A Conversation

Self portrait, ink and brush on paper

Self portrait, ink and brush on paper

The estate agent had organised to do a quick property inspection on the 7th February so I was expecting someone when the knock came. I went to the door and let him in but noticed he was holding a digital camera in his free hand. “Please turn that off.” I suggested. “I do not allow people to take pictures inside my home.”

“Oh, why would that be?” he asked showing some lack of enthusiasm and possibly some suspicion as to my motives. “I do not want my stuff stolen!” I informed him. That should be enough right? I have said enough to establish a genuine reason for not wanting a total stranger photographing my possessions and artworks. I could have added the fact that he was a real estate agent and not a member of ASIO so I have every reason to doubt the ability of his office security to prevent dishonest people getting at the computers this stuff is on. I know I have almost nothing worth stealing right now but I may have in the future and I have been robbed by people using the information they found in the files of stores I bought electronic products from. I do not want to go on Ebay to find some person from a well-known pirating nationality has knocked off my ideas for images and is selling them in the thousands.

It really amazes me. Just a little while ago the same estate agent company had not been able to understand why I would not want want my house pumped full of toxic bug-juice. They had a problem understanding why they should not destroy the small creatures I have been researching in the backyard the past seven years. They waltz in here to take photographs as though everyone on earth should be happy to risk having all their private household items in an office computer (or maybe many office computers) with the greatest possible chance that some family member or ex employee will go rogue and do break ins on residents who have been gullible enough to believe that a) there is a need for them to photograph the way a home is laid out, and b) their equipment will always be in the hands of highly secure and trustworthy people who would never abuse any of the elements of trust here.

I have written almost exactly this blog entry just months back and for exactly the same reason although this one doesn’t end there.

As he went into the kitchen I noticed the screen on the camera was bright and he holding it in his free hand with the lens facing forwards. I pulled him up. “If I find you have that camera on and are taking sneaky pictures I will kick you out of here right now.” By the time he held the camera up in the air the screen was dark. “Look,” he said, “it is off and I am not impressed by your threats.” I wonder if he is aware that he can charged with some crime or another for taking sneaky photographs after I have directed him to stop? He was a big guy, up there about the old six foot mark.

“If I cared about impressing you I would be wearing a big hat and dancing about the fucking house!” I told him. I am pretty sure he tried his heart out to get photographs without me noticing and I did my best to attach myself to his shoulder so he couldn’t. I do not know if he was able to snap anything. Short of wrestling him to the ground and taking the camera out of his hand I could not know. He certainly insisted on holding it as though it was being used! Next time I am going to give them a cloth bag to leave the camera in. Either that or it goes outside ion the car. Everything will be covered with cloth and plastic tarps as well. Most of the paintings are covered now. I was quite sure one of the women who come to assist me with cleaning and chores was prospecting for ideas for a relative she had who was a painter as well.

It all sounds a bit paranoid doesn’t it? I speak from bitter experience though. Several robberies took almost all of my art making tools and when I had an insurance claim life was punctuated with home invasions. I am in the process of putting in security lights and some basic security system. It is not that I have anything of value it is just that I have clawed my way to getting back a few basic tools and materials and another robbery or vandalism would kill me! I had friends who ran with ideas I was working on so when I came to develop them in the world the opportunity was gone. Among the business people I have worked with or known over the years not one can say they have not suffered one and more of the situations I have covered here!

So I am again among the people most-despised by my land-lord’s representative. I wish some of the other tenants would realise the possible danger they face by allowing the estate agents to do these things. I cannot be the only person not wanting to be poisoned or robbed or a bunch of other stuff that will eventually lead to another showdown with them!

I have not been in here much the last few weeks and will do a general update on things soon

Anyway, here I am forced to write another long and annoying dissertation about some disservice I need to have cease. I feel down hearted after this one. I had the discussion about cameras with the agent already. So I join those interminably annoying people who write complaints to all sorts of companies. I have to ask if this ends. Perhaps I am over-sensitive but you will see why if you read on. Perhaps the letter is too long and some will think it never needed to be written. That is covered in the last line. Here it is. Letter to estate agent. Sigh!

To the property manager

It seems I am driven to contact your office again.

I am sure you must be delighted to know we have another issue that requires discussion.

I was delighted to be visited by your representative for a property inspection today. I was disappointed to see he was carrying a digital camera.

