Grocery shopping, reading, and travel used to be private activities. Now, not just Big Brother knows what you do (and when and where)…or maybe there are more brothers in the family than before.
It seems you have to have a card to buy most things these days, or at least to get the sale price, and of course that card is used to track what you buy. The cost of not having the right card was brought home to me some years ago when my husband had business in Baltimore (“Business in Baltimore” sounds like a sleazy office romance book or a trashy TV show I know, but what can I say?) and our younger daughter and I went along. While he did whatever business things he had to do, we had fun…until I went to the store to buy some food for the evening. Conversation with the clerk while trying to check out…Oh, sorry, you can’t get the sale price because you don’t have a card. But I can sign you up for a card in about five minutes. But I don’t live anywhere near here and won’t ever be back. Shrug. No, we don’t have guest cards.
Anyone ever thought of “going grocery”? Pelting the clerk to death with produce? Fortunately, the person in front of my used his card so I could get the sale price or who knows what might have happened.
I know that grocery stores track what I buy, but that doesn’t really bother me. CVS says you have to have a card to get what passes for sale prices at their stores, so I don’t buy there just because it annoys me. (And why are there three to five drugstore/pharmacies per square mile?? But I digress.)
If you have OnStar and it’s on, “they” know where you are all the time, which is sort of the point, at least if you have a problem. If you drive on a toll road, “they” also know, roughly, where you are, about how fast you’re going and you’re even paying for the privilege. If you have a cell phone, seems as though “they” also know more or less where you are. Your laptop, computer, and smart phone all know where you are and probably quite a bit of what you’re doing, so the mysterious “they’s” do, too, at least if “they” want to.
Many people or companies want what they were never supposed to have…your social security number. When I grew up, that number was supposed to be kept closer than a woman’s weight but eventually “they” started using it for ID and only recently that’s begun to abate somewhat, although I know that “they” often have that number in their ultimate data base, linked to the non-social security number that’s on the card.
Facebook and similar sites collect and use data about you, often without your knowledge. But the final straw for me was a few minutes ago when I read this article in the Wall Street Journal: Your E-Book Is Reading You, by Alexandra Alter,
Following in the steps of television, e-book publishers, Amazon, Apple, Barnes and Noble, Google, are tracking not only what people read, but…get this… if they read the entire book, how fast they read the books they read, what types of books are read more quickly (romance and crime fiction), even what gets highlighted the most. Author Alter says, “Kindle users sign an agreement granting the company permission to store information from the device—including the last page you’ve read, plus your bookmarks, highlights, notes and annotations—in its data servers.” Guess I missed that one. (Read the article; there’s much more.)
There’s a part of me that says, “Who cares if they know what I read or how fast? I’ve only highlighted in my Bible (more power to ‘em there) and I don’t make notes or anything else.” But there’s another part of me that thinks that I’m reaching the tipping point on invasion of privacy; that the cost of ease and technology is getting just a bit too high. The Kindle isn’t really the issue; it’s just the tipping point, the thing that’s pushing me over the privacy wall.
I don’t want “someone” or “everyone” knowing everything about me and everything I do. I don’t want everyone to have my cell phone number and my email address, things companies or people feel I should hand out to them willy-nilly. I don’t want to have to “like” people/groups on Facebook in order to get a good deal and then have to share information with Facebook, the company and who knows who else. (Yes, I realize I don’t have to and I don’t these days.) I don’t use apps on Facebook because I don’t trust what they do with the date I’m required to share and with whom they then share it and I keep what I post as private as possible. But what about the data I don’t even know they have? And what about the way ads alongside your email are “personalized” to something mentioned in your emails? That’s a bit creepy!
I was taken aback not long ago when I refused to give my social to someone from the cable company and then got into a discussion with her of why it wasn’t a good idea to do so. She had no concept of the possible problems from having that number stolen and seemed a bit bemused by what I told her. I had to put down a deposit for six months in order not to give my social (never mind that I’d lived at that address for 26 years, paid my bills on time each month that entire time, etc.) but that was fine. It was one less place for possible identity theft. And she left thanking me for the information and saying she was going to try not to use her social as much.
Even when you’re aware of all this, it’s difficult not to lose privacy if you use technology. My credit card company knows where I buy and if I go on vacation, they’ll know where I am by the plastic trail. If I go outside the country, I always let them know so that my card isn’t assumed stolen and shut down, but again, they know. The only way out is to just pay cash. But if you use the ATM, someone knows and they might even have a picture of you getting your money out. Your library card, insurance card, grocery store card, ATM and credit cards, debit cards, I-Pass or EZ-Pass, all leave telltale information about you, a trail of plastic bread crumbs . And now my Kindle is telling tales, too. It all seems a bit much.