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SCOTUS Pondering SNAP-ping Privacy of the Poor

In 2017 nearly 160 million social security numbers were exposed alongside 14.2 million credit card accounts.  Millions of people have their identities stolen each year even though we hide ATM cards, passwords and install locks on bank accounts.  As consumers we value our privacy having rallied to ensure Congressional protection with the Graham-Leach-Bliley Act (GLBA).  But we can only use that once we believe our information has been shared by creditors, stores or sneaky schools.  The violation must occur before we can protest.  The Supreme Court of the United States is in the midst of hearing a case deciding the transparency of SNAP benefit expenditures.  It may be an argument against or in support of the FOIA machine but it’s more than governmental.  It’s personal privacy at stake for SNAP recipients.  SNAP assistance consumers must be protected by privacy laws due to their relational state and investment in the assistance program.  Why shouldn’t their expenditures be protected as a violation of their consumer privacy?   

According to the GLBA, companies must inform consumers on what information they are extracting, who they’re selling it to, why they’re using it and much more.  A SNAP recipient is a legally bound client of the benefits assistance program.  They receive the benefits card by the same means as a bank card or credit card-social security number, eligibility and a form of collateral. The recipients cannot share the benefits with others or lose them.  A formal credit/consumer relationship with the government is obvious.  The standard of the relationship is different but still legally binding under the GLBA. 

Prepaid credit cards and consumer loans require similar information and actions as SNAP recipient benefits.  Like a prepaid consumer relationship, benefits provided have already been paid for through previous taxes paid when recipients were working and consuming pre-hard times. They are basically getting a prepaid credit card with a consumer relationship to the government enforcing GLBA privacy.  

The source of the funding is non-relational for the SNAP consumer.  Big Brother isn’t a person loaning money.  Big Brother is just a personified relationship with the government. Individual Americans are not the providers of the SNAP benefits either.  Even though people feel like they’re paying the welfare state, they aren’t.  In America, our money is collected and divvied up unequally for expansive programs.  One person’s dollar doesn’t necessarily pay for someone else’s SNAP purchase.  Again, we the people have no right to ask where our money is going in SNAP purchases because it might not be yours anyway.  If it is, you make a deal when providing taxes that you no longer own that money.  It’s not yours to check on.  You wouldn’t like it if a person that paid taxes at income tax time instead of receiving a refund check asked what you bought with their money?   

SNAP benefits privacy isn’t a FOIA issue, it’s a legal issue of privacy.  The real issues are what do SNAP benefits provide?  Not enough.  Even as our economy continues to rise with the lowest unemployment rate in decades, there are still areas of America that are destitute.  The Appalachia region still has above average poverty, almost 20%.  Inner city areas such as Inglewood, Los Angeles, and Englewood, Chicago both have higher unemployment and poverty than the national average.  SNAP benefits don’t provide the U.S. daily plate allowances for fresh fruits, vegetables or meat.  Don’t even think of buying organic because it’s not affordable.  The moral of the story is respect and expect of others what you expect for yourself.  It’s privacy not piracy of our shopping carts.   

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