Monday, July 28, 2008

On the Internet, everybody knows you're a dog.

In July 1993 the New Yorker Magazine published a cartoon by Peter Steiner showing a dog sitting in front of a computer. The caption read, “On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog." Oh the changes that fourteen years can make. Today, not only will they know you are a dog, they will know the color of your spots, the length of you coat and the brand of dog food you like.

Among the myriad benefits of the Internet, personal privacy remains a serious issue that has garnered much attention of late. Most recently Google® has been in the news as it has been ordered by the US courts to hand over data that contains information from every clip ever played on its popular YouTube® video sharing website. It has been reported that the data file, which has more than 12 terabytes of information, contains the IP address and viewers’ ID.

What this means is if you ever watched a video on YouTube®, that video and your identity may be able to be matched. Most likely not a problem if you were watching singing cats and dogs, perhaps problematic if you were just curious if there really was a video on how to make a nuclear bomb.

There are so many examples of how various companies and organizations both real and virtual gather, store and use information about you. Once you make your first purchase on®, the next time you log on you will be greeted with list of suggested books and other items. This list is developed specifically for you based on previous purchases and in some cases even casual browsing. This can be a great asset when you are looking for new books that you may have missed within a category of interest. It can also funny when you are presented with a list of pre-school classics because the last time you were on® you bought a gift for your grandson.

It is not only online that information about you is gathered. The discount cards that are promoted by Kroger and other grocery outlets help the company track your individual buying habits. Each item you purchase can be tracked if you use the bar coded plastic card when you check out. This way the store can target what coupons they may wish to send to you in the mail.

It is no coincidence that if you were recently online looking at convertibles that your US mail box and your email box will all of a sudden have several advertisements for new convertibles from variuous automakers..

So much of our personal information is available. Typing your phone number into the Google® serach box will most often give your address. The Hamilton County Auditor’s website has information about your home, property taxes, improvements and even contains a recent photograph and block diagram of your house.
There is not much we can do to protect our personal information from being collected if we are going to continue to enjoy the benefits of modern technology. We can however insist that the use of this information is scrutinized by our leaders and that our right to privacy is protected.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a great resource!

4:15 AM  

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