to schedule a classroom visit -- most colleges don’t allow visitors to drop in on class unannounced.

5. Schedule a conference with a professor - If you’ve decided on a possible major, arrange a conference with a professor in that field. You can ask about your major’s graduation requirements, undergraduate research opportunities, and class sizes.

6. Talk to lots of students - Are they friendly and open? Do you feel comfortable chatting with someone in the student center or cafeteria? Is there the sense that you can make friends easily on this campus?

7. Sleep over - If it’s at all possible, spend a night at the college. Nothing will give you a better sense of student life than a night in a residence hall. Your student host can provide a wealth of information, and you’re likely to chat with many other students on the hallway. You’ll also get a good sense of the school’s personality.

8. Take pictures and notes - If you’re comparing several schools, be sure to document your visits. The details may seem distinct at the time of the visit, but by the third or fourth tour, schools will start to blur together in your mind. Don’t write down just facts and figures. Try to record your feelings during the visit; you want to end up at a school that feels like home.

9. Talk to the financial aid representative - How many students are on scholarship? What do you need to get a scholarship, loan or grant at that school? Some schools offer full rides for meeting a certain level of academic standard. That might be the school for you, if you qualify!

10. Bring a bookbag and wear comfortable shoes - You'll not only blend in with the students, but you'll have someplace to put all the paperwork, brochures, fliers, handouts and freebies you'll collect along the way.

information from

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Guide for Parents: Ten Steps to Prepare Your Child for College


1. Investigate and choose a savings vehicle.There are many options available, including U.S. Savings Bonds, bank accounts, mutual funds, and state savings or prepaid tuition plans.

2. Begin saving as early as possible.Whatever savings vehicle you choose, you will be much better off if you start saving early. For example, if you put aside $50 per month starting when your child is born, at 5 percent interest, you will have saved more than $17,000 when your child is 18. If you start saving the same amount monthly when your child is 8 years old, you will have saved only $7,000 by the time your child is ready for college.

Elementary and Middle School

3. Encourage your child to challenge him or herself academically, develop good study habits, and become involved in school- and community-based extracurricular activities.A positive school experience that is both academically challenging and rich in extracurricular activities is important in itself and as preparation for college.

4. Discuss career and college options with your child and encourage his or her aspirations.Many students assume that higher education is not for them or that the jobs they are interested in don't require college. Today, some form of formal postsecondary education or training is required for almost every well-paying job. With $60 billion in financial aid available, college is possible for almost every American. So encourage your child to aim high, explore all the options, and plan to attend college.

5. Make sure your child starts on a college preparatory track in middle school or junior high.If students don't take the right courses in middle school, they may be shut out of the college preparatory track in high school. The U.S. Department of Education recommends that middle and junior high school students take Algebra I in 8th Grade, Geometry in 9th Grade, and English, Science, and History or Geography every year. Foreign language, computer, and visual or performing art classes are also recommended.

High School

6. Meet with a guidance counselor to map out your child's high school curriculum and familiarize yourself with the college admissions and financial aid processes.If your child has taken the right courses in middle school, he or she should be ready for a college preparatory curriculum in high school.Your high school guidance counselor should also be able to provide you with information on the college admissions and financial aid processes, or point you toward the right reference materials.

7. Help your children research colleges and narrow their options.There are many resources available, both in print and on the Internet, to help you search for colleges by special characteristics or academic offerings and learn about specific colleges (check out the Choosing the Right College Resource Library). After you've done some initial research is the right time to add any special considerations, such as price, distance from home, or religious affiliation, to your child's list of college options.Although it is important to make these decisions before your child has his or her heart set on a specific college, eliminating schools before you have hard information may limit your child's choices unnecessarily. For example—after financial aid is taken into consideration—a private college can cost about the same as a public institution. Without that information, you might overlook a college that would be a good fit for your child simply because of an incorrect understanding of the cost.

8. Make sure your child takes any required college admissions tests and submits all admissions, financial aid, and–if necessary–campus housing paperwork on time.Meeting all the requirements of applying for college is a good lesson in itself, but most students will require some help. Setting up a calendar with all the various tasks and deadlines can be very helpful for both you and your child.

