Sunday, November 04, 2012

Convenience Has a Price

There is no doubt that the proliferation of all things digital has provided once unbelievable conveniences in our daily lives.  Simple things like shopping or writing a letter are now made effortless with the help of computers, tablets, smart phones and other digital accoutrement.  We can ask our smart phone for directions to the closest ATM when we need cash.  Amazon not only fills our book order but makes suggestions for other reads that we might like.  Parents can keep an eye on their teenager’s comings and goings and your auto insurance company can even offer discounts if you let one of their digital recorders “ride along” with you.

I am not nor do I want others to be paranoid about big brother or big sister.  I do think that it is a good to be aware of how much information we provide to others often without a second thought.  Once digitized that information can live forever and be shared freely among thousands of users.

Many of us have mobile phones.  Even the simplest model allows our carriers to retain the contents of most every call we make or text message we send.  Smart phones with GPS pinpoint our exact location 24/7.  

We swipe our Kroger card freely to get discounts thus allowing our buying patterns to be tracked.  Once a birth certificate is registered for your new born don’t be surprised if you see more ads for Pampers on your Facebook pages.  Browse the web to look at the new Corvette our buy lots of expensive food items and you might see more offers for trips and expensive cars in your email.
Gathering, storing, sorting and analyzing all of this information is made possible by our digital networked society.  Everything is connected and once a scrap of information enters this electronic labyrinth it is essentially there forever.

For sure some companies and organizations maintain strict privacy policies but the volume of public information on line is amazing.  If you want to try an experiment search for information about yourself.  Start with Google and move on to the various White Pages directories.  Don’t forget and the Clerk of Courts website in your county.  You will be amazed by the profile you can develop.  Where you live and what your home is worth is but a click away.  Missed a tax payment?  That bit of information is there too.

In some ways the horse has left the barn.  For most of us the convenience of having this free flow of information is now so pervasive that even if we want to, we cannot go back. So the next time you are loading an App on your iPad or smart phone and it asks you to enable the GPS location feature remember that it does come with a price.



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