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My Life Should Not Be An Open Book!

We are moving rapidly into a world in which the spying machinery is built into every object we encounter.
Howard Rheingold

There will come a time when it isn’t ‘They’re spying on me through my phone’ anymore. Eventually, it will be ‘My phone is spying on me’.
Philip K. Dick

There’s a lot of talk in Canada about the government’s proposed anti-terrorism legislation, Bill C-51. About half the country is concerned that the legislation will give law enforcement and by extension, the government increased powers to spy on citizens. About 40% support it and the remaining 10% have never heard of it or just don’t give a rat’s ass.

I share the concern about the legislation but not so much because I believe our government is turning into a bunch of fascists – the fascists of old were better organized and more efficient. My concern is that it is just one more invasion of our privacy in a world where so many are spying on us now, it’s a wonder they aren’t tripping over each other.

Christ in Heaven, I can’t go to the bathroom without Google popping up ads for toilet paper on the margins of my screen when I get back to my computer. It’s bad enough that they knew I went to the bathroom but how did they know I did #2 and not #1?

You can’t go anywhere online anymore without being tracked and monitored. I routinely clean my computer of spyware every couple of days and the amount of tracking cookies and other tracking software that my anti-malware software finds and deletes in unbelievable. The worst offender is Google. The guys at the Big G know where I am and what I’m looking at instantly.

For a lark, I typed in my home address on Google Maps last year and up came a photograph of me on my lawn tractor.

Excuse me? If government did that to us, we’d be marching in the street but – hey – it’s Google and online, Google is omnipotent.

But here’s the thing. Not all of us are titillated by the fact that the Big G made us into a momentary Internet star by posting our photograph in front of our homes or on a street corner. If I take a photograph of someone and want to post it online, I have to get a model release signed so how does Google get away with it or more accurately; why do we permit it?

I recently purchased a couple of Speedlight flashes for my camera. I made the purchase online and got a heck of a good deal but now, no matter where I go: a news site, my email, Facebook or Twitter, there are ads for various camera flashes including the ones I just purchased.

Last month, it was lenses because I had purchased a new telephoto lens.

I did a search on eBay for something I was thinking of getting for my daughter. I didn’t find what I wanted and didn’t buy anything but I’m still getting ads when I browse offering me a second chance at it. Last year when I was looking for new copper cookware, I was drowning in ads for pots and pans. I now know more about Cuisinart, Martha Stewart and Rachel Ray cookware than I do about stupidity and I’ve been surrounded by stupidity for a very, very long time.

Here’s another thing I don’t fully understand.

Google tracks me constantly and collects endless amounts of data that they then use to bombard me with ads for whatever I was originally looking for but they don’t seem to be able to find anything when I type in a search query.

I hate doing searches online. No matter what I type, I get back millions of options many of which seldom have much to do with what I’m trying to find or are three years out of date. Of course, that changes once I start buying stuff; then Google becomes highly efficient and has no difficulty pinpointing and advertising to me what I just purchased.

Talk about a day late and a dollar short. Typically, it’s about a day after I’ve already made the purchase.

As unforgiving as we are when government collects information about us, we are very complacent about being tracked by Google and all the other online, faceless entities that follow us around like a dog hoping we’ll drop some of whatever it is we’re eating.

Marketing espionage has become so pervasive in our technology these days that Samsung was caught incorporating technology into televisions that could actually record our conversations surreptitiously. It’s as if former members of East Germany’s Stassi (secret police) had all become marketing consultants.

In Canada, the Conservative government eliminated mandatory completion of the long-form census because some Canadians felt it was intrusive and an invasion of their privacy. Good Lord! The banal anonymous data collected by Statistics Canada pales in comparison to what the online companies are doing and at least Stats Can doesn’t follow you home and peek at you over the hedge.

The Prime Minister once suggested his home province (Alberta) should put up a firewall to keep out the rest of Canada. He’d better serve all of us, including Alberta, if he put up a firewall to keep Google from knowing when we went to the bathroom.

And then there are the pop-ups…sigh!

I have become so impatient with websites that immediately bombard you with popups begging you to like them on Facebook, follow them on Twitter and/or subscribe by providing an email address that I usually just close the window rather than continuing further. For me it’s synonymous with going to the store and as soon as you walk in, some sales person pops up from behind the broccoli in the produce section to invite you to join the rewards program. Of course, they do it at the cash too but I deal with that by glaring at the cashier which tends to abruptly stop the sales pitch and get things moving along. A couple of times, I’ve been given an ovation by the folks behind me who had been in line so long, they had started to eat some of what they were buying.