9. Learn all you can about financial aid and assist your child in filling out the application forms.Most financial aid comes in the form of grants and scholarships or low-interest loans. The federal government, states, colleges, and private organizations all sponsor student aid programs. Colleges will provide you with the forms you need to apply for most federal, state, and college aid, and are a great source of information about the various types of aid available.In addition, many books and websites are available to help you search and apply for private scholarships. In most cases, you will have to supply some information about your family's income and assets on financial aid application forms, so be sure to have those records assembled. Visit the Paying for College Resource Library for more information on print and Internet resources that can help you to learn more about this complicated—but vitally important—topic.

10. Devise a budget with your child and determine how much will be covered by financial aid, how much you'll provide, and how much your child will contribute by working and/or borrowing.After you've received your financial aid award statements, it's essential to sit down with your child and make a realistic budget that includes both fixed expenses, such as tuition and books, and variable items such as rent, clothing, and transportation. Once you have completed your budget and subtracted the grant and scholarship aid your child has been awarded, you can determine how much you will contribute and how much your child will have to come up with from savings, earnings, and student loans. Your child could end up working long hours while in college or borrowing more than she really needs unless she puts herself on a budget and makes conscious decisions about how she'll meet her financial obligations.

Monday, March 24, 2008

April 5

Mark your calendars: We have two great opportunities coming up on the same day.
April 5 will be our Spring Preview Day. Prospective students and their families can come to the campus, meet adminsitrators, talk to students, and find out what it would mean to be a Wildcat. Interested: call the office of recruitment at 478-825-6307.
Also that day, the office of financial aid will unreavel one of the mysteries of getting a college education: how to pay for it! Counselors will be on hand to help with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid - making sure Wildcats maximize their benefits in the 2008-09 school year. There will be games, prizes and all kinds of fun to take the pain out of filling out forms. There are some things students and their parents will need to bring - starting with a federal PIN number. Get yours at
For more information, call the great folks in financial aid: 478-825-6351

Friday, March 21, 2008

Honors students among us

We're very proud of all our students. They've made a great choice in pursuing higher education and they represent FVSU well. But today we honor the top achievers in our student body: the students who have made Dean's List and have earned departmental honors.
They are:
Nicole Albertie
Ettioniet L. Anderson
Keierrah P. Beasley
Monika C. Brown
Monique A. Collins
Gregory A. Dixon
Chanta R. Fagin
Gail Gilmore
Sabrina S. Green
Thedoshia L. Guillen
Sherri B. Hammond
Timothy W. Hanson
Jayne S. Howard
Cesunica E. Ivey
Uniqueka U. Jenkins
Baron L. Jones
Margaret P. Keen
Jeremy N. Lewis
Marissa C. Little
Ashlee K. McGhee
Kathryn L. McInvale
Terri O. McInvale
Mabya A. Nyannor
Arithina M. Paschall
Leah D. Preston
Tina L. Richardson
Usha T. Rittenberry
Kimberly D. Rogers
Tangela L. Serls
Deidre L. Taylor
Siarra C. Turner
Quentin D. Vinson
Jasmyn P. Virgo
Tiffany M. Wilson
Wendy R. Wilson

Students Selected for Departmental Honors:
Accounting Jayne S. Howard
Agricultural Economics Stephanie Childs
Agricultural Education Timothy W. Hanson
Agricultural Engineering Baron Jones
Biology Sherri Hammond
Commercial Design Nicole Albertie
Computer Science Carlos A. Vinas
Criminal Justice Usha Rittenberry
Economics Malcolm Toure
Electronic Engineering Wilmer Lara Mateo
English (Literature) Tangela Serls
English (Writing) Tanisha Matthews
General Business Matthew Robichaux
History Ariel Jacobs
Infant and Child Development Gina Richardson
Management Terri O. McInvale
Marketing Tameika Renee Clark
Mass Communications Theodoshia Guillen
Mathematics Cesunica E. Ivey
Music Chey Jones
Political Science Christopher J. Kirk
Psychology Siarra Turner
Social Work Zenobia Hodges
Sociology Chanta Fagin
Veterinary Science Jasmyn Virgo

