Posted in Technology, United States

2012 – The Sequel to 1984

Every weekday morning I wake up to the radio.  There’s a minute long spot from “America’s Godess, Kim Komando,” (http://www.komando.com) and, though I don’t normally listen carefully to what she says – I’m usually not awake enough for that – a couple of days ago one comment in particular caused me to wake up rather suddenly.  It was a spot about Google.  And, I think I knew this, at least subconsciously, but she spelled it out.  Google is right now in the process of collating every piece of data about you that they can (http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2012/jan/25/google-merge-user-data-privacy?newsfeed=true).  Every search, every contact, every time you use any of Google’s apps, they’ll be collecting your information.  When all is said and done, they can know more about you than you yourself know.  Have you received a Youtube link recently from a friend?  Did you click on the link?  Was it dumb, funny, tasteless?  Google now has it associated with you.  Did another (computer challenged) friend ask you to do a search for information pertaining to 9/11?  You’re now associated with 9/11.  See how easy that is?  Do you have a blog?  Every word in it is now added to the database.  Facebook, Twitter, Linked In, World of Warcraft, Star Trek Online.  Ever use Google Maps/Earth?  Shop online?  You can’t escape.

I have friends that claim that if you have nothing to hide then why be concerned about it?  First off, there has never been anybody that innocent.  Even Jesus was considered a criminal by the Hebrew authorities.  Everything that you do in the course of the day can be construed as right or wrong in someone else’s eyes.

The newer browsers have “privacy modes,” where, in theory, your digital footprints aren’t recorded.  Have you tried it – do you know for certain that no data is being shared?  It may not be leaving cookies on your PC, but that doesn’t mean that your surfing data isn’t being retained by the servers that you’re accessing.  Essentially, every time you go online you’re leaving a little bit of information behind.

What can Google do with all this information?  Right now they want to use it to target ads to you, but it seems to me that they can be targeted by our own Government, because Google’s information will be consolidated, collated, and coordinated.  Most of the stuff that Google has was voluntarily added by you and me, and is readily available for anyone to see online.  Would our own government even need “due process” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fourteenth_Amendment_to_the_United_States_Constitution) to request it?  Depends on how foolishly we’ve been at guarding our privacy. The more details about your private life that you share, the less private it becomes.  It seems that this generation has a problem grasping that simple concept.

Today, our society seems to think that it’s NATURAL to share every moment of our lives with friends, family, and, oddly enough, the World At Large.  We Tweet what we had for dinner, or broke up with-what’s-his-name who we wouldn’t remember in a year anyway.  We get drunk and add unwise videos on Youtube, or complain about our jobs on Facebook.  You are your own worst enemy. When you put something – anything on the web, not only will it be there forever and ever, the likelihood that it will be seen by someone that you didn’t wish to share it with, grows daily.  So, that party that you attended where everyone got so drunk, that you wanted to share with those friends that didn’t go?  Yeah – well, Uncle Billy saw it on your Facebook page, and forwarded it to Grandma.

There are enough stories out there about people not being hired because the prospective employer performed a simple Google search to see if anything derogatory popped up.  So, if you are disgruntled about your current job you might want to reconsider airing your grievances on the social site of your choice.  Most employers also won’t hire you if they see a video of you dancing nude to “American Pie,” or showing off the latest tattoo/piercing/shaving of your genitalia, unless they’re in that business, and like what they see.

Whatever happened to Myspace?  Sorry – just a random thought…

Setting aside the employment issues, keep in mind that computers were built for a single purpose:  to store and manipulate data.  What is data?  That’s anything that you enter into a computer, and it doesn’t matter what type of data it is anymore.  And, since the internet is essentially gazillions of personal computers and servers, including yours and mine, all manipulating data, whether playing a game, using Skype, or checking your email.  In a sense, all of those computers are acting as one massive computer – storing and manipulating data.  All the data is collected in one place (which we’ll call “The Internet”), and anybody can gain access to it.  If you think that any data that you put online is “private,” think again.  No matter how password-protected or encrypted something is, somebody who really wants the data can get it.  The only way to keep private information “private” is to keep it off the ‘web.

I’m a bit surprised that Google came out with this announcement, because I’m sure that others have been collecting data on you and me for years.  When you signed up with Amazon you gave certain pieces of information to them: your name, shipping address, credit card details, etc.  When you signed up for Facebook or Classmates, you gave more information: schools you attended, career information, current home, place of birth, all kinds of personal data that Amazon wouldn’t have.  By the time you’re done filling out forms at AOL, Sears, ebay, or any of a million other websites, there’s so much information out there that anybody can find out anything they want about you.  You don’t need to say a word on Facebook.  Here’s a test – “google” your own username.  You may not just find yourself scattered all over the web, you may also find that some of the data that you thought was private is available to anybody else who also decided to “google” your username.

Now, for those of you you haven’t read “1984,” by George Orwell, and all of you really should, or re-read it if the last time was in High School, 1984 was a book about a guy living a miserably drab life, completely controlled by “Big Brother.”  Everybody was under constant surveillance, and everybody was programmed to be like everyone else.  Since Big Brother had control over the media, even wars could change, and BB would rewrite history to reflect the changes, and mankind would remain clueless.  Everything that you did, everything that you saw, everything that you felt, was being recorded as evidence against you.  If you did not pour out your love for Big Brother, then you would probably be tortured and brain-washed, until you did pour out your love for Big Brother…  And, only THEN would you be shot.

So, how does Orwell’s book compare to today?  Well, we don’t yet have two way TV’s that stay on all day, so Homeland Security can keep an eye on us.  We don’t really need to.  Homeland Security has all it needs based on what we VOLUNTARILY submit online.  Plus, almost every street corner and stop light now have cameras mounted, as do almost every store and bank.  We are ALWAYS under surveillance, and the only thing that keeps us safe is the fact that there are 300,000,000 of us, and singling out a chosen few is enough of a task.  We are stalks of hay in a field of haystacks, and as long as we don’t stick out then we should all be safe.  Just like Big Brother wants.

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Author:

Retired Army, living in Washington. Grew up in California.

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