I have previously asked that the interior of my home be free from your efforts at digital file keeping. It seems you are unaware of the inherent dangers of allowing records to be kept on databases which may be breached from without or by a dishonest employee within. There is no reason to have images of the inside of my home and the items I own or art works I create.

There are several considerations I would ask you to keep in mind. This is as I understand legal matters and without a final check-up by a lawyer.

If I ask you or a representative to cease photography of my valuables and you are found to have those images on a database you may be have broken the law. If your computer is breached and my home is robbed after I have asked you to limit photography to tight shots of anything you consider to be new damage then you may be charged. If I should ever regain enough health to turn one of my hobbies into a business and you have images of my equipment on your data base; and after I have asked you to avoid such a situation; I understand you may be charged in a higher court for crimes which relate to corporate espionage. If your representative continued taking photographs or digital images or recordings after I asked him not to, he may be charged, and if you knowingly place such files on your database you may be charged. If the database is hacked or information sold by a person who is trusted you may be charged and asked to compensate me and probably a host of other tenants for any damage or loss. I would have to check but that may include the loss of intellectual properties if your representative has inadvertently taken photographs of my artworks. Have you insured yourselves for damage caused by digital breaches yet?

If, in future, some of the images I now have hanging about the house should become the focus of copyright litigation as in the case of someone using one of my drawings, designs or ideas, and there has been no publication of the item by me or my family then your office may be asked to prove in court that you were not responsible for the leak via your unsafe database and less-than-secure staffing and office procedures.

It would be nice if we could have our little interactions without any need for me to lecture you on things you should be aware of. This situation and the inability of small business to ensure absolute security of databases should be at the front of your mind. Any photographs of the inside of any tenant’s homes which show more than the damage in question should be destroyed and especially if they show any valuable possessions or security devices. I would ask in future that digital cameras be left in the car. Any cameras brought to the house will be placed in the bag I provide and left by the door until it can be retrieved on the way out. Any images required can be taken by me with your representative’s direction and sent to you via email or loaded directly to a flash drive if one has been supplied.

I am surprised to find myself in a position where I must cover this with you. I wish I could convey to you the despair raised by having to write this letter and cover this ground with your representative. In the past few years businesses have leapt onto anything that would enable them to extend their power of processing and controlling their environment. They have all the latest gadgets to keep and compile and process data. All over the world the people who have their data munched by the businesses who would claim it are suffering because this technology is too advanced for most of the people who use it. They do not have the range of skills or intellectual depth to understand the harm they can cause by keeping data they do not need to have. They have little comprehension of how wide-ranging their efforts need to be to protect their database and how much wider their efforts to avoid compromising their customers security. If you have read through this and are suggesting that the security on your machines will never be breached I would ask that you give yourself a shake and do a little research.

One final item I must consider at this point is the number of times I am having to deal with issues where your office has not shown proper consideration of my rights and living conditions or (as in this case) security. I must ask if we have a problem of discrimination here. Do you feel contempt for people who rent? Are you less than impressed by disabled and unhealthy old grouches? How do you feel about people with Jewish surnames who do not jump when you give a directive?  Do you feel that as an employed person who can get laid and buy a car and maybe even buy their own house that you outrank me socially and as such should have authority?  Perhaps you resent the fact that I get a pension and assistance from community carers while you work.  The fact that I pass you in the street so often without ever asking you on a date makes you want to punish me. I have come across all of these when dealing with estate agents.

Every time I have to cover situations like this I am accused of being paranoid, over-zealous or one of those terms. I have been robbed while I was asleep or out of the house approximately ten times. There were four home invasions after an insurance payout. These came about mostly because people had access to information suggesting I had valuables or money at a place or time. The fact that I am poor as a church mouse and have nothing does not mean it will always be so or that someone wanting to do harm will not profit from the information. Several robberies were committed by people who had access to files kept by the store I bought my electronics from. Most of the people I have taken the time to warn about various security weak spots have ignored me and have been breached by criminals. I have had two instances of identity theft. I have been using computers since the the 1980s and used to write basic software. I was a member of the international internet anti-crime group called Castle Cops for many years. Did I need to cover all this ground? My mind goes back to your representative standing at my door not quite able to understand why I would not want him to use the camera to photograph the inside of my home. I guess I do have to cover this.

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