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Preparing your freshman

It's sometimes shocking that students choose to follow "college prep" or "technical" education paths in middle school. Did you know in middle school what you wanted to do with your life? Did your middle school grades reflect your college performance? While it's never too late to decide to attend college, it's also never too early to start recommending they attend college. In some families, it's automatically assumed the children will attend college - no matter the financial situation. Make the decision to become one of those families. Here's a decent Web site for preparing young people (and their parents):

Monday, March 17, 2008

Wildcats on tour

In addition to the fabulous Concert Choir and band tour last week, Dr. and Mrs. Rivers accompanied the inimitable Wildcat Force on their spring recruitment tour. Twelve outstanding students, accompanied by a jazz trio, introduced FVSU to students at eleven high schools over the course of five days. Here are some photos:

Friday, March 14, 2008

Photos from the Kennedy Center

Director Alvin Tuck and the FVSU Concert Choir toured the Eastern Seaboard during spring break, making a spectacular stop at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C.

The audience honored the choir with a standing ovation after their performance on the Millennium stage.

Band Director Kevin Jones and the Concert Band accompanied the choir and turned out an impressive performance of their own.

Notes from the Kennedy Center

The performance by The Fort Valley State University Concert Choir at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts was beyond fantastic.

When I arrived at the Millennium Stage the room was already filled will spellbound listeners. It was obvious that the audience was greatly enjoying the music. In addition to a great performance, the Concert Choir also looked very professional in their formal attire and received a standing ovation at the end.

The next morning, the Capitol Area Chapter of the FVSU Alumni Association sponsored the Concert Choir at Potomac Senior High School in Dumfries, Va., about 20 miles outside of Washington, D.C. The Choir arrived at the school at about 6:30 a.m. to perform at an 8:45 a.m. assembly program. This had to be very challenging for the choir; they had to leave their hotel at about 5 a.m. to avoid the rush-hour traffic.

The Fort Valley State University Concert Choir, dressed in blue and gold shirts, astonished the auditorium of 650 students with their performance. They sang a variety of songs, including spirituals and a song translated from Russian. An all-black concert choir is rarely seen in Northern Virginia, which is predominantly white. The Fort Valley State University Concert Choir was an inspiration to the entire student body and a lesson in cultural diversity for the faculty. Several students have already asked if I can bring them back.

The Capitol Area Chapter of the FVSU National Alumni Association gives thanks to Mr. Alvin Tuck and Mr. Kevin Jones for their professionalism and willingness to showcase the FVSU students. They all represented “The Valley” well. Students are now asking about Fort Valley State!

-Written by Warren Hill, president for the Capitol Area Chapter of the FVSU National Alumni Association

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The data aggregator and you

In last week’s installment, I wrote about how much of a data trail each of us leaves on the Internet and in our daily lives. This week, it’s time to look at why that data trail has become so valuable.

If your personal data were scattered to the four corners of a nearly infinite Internet, then storing your personal data online would pose few problems. In fact, in the years B.G. (Before Google), putting the data clues together would have taken the skills of dozens of Sherlock Holmeses. Now, software technology has found a means to overcome that formerly mind-numbing and time-consuming task of data mining: the data aggregator.

The aggregator allows databases of information to be compiled together and the data to then be parsed in whatever way the customer chooses. For instance, an aggregator allows a marketing firm to take the records of those who have filed bankruptcy and compare it to a state’s licensing database. Why would that be valuable? That data would be priceless for a bank that is looking to push high-interest auto loans because they would know which individuals, who could not otherwise get credit, would soon be in the market for a new car, by the age of their current vehicle.

The more data saved in a database and the longer time span the data covers, the more valuable it becomes. This is one of the reasons Google is sitting on a marketing gold mine:

Because Google saves the results of consumer searches for a long time, perhaps forever, and because it has the search string and Internet address of many searchers, it can do real damage with database matching, which involves taking information from one context, like searching, and equating it to an unrelated venue, like product shopping on an e-commerce site or commenting on a blog. . . . Its g-mail product looks at the content of e-mails so that Google can serve up targeted banner ads. Google Desktop and related products index material stored on home and office computers. . . .Google provides no guarantee, contractual or legal that . . . misuse will never occur. In the meantime, it keeps collecting information. . . .[1]

Businesses are not the only entity to see the value in the aggregation of data. The U.S. government and a number of other national entities are utilizing aggregators in their pursuit of those deemed “dangerous to national security.” In the United States, those aggregators are being called “fusion centers.”

