Just Don’t Look

[1] I understand the fear about invasion of privacy.

Privacy just one more of those case where we think it means one thing and the government thinks it means another. I do think there are a lot of sinister things the government could do with certain information they collect from us. I also think that we hypocritically support some of these measures when they are done to other people, like airport security measures, GPS to track criminals, etc.

On the surface, it’s creepy to think about ads being tailored to you based on your internet activity, and it doesn’t seem right that your personal information can be shared to third parties via a social networking site or your internet search history.

But people are making Google and Facebook seem like purveyors of identity theft.

Yes, advertisers are trying to target ads to you based on your personal interests. They aren’t collecting your social security number, and they aren’t going to tell your employer that you are a closet Buffy fan. Frankly, if this means I never have to see commercials for Luvs diapers or ambulance-chasing lawyers or Kay Jewelers again, then I would be all too happy.

Advertising is a form of mind control and manipulation, but it’s not so pervasive that it takes away your ability to resist.

You still have a choice NOT to buy the products being advertised.

You don’t HAVE to spend money on things you don’t really need.[2]

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Maybe I'm Just Paranoid

I’m not sure what this says about my general psychological state, but whenever I hear about new technology, I immediately think of all the ways it could be used for untoward activity.

For instance, there is a feature on Google Maps that allows you to have a street view of the address you search.  Now, I can see why this might be helpful. Suppose I wanted to get to the U.S. Post Office in Sheboygan, Wisconsin.  I can see why someone not great with directions might want the visual aid.

From that angle, it looks more like a prison.

But, what if this was your house? There is a feature on Google Maps that allows you to “walk” along the street. Any creep who knows the general area in which you live can easily find what your house looks like. If your car was in the driveway at the time the image was gathered, anyone can see what you drive, as well. While only street views are provided (and not your backyard), it still seems like a burglar could still reasonably case your house for possible points of entry.

Is this really a good idea?

It doesn’t end at Google Maps, either. Most communication-based technology frightens me. Look at cell phones, for instance, are they really anything more than devices with which the government can spy on you and track your location?

Seriously, though, there are a lot of really disturbing web applications and pages that blur the line between public information and the implied right to privacy the Supreme Court has ruled can be found in the U.S. Constitution. Having your phone number in the white pages of a phone book in 1985 wasn’t a big deal. The people in your home town could call you. If you didn’t want this, you could have your number unlisted.

Now, anyone in the world can find information on you by typing your name into a search engine. Threats of identity theft abound, but this information could be used for even more unsavory purposes.

There are many upsides to being able to connect to people all over the world through the World Wide Web, but at what cost?