A site I landed on yesterday had a pop up that wouldn’t let you access the material unless you liked them on Facebook. I declined. I didn’t see why I would like them on Facebook when I already didn’t like them on their own website.

Other sites have auto start on video ads. Often those ads are difficult to locate because there’s so much junk on the page. This results in hearing a disconnected voice blither blathering about something or other over top of the video you’re trying to watch. You scroll around the page trying to find it and usually, by the time you do, it’s reached the end – and so has the video you were originally trying to watch.

If I go to a specific website, it is because I’m interested in what they might offer. Give me some time to browse. If I find what they offer of interest then I bookmark the site and go back. I might even make a purchase. What I don’t need is to be hounded like I have the attention span of a three year old in an Ikea ball room or Toys R Us.

I was in marketing for 35 years and customers develop promotion fatigue pretty quickly. One of things the online experts have never learned is that the first words out of an in-store customer’s mouth when approached by a sales person offering to help are: “No thanks, I’m just looking.”

That’s the attitude I take to most websites now and when I get a barrage of popups and invites to like, share, follow, fill out a survey or join I just click the little X up in the top right-hand corner of my screen.

“No thanks, I was just looking – bye, bye.”

The reality is that companies like Google, and all the lesser lights imitating some of Google’s online marketing techniques, don’t do it because they should; they do it because they can. They are so caught up in the technology that they think it makes them clever. They’re like people who are constantly upgrading their smart phones to do exactly what their old smart phone already did. They’ve put their faith in technology and in the process they’ve lost sight of the customer. To them, we’re just sheep which is pretty much the same way that our governments see us. The fact that many of us act like sheep only encourages that attitude further.

I don’t want my government spying on me but the only saving grace is that government tends to be so incompetent that I am confident they will never be as efficient at it as Google. Whenever I become overly concerned about government spy agencies invading my privacy, I remind myself that Google spies on them too. . .as do the Chinese but that’s for another post.

The real issue for me is online invasion of privacy. We weren’t put on God’s green earth to be tracked, monitored and manipulated so that the online millionaire whiz kids could become even wealthier.

I don’t know about you but honestly, I’m just tired of my life and my surfing habits being the centre of every web site’s attention. I’m tired of being constantly bombarded with ads, invitations to fill out customer satisfaction surveys, like, share and join pop ups. It wastes my time and clutters up my browser cache.

I have a message for companies like Google and all the websites that track us, spy on us and treat our time like it is theirs to use as part of their marketing effort.

Give it a rest. My life is not an open book provided only for your marketing efforts. If the only way you can make money online is to be as annoying as possible take up another line of work. Try whittling, for example, and then selling your crafts at the Fair but for God’s sake – leave me alone.

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© 2015 Maggie’s Bear

all rights reserved The written content of this article is the sole property of Maggie’s Bear but a link to it may be shared by those who think it might be of interest to others

Twitter: @maggsbear – Facebook: Maggie’s Bear  – ivmaki@sympatico.ca

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  • Gramma Barb

    just have to jump in here…..no one’s fault but our own!!…….WE are the ones that put ourselves out there for all the world to see and critique ………. the only way to NOT be so visible is to …. throw out all the tech stuff ….. go to a book store and buy your reading material or your current interests…. in other words…revert back to ‘yesterday’…..

    • MaggiesBear

      I don’t quite agree Barb. The fact that the tech exists and that we use it doesn’t mean that others have the right to track us and invade our privacy. I saw tonight, for example, that new cars are coming with built-in surveillance equipment. We don’t need our televisions and cars spying on us.

      • Gramma Barb

        then don’t buy them…..I won’t …. and I will travel as many miles as you do without the ‘added features’….I am a firm believer that I control what I want someone to know about me….the only down side is when I have to file my taxes…I for one will never buy ‘that’ tv!…lol!!….maybe if the consumers raised holy hell by not buying these ‘new’ on the market items…. (we are so brainwashed!) the thought process might be adjusted……..

        • MaggiesBear

          The issue with the tvs was that Samsung didn’t tell anyone what it had done. It was discovered only after many were sold. The real issue Barb is that we are inching closer and closer to a situation where we will not have the option to buy or not to buy. The technology is now so pervasive that we don’t even realize how often we are being spied on in any given day both online and on a trip to the mall.

        • charlie98

          Barb, given that you are responding to this thread it’s clear that you have not reverted to ‘yesterday’. Assuming you buy what you want I assume you pay cash, but not large amounts thereof. Hopefully you don’t have a phone, if you travel out of Canada you are being tracked via your passport in multiple countries. Even if you’re careful on your computer companies like Cisco, the router manufacturer, has discovered that the NSA at all have been intercepting their hardware shipments and adding spying equipment.

