Here's a Prescription to Help Protect Your Privacy
It may sound a bit bizarre, but if you learn to write as illegibly as most doctors do, you just might protect yourself from unwanted surveillance.
As you already know from my previous writings, your email messages, Internet browsing records and just about anything else you send or receive electronically is automatically swept up by the National Security Administration and analyzed in their supercomputers. Such surveillance in many cases no longer requires a search warrant. It's accomplished by placing taps on the giant switches used by U.S. telecom companies.
Since much of the world's electronic "traffic" passes through these switches, even persons living outside the United States, sending messages to persons also outside the United States, may have their communications pass through these switches.
Your telephone traffic data - records of who you call, who calls you and how long you talk, are similarly monitored, again without a warrant. Sophisticated voice recognition software listens for "trigger words" in your conversations that might be of interest for further review by a human analyst.
Any fax messages you send or receive similar treatment. Naturally, no warrant is required. Optical character recognition (OCR) software is used to review faxes for trigger words that might merit further analysis.
And here's where your doctor's illegible handwriting might prove useful. Handwritten messages, especially those written in script (i.e., cursive writing, where the letters are connected) is difficult for automated OCR systems to monitor. Unless you're a specific target, this precaution will pass you through the electronic OCR dragnet.
It may not be convenient to take the time to handwrite a fax message, but if you want to communicate privately, without taking additional precautions such as encrypting your email messages, it's one of the easiest ways to do so.
Perhaps the Bush administration's next initiative in the War on Terror will be to require handwritten faxes to be created in block lettering to facilitate OCR surveillance. Or to ban them altogether since handwritten faxes might potentially facilitate terrorist communications.
If that happens, you may need to do what I did as a child to converse with the boy next door: Connect two tin cans with a spool of wire. I don't think even the NSA could listen in on those conversations.