Fusion centers are somewhat controversial and mysterious – the public does not know what goes on inside. . . .they [the intel and security agencies] share current threat information from each of their organizations. Multiple databases from different agencies bring gigabytes of law enforcement and intelligence information into the fusion center....there are now almost 70 fusion centers nationwide. . . .[2]

The scope of data collected by both governmental and corporate aggregators extends well beyond the obvious: demographic, purchasing, and net behavior tracking. “The data collected extends beyond [even] information about consumers’ views of products to information about the consumers themselves, often including lifestyle details and even a full psychological profile.”[3]

This aggregation of data is even extending beyond traditionally sacred barriers of privacy such as that of the physician-patient relationship. Both Google and Microsoft have recently announced that they will collect and aggregate medical, psychiatric, and pharmacy records in order to make them available, by subscription, via the Internet.

Google said it has signed deals with hospitals and companies - including medical tester Quest Diagnostics Inc, health insurer Aetna Inc, Walgreens and Walmart Stores Inc pharmacies. The password-protected Web service stores health records on Google computers, with a medical services directory that lets users import doctors' records, drug history and test results. . . . "We don't know how to suck it out of the brains of doctors, but we know how to suck it out of the computer systems of doctors," [Chief Executive Eric] Schmidt said in an interview after his speech. . . . [4]

Meanwhile, Microsoft has introduced a competing product called “HealthVault.” Both medical aggregation services will allow the data to be utilized by other platforms to search for specialized groups or even individuals within the database. Schmidt was also quoted as saying: “There are a lot of applications you can’t envisage today.” [5] Unfortunately, even those who are advocating a U.S. Government electronic medical records sharing system admit that the privacy of the patients’ records is not their highest priority as they move forward with the initiative.[6] In fact, the medical records which are already online have, according to the Department of Homeland Security, become a target of Chinese and Russian hackers.[7]

Medical aggregators are dwarfed in size and resources by other aggregators, such as the three major American credit bureaus, which spend their time and effort creating data profiles of every person in their sampling group. Many of these, such as Equifax and Experian, operate in the open and regularly deal with the individuals they profile. However, there are many data aggregators who are little-known and prefer to keep it that way. Among them are ChoicePoint, which holds approximately 19 billion records for almost every adult in the U.S., and Acxion whose Profiler program alone gathers data on over 95 percent of American homes.[8] There are a number of other large and specialty aggregators which operate in the public shadows:

Catalina Marketing Corporation maintains supermarket buying history databases on 30 million households. . . . Aristotle, Inc. markets a database of 150 million voters. . . . . Donelly Marketing Information Services of New Jersey keeps track of 125 million people. Wiland Services has constructed a database containing over 1,000 elements, from demographic information to behavioral data on over 215 million people.

There are around five database compilers that have data on almost all households in the United States. . . . Credit reporting agencies also prepare investigative consumer reports, which supplement the credit report with information about an individual’s character and lifestyle. . . . the Global Regulatory Information Database (GRID) gathers information from more than 20,000 sources around the world. GRID’s purpose is to help financial companies conduct background checks of potential customers for fraud, money laundering, terrorism, and other criminal activity.[9]

Aggregation allows companies and governments the opportunities to provide personally targeted marketing. Before computing made such data compilation possible, marketing campaigns anticipated very low responses to their efforts. Direct mail, for instance, would, before aggregation, consider a campaign a success if two percent or more of those who received the flyer in the mail responded.

Compiling the data allows marketers to target specific demographic groups, or groups based on any variable depending upon the level of detail of the collected data. More data equals more precise marketing; even if it means invading one’s privacy to make certain that one is sent a coupon for the proper shade of lipstick. What is even more astonishing about this current situation is that the average user is blissfully unaware of the erosion of their privacy, or they have placed such a low value upon their privacy that they have bartered it away for other digital narratives such as “security” or “a semblance of a relationship.” So, all of the sudden, you may be getting advertising that sees a lot more interesting to you; but, the downside is that this data doppelganger which has been created tells all your secrets and it doesn’t care to whom it spills the beans.