          Don’t worry Barb, they’re tracking you, just pray they’re not malevolent

          • Gramma Barb

            lol!!……yes, your right, I haven’t reverted to ‘yesterday’….!!…..But…where can we hide?…..we can’t, so as I have said to anyone that wants to listen….don’t do anything or say anything your ashamed to do or say in a public forum….or for that matter in the middle of the ‘mall’…… so what can be done? and who will be the one to do it?………..

            • MaggiesBear

              Isn’t that how people in police states live? Don’t speak in public, don’t act in public? Don’t assemble in public for fear of whoever may be watching and listening. I was under the impression that Canada is supposed to be a free and open society where we can live our lives privately to the best of our abilities. Why should we have to take precautions against people who invade our privacy for their own personal or political gain? Surely it should be up to us to demand better if we want to lay claim to being a free people.If we don’t start defending our rights — I promise you nobody else is going to step up to do it and they will be eroded and eventually lost.

              • Gramma Barb

                perhaps we have gotten too ‘free and open’….I grew up in an era when I went out with my parents, I was reminded to behave myself and mind my manners…….guess it has been ingrained into me deeply….we do have to be aware, respectful and keep our identity as close as possible, because of the type of society WE have become……BUT….have we become so narrow minded and paranoid that that alone infringes upon our ability to live freely and without angst? I believe WE all need to defend our rights when necessary but when you speak of ‘freedom’…… how really free is Canada? We already follow laws upon laws upon laws…..pay tax, upon tax, upon tax…….I just, personally will never buy a tv that ‘watches’ me……….AND I really question the definition of the word ‘freedom’….

                • MaggiesBear

                  You just helped to make my case Barb. We have allowed government to encroach on our basic freedom to live our lives as we see fit with too many pointless laws. Now we are permitting Internet oligarchies and corporations to do the same thing. It isn’t about total freedom, as a society we agree to compromise some freedom to maintain order and a stable civil structure. It’s about respecting the boundaries and too many from government to Internet organizations and corporations are no longer respecting those boundaries. If we don’t speak out, it will continue and it will get worse.

  • charlie98

    I’m disappointed that my brilliant reply detailing how the NSA etc is using hardware to spy on everyone was deleted by — the NSA?

    • charlie98

      here’s an oddity, if I reply to MaggiesBear my comment says awaiting moderation and then disappears whereas replying elsewhere works. I think I’m being ostracized

      • MaggiesBear

        I’m trying to track down what’s going on with my comments section. I recently updated both my WordPress and my Disqus software and it appears that there are some incompatibilities somewhere. Let me know if you continue to have issues.

        • niccolom777

          Seems like he’s not the only one having problems. I noticed that my comment is also missing.

          • MaggiesBear

            If it makes you feel better, two of my replies to comments went missing as well. I’m still working this but my technical capabilities match my handyman ability which is to say they’re almost non-existent.

    • MaggiesBear

      I’m not sure why that happened. I don’t moderate comments although I will remove abusive or just plain stupid comments but you aren’t on either of those lists, which are very short by the way. Your comment added to the one below makes me believe I have a bug somewhere.

  • damorris

    So, subscribe to a VPN service.

    • MaggiesBear

      Why should I have to pay to prevent others from invading my privacy?

      • niccolom777

        The same reason you put locks on your doors and windows; to keep the bad guys out.

        • MaggiesBear

          The point of the post is that while many decry government spying on us, we seem quite benign about corporate oligarchies doing the same thing. We don’t like government sharing our private information but seem quite willing to accept Internet companies doing precisely the same thing.

    • charlie98

      Given this — The National Security Agency’s Office of Target Pursuit (OTP) maintains a team of engineers dedicated to cracking the encrypted traffic of virtual private networks (VPNs) — I’d have to say it’s not worth the money. On the other hand a VPN is good for unsecured public wi-fi by making it more difficult for criminals, etc.

      • niccolom777

        May be they do, but I think they have better things to do then checking out what the ordinary Joe/Jane is surfing on the ‘net.

        • charlie98

          The bad guys are ordinary people until it’s discovered they are up to something, which is why you capture everyone’s data and analyze it looking for them. You keep the data a long time because what is seemingly innocuous today may turn suspicious tomorrow. So, NO, they don’t have better things to do.

          I use a VPN, particularly when I travel, and I’m not trying to avoid the NSA, I’m trying to keep my identity safe by not broadcasting my personal info over unsecured networks. Unfortunately doing this does not protect me from Google — I don’t use their browser or search — or anyone similar.

          Want to draw attention to yourself install a TOR browser, that will get the NSA’s attention.