From the October 1998 issue of Startups

One of the biggest threats to homebased business owners is loss of privacy. While the right to privacy is paramount to the safety and security of homebased business owners, technology jeopardizes our ability to keep certain information about ourselves private. We're living in a cyberworld of globally networked databases and highly sophisticated computers with the capability to collect, store, disseminate and broadcast all kinds of personal information.

Not surprisingly, serious concerns about the accessibility of personal records have arisen. The computerization of records increases the risk of intrusion and misuse. The threat of data being stolen and copied, not to mention the threat of strangers being able to access information about you, frightens most people. But invasion of homebased business owners' privacy differs in that it endangers not only the entrepreneur and his or her business, but his or her family and home as well.

Numerous groups and individuals are seeking information about homebased business owners. Unfortunately, this sudden spotlight could jeopardize our right to be left alone.

The dilemma? While technology is being used to broadcast sensitive and personal information, policy makers are slow to enact laws. Awareness of the difference between private information and information you can safely share, combined with tougher laws, will help us deal with privacy issues.

New Territory

Property rights are also a concern of homebased business owners. Many zoning laws are designed to protect property value instead of the rights of the property owners themselves. If the government's unlimited power to restrict homebased businesses continues, we run the risk of becoming extinct.

Our right to live and work where we want to, to hold private employment free of unreasonable government interference, to make decisions without obstruction, and to control the use and disposal of private property are being slowly chipped away by zoning ordinances that favor land values over property rights.

The growth of homebased business over the past decade has been greatly influenced by the economy, technology, and increasing concerns about personal safety and security. Having a safe place to retreat to is comforting; home is a place where we feel in control.

Opportunities to work from home opened the doors to millions of Americans seeking an alternative to corporate life. If homebased businesses continue to lose ground in zoning battles and individuals continue to lose their privacy rights, our nation risks losing a valuable commodity.