Next week, a look at the illusory and changing face of privacy rights in the U.S.

[1] David Holtzman, Privacy Lost: How Technology is Endangering Your Privacy, (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2006), 12-13.
[2] Ben Bain, “A New Threat, A New Institution: The Fusion Center,” Federal Computer Week, February 18, 2008, 18, 20.
[3] Daniel J. Solove, The Digital Person: Technology and Privacy in the Information Age, (NY: New York University, 2004), 17.
[4] Barbara Liston, “Google Unveils Personal Medical Records Service,” Scientific American, February 28, 2008,
[5] Richard Waters, “Google Reveals Plans For Health Databases,” Financial Times, February 28, 2008,
[6] Nancy Ferris, “Persona Non Grata?” Government Health IT, February, 2008, 18 – 19.
[7] Nancy Ferris, “Foreign Hackers Prey on U.S. Health Records,” Government Health IT, February, 2008, 6 – 7.
[8] Holtzman, 190.
[9] Solove, 20-21.

-B. Keith Murphy is the Associate Dean for The College of Arts and Sciences at Fort Valley State University.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Student-Athlete stars

The Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference named its 2008 all conference teams in men’s and women’s basketball in Birmingham, Ala. Fort Valley State had a total of three athletes (two women, one male) to make the units.

Takesha Riggs and KaDeidra Freeland both earned kudos from the league for their play in women’s basketball during the regular season. Riggs, a sophomore from Homestead, Fla., lead the SIAC in scoring (19.3 ppg) and was ranked high in several other statistical categories. Freeland, a freshman from Riverdale, Ga., was selected as the league’s “Freshman of the Year.” Freeland averaged 8.2 points per game, pulled down a team high 6.1 rebounds per outing, and lead the Lady Wildcats in blocked shots with 12.

Martrez Scott was the lone FVSU representative on the 2008 All Conference team. Scott, who was named to the second unit, lead the Wildcats in scoring (14.3 ppg), assists (3.6 pg), and steals (3.2). Scott is a native of Eatonton, Ga.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Internet dependency

I've posted before about our millennial-generation students who take notes on their laptops during class. Pencil and paper are apparently "so 1980s." Even the public library system here has their catalogue online, instead of in those little pull-out boxes of cards I remember never learning how to use.
Well, what happens when your Internet is taken away? For most of the day yesterday, we were without Net. No e-mail. No shared files. No fact-checking by Web. I have this mental image of us wandering a desert with no water.
While we managed to fill our time productively - taking care of projects that require old-fashioned hands-on work - I was sincerely hoping as I drove to campus this morning that our technology lifeline had been restored. The IT department gets chocolate chip cookies; we're back up.
I've had several wake-up calls about technology in the last two weeks - more than half the students in a seventh-grade class I visited last week have their own MySpace or Facebook pages. I went to pick up my kindergartner from school and he was the only child in the after-school program not tapping away at a computer when I got there.
Just how dependent on technology are we? And at what point do we say "No, I'd rather have a pencil and piece of paper, please."

-Misty Cline works in the Office of Marketing and Communications at Fort Valley State University.

Monday, March 10, 2008

More FVSU on tour

Turs out I left some students on tour off of my last post. A group of band students will be touring with the choir, and the newly-crowned Mr. FVSU is hitting the road, as well. Here's his schedule:

Monday, March 10, 2008
9:30 am - Frank McClarin High School
3605 Main Street, College Park, Georgia

11:30 am – North Springs High School
7447 Roswell Road, Atlanta, Georgia

2:00 pm – Miller Grove High School
2645 Dekalb Medical Pkwy., Lithonia, Georgia

7:00 pm – Greater Solid Rock Baptist Church
(with Concert Choir and Jazz Band - this will be your best shot at seeing the full group)
6280 Camp Creek Road, Atlanta, Georgia

Tuesday, March 11, 2008
9:30 am - Terrell County High School
201 Greenwave Boulevard, Dawson, Georgia

1:30 pm – Macon County High School
611 Vienna Road, Montezuma, Georgia

Friday, March 7, 2008

And what will your students be doing on Spring Break?

