To paraphrase Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz as regards anonymity and privacy these days, “Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore." If you haven’t stopped to think about it, it might be worth a moment of your time.
Do you believe that your habits and preferences are your own business? That you’re as “out of sight” as you’d like to be?
If so, you might want to take a look around because, these days, I doubt that any of us are as anonymous or as able to seclude ourselves as we’d like to think.
Not that there’s some super secret group out there watching our every move. Rather, it’s just that every day, each of us leaves a lot of “footprints” behind and with technology being what it is, it’s nigh onto impossible not to.
Think about any normal day.
Need some cash? If you use an ATM anywhere, you leave behind a footprint (and, if the cameras are running, a faceprint) regarding how much money you withdrew along with both your location and the time you were there.
If you’re shopping, a credit card will do the same and will also create a record of just what it was you purchased. Over time, your purchasing history in clothes, food, cars, appliances and what have you provides others with a pretty good idea of your tastes. It also explains why, when you purchase some gizmo or other, you soon begin receiving catalogs from other “gizmo” makers.
Think you can’t be located? If you use a cell phone, it’s location (and, thus, your location) can be triangulated.
Traffic and security cameras are becoming ever more prevalent and, if you take the time to look around, it often seems as if you’re “on camera” just about anywhere you might go.
Even when you’re home, you’re leaving “footprints.”
I’m willing to bet that there’s a database that details which websites you’ve been visiting on your home computer. Start a search and it’s probably logged somewhere along with other bits of data that could be collated if someone were interested.
Do you spend a lot of time on social networking sites? If so, how much are you telling others about yourself? Many individuals post more than they should. Going on a trip? House going to be empty? Mentioned that on a site? Ever wonder who might be interested in knowing that you won’t be home for the next few days or weeks? Think that such information can’t make it to places it should never go?
On a more troublesome note as regards privacy- there’s a school in Pennsylvania that’s in a bit of a bind right now because of some rather interesting activities on their part.
One story that I read summarized it like this: “...Laptops issued to high-school students in the well-heeled Philly suburb have webcams that can be covertly activated by the schools' administrators, who have used this facility to spy on students and even their families. The issue came to light when (a student) was disciplined for ‘improper behavior in his home’ and the Vice Principal used a photo taken by the webcam as evidence.”
Now the school is facing lawsuits for invasion of privacy.
Although the idea of using the webcam to locate a lost computer might be a good one, the problem (as always) is that humans are in charge and far too many human beings love to stick their noses where they don’t belong. If you think that there aren’t individuals who’d use such a tool to peek in to see what either “Johnny or that cute girl in sixth period math” are doing tonight, you don’t know the species that we belong to.
Privacy? Anonymity? Be nice to have them back but, from what I see, it’s just going to get worse faster than we can imagine.
Still, I’m not considering converting all of my assets into gold and going off the grid.I’m not doing that because (a.) I don’t have that many assets and (b.) I think the grid is bigger than we know.
It’s just that I miss the fact that, not all that long ago, a lot more privacy was available to those of us who cherished it.
And what’s truly sad is that I don’t think many of us even notice that it’s missing.
Biography - Larry Simoneaux
Larry Simoneaux is a regular columnist for The Everett Herald in Washington state. He is a retired ship driver for the US Navy and NOAA.