Spring Break - ahhh, a time of all play and no work. A time to rejoice in surviving mid-terms and cut loose before coming back to buckle down and finish out the school year.

Or not.

Two groups of Fort Valley State University students will spend their spring break representing their school on whirlwind tours. The concert choir is traveling the Eastern Seaboard from Atlanta to New York, with a performance at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. To say the campus is proud of this group might be an understatement.

The high-energy Wildcat Force will be touring with university officials, including Dr. Rivers, to high schools throughout the state The tour is the brainchild of Dr. Rivers, who sought a unique way to introduce high school students to FVSU. At each stop, the 12-member Force performs, President Rivers speaks, and recruiters tell the students how to apply to FVSU.

What does it say about the university that so many of our students are lining up to spend their spring break not lying on a beach or partying in Daytona, but spreading the massage that FVSU is the place to be? Good things, I think.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Business After Hours success

Business and community leaders attended the premiere social networking event of the year recently. The 2nd Annual Peach County Chamber of Commerce’s Business After Hours took place at Fort Valley State University and brought together community leaders from Crawford, Peach, Macon and Taylor counties and the cities of Warner Robins, Perry and Roberta.

A silent auction, seen above, marked the start of the event and raised money for FVSU’s Challenge Fund. FVSU President Larry E. Rivers thanked First Lady Betty Rivers for organizing the program as a volunteer and recapped some of the university’s recent accomplishments - completion of the $44 million Wildcat Commons student housing complex, the upcoming construction of a new SMART Classroom facility and a new stadium. Dr. Rivers said the school is proposing a new Doctor of Veterinary Medicine program that would specialize in the treatment of large animals.

Attendees were treated to gourmet hors d’oeuvres of crab cakes, egg rolls, fruit kabobs, glazed succulent beef, quiche, vegetables and a medley of dark and milk chocolates. A stamp honoring Charles W. Chestnutt Stamp, the 31st U.S. Postal Service Stamp in the Black Heritage Series, was also unveiled.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Information Privacy: part I

Have you ever had the feeling that someone was watching you? That you really weren’t alone? If you’ve had that hunch, it was the correct one. At every turn in our lives we are being tracked, examined, and followed. Often in ways we have never imagined. Over the next few installments of this blog, I will take a look at information privacy.

It is nearly impossible to maneuver in modern society without generating a trail of data which, no matter how hard one tries to be stealthy, is as easy to track as the spoor of an elephant, stricken with diarrhea, running through a flour mill. At almost every step along your path, data collectors will be hot on your trail, plying their trade:

. . .service companies attempt to fill their files with any information they can get – at a minimum, personal information from forms like names, addresses, and phone numbers. Many require additional data, like birthdays and spouses’ names. Some try to get Social Security numbers or at least driver’s license numbers.[1]

Even the most uniformed netizen is aware of the danger posed to their personal data by hackers, although they may not be aware of the scope of the problem:

Last year [2007], 127 million sensitive electronic and paper records (those containing Social Security numbers and the like) were hacked or lost – a nearly 650 percent increase in data breaches from the previous year. Also last year, news broke that hackers had stolen between 45 million and 94 million credit card numbers from the databases of the retail company TJX, in one of the biggest data breaches in history. Last November, The British government admitted losing computer discs containing personal data for 25 million people, which is almost half the country’s population.[2]

These were just a sampling of the security breaches that were reported. There are bound to be many more because many go unreported since corporations do not want their customers to think that the customer’s data is not safe in the company’s hands. That would be bad for business.

Hackers and thieves, however, are the least of your problems when it comes to the erosion of privacy. You have more to fear from the governmental agencies which were designed to serve, protect, and keep us safe and the corporations with which you do business. Those entities are quite interested in gathering as much data as they can about us.

Governments are, perhaps, the most interested in finding out more about you. According to the Daily Mail, there are, on average, 28,000 requests filed by governmental agencies to intercept personal data, such as tapping phone or data lines, each month in the United Kingdom alone.[3] Phil Booth, of the NO2ID Campaign, a group which is fighting against the government’s ease of access to the average citizen’s data explained, "You have to apply to a court to tap an Al Qaeda terrorist, but a council worker can check your phone calls with a simple request. The potential for abuse is enormous."[4]

This assault on privacy is multiplied by the ease by which governmental or corporate entities can access your personal data:

Privacy-minded people have long warned of a world in which corporations and governments can peer at will into your life with a few keystrokes on a computer. Now one of the people in charge of information-gathering for the U.S. government (Donald Kerr, principal director of National Intelligence) says, essentially, that such a world has arrived. [5]

Perhaps more egregious are the corporations whose desire to know us better is driven purely by profit. These are companies who collect information about us simply so that they can sell it to the highest bidder. While it may be true that when one's body is broken down into its composite elemental components it is only worth a few dollars, the data that can be compiled about that body is worth a good deal more:

A consumer record with up-to-date information is worth around $200 for cell phone information. Social Security information sells for $60 and a student’s university class schedule goes for $80.[6]

The sale of mailing lists, in 2004 alone, created three billion dollars in revenue for these companies.[7] That’s why you receive so many catalogs, solicitations from charities, healing oil packets from televangelists, or credit card offers in the mail. Every time you purchase from or donate to one of those solicitations, you are put on special “gold lists” which are worth even more and mean you get more and more junk mail.

Your name, address, and phone number are valuable by themselves. Your remaining information, when it is added to the mix, can make the data a goldmine for marketers, government agencies, and some people who might surprise you. Next time: data aggregation.

[1] David Holtzman, Privacy Lost: How Technology is Endangering Your Privacy, (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2006), 10.
[2] Catherine Price, “The Anonymity Experiment,” Popular Science (March 2008), 60.
[3] James Slack, “Revealed: 800 Public Bodies Now Have Powers to ‘Snoop’ on our Phones and Emails,” London Daily Mail, January 30, 2008, .
[4] Ibid.
[5] Price, 61.
[6] Holtzman, 10.
[7] Daniel J. Solove, The Digital Person: Technology and Privacy in the Information Age, (NY: New York University, 2004), 19.

- Dr. B. Keith Murphy is Interim Associate Dean, College of Arts and Sciences, Fort Valley State University

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

It's a war out there

At the 25th Anniversary luncheon for the Cooperative Developmental Energy Program, representatives from Shell, AGL and other energy companies spoke about the battle for qualified new employees.

"We work together to get top students into energy programs, provide them with scholarships, and get them throught the pipeline to graduation. Then the war begins," was the general consensus. Much like computer programmers in the 1990s, graduates qualified for a career in an energy field are assured a job, it seems. But they'd better be sharp.

The energy industry, it was agreed, is an ever-changing field. And with a large number of employees preparing for retirement, the energy companies are looking for top graduates with leadership capabilities.

Well, FVSU is turning them out with the CDEP program. During the luncheon, 25 new scholarship recipients will be welcomed into the family. And they'll get a good look at what's ahead for them as they rub elbows with graduates and top managers in their future career fields.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Fort Valley State offers free estate planning workshop in Dublin

Death can be devastating, and without proper planning dealing with the loss of a loved one can get complicated.

“I don’t care how young you are, the day you become a property owner you need a will,” said Titus Andrews Sr., the Fort Valley State University county extension agent in Laurens County who is coordinating an estate planning event.

FVSU’s Cooperative Extension Program is hosting a free workshop March 13 about estate planning and property tax incentives for Georgia land and property owners. The workshop is from 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. at the Travel Lodge Inn and Suites, 2121 Hwy.441 in Dublin. Participants can expect to learn about the process of creating a will and how to reduce property taxes.

Estate planning includes elderly citizens designating his or her rights to their children in case they become senile, and creating a living will that can be used if someone slips into a vegetative state.

“If you don’t do the estate planning, it can cost you a lot of money,” Andrews said. If someone dies without a will, it is possible for the deceased person’s property to go to the state, according to Andrews.

Speakers for the workshop include Dublin’s chief appraiser, Atlanta lawyers and a Georgia Forestry Commission representative.

The mission of FVSU’s Cooperative Extension Program is to provide useful and educational opportunities for Georgians. County extension agents, such as Andrews, offer various types of free assistance to clients who include farmers, animal producers and landowners.

To register for the workshop, which includes a free lunch, contact Jean Willis at Fort Valley State, (478) 825-6268 or