Gnomicon 99

If you have not already done so, you may wish to read the
Introduction to Gnomica.

Gnomicon  99
Thursday 16 August 2012

Read gnomica 1-50 here!

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“Relying on the government to protect your privacy is
like asking a peeping tom to install you window blinds.”
John Perry Barlow (3 Oct 1947 – )

This former lyricist for the Grateful Dead has an unabashedly nifty way of making his point.  A striking simile in poetry as well as in prose can in and of itself mount an arresting argument.

In this day and age it does too often seem that government – government at all kinds of creepy levels, and obviously in the sole interest of ‘ensuring our safety’ – has an almost lascivious obsession about disrobing our lives in all manner of unseemly and (to use the euphemistic jargon of the day) inappropriate ways to procure a prurient peek at our unprotected nakedness.  We of the modern surveillance society are, I believe, nonetheless still supposed to be guaranteed (First Amendment and all that) a modicum of privacy about our lives, and I suppose that if we eschewed the internet, bought nothing online, always stayed at home, or never used a (cell) phone or computer, we might achieve some partial success in that endeavor.  Alas, everywhere we turn we are feeding ourselves into the ever famished maws of colossal databases of one sort or another to which government can apparently demand virtually unlimited access for this ‘security’ purpose and that one (for example, see here, here and here).

And I in no way mean to exclude the vast commercial universe of vendors that we all interact with every day, to whose massive data storage facilities certainly they and in all likelihood the government shall have unfettered access – on demand if ‘necessary’.  In connection with all of this I would strongly recommend and indeed urge that you read an article from last Sunday’s (12 Aug 2012  p. BW SR 5) New York Times: “Trust: Ill-Advised in A Digital Age”.

Personally I believe that ‘personal privacy’ is in effect dead and buried.  Settle in some evening and just list the number of times you left an essentially open digital trail of your various comings and goings and doings today:  borrow books from the library? how many checks did you write?  what credit cards did you use?  where did you use them?  did you charge your groceries today?  how many ‘security’ cameras captured you just walking around and your license plate as you drove today? whom did you talk to on your (cell)phone(s)?  do any internet banking lately?  realize your cell phone may function cryptically as a tracker?  what books or magazine subscriptions did you buy today (at B&N, on Amazon)?  what prescriptions?  airline tickets? send any emails? surf some tendentious political sites? do a blog post?  upload something on Facebook? download anything from (or just visited) a porn site? searched via GOOGLE? bought or sold any stocks online? … ?

So what, you may tell yourself (as I myself all too often do), why should I (or the government or some retail establishment) care if Amazon shows that I bought a text of Xenophon today?  Admittedly, that particular one is probably no big deal – but aggregate it all and then turn Big Data’s powerful statistics-driven sorting-analyzing algorithms loose on these discrete info-bits about you, and you might be surprised what can be known (and predicted!) about you and your ways and perhaps find its way back to you in some unwelcome connection at some future time. I mean, who really knows?

Remember: once that digital trail’s out there, it’s there forever.

So let me just leave you with this simple thought:

NEVER EVER enter your SS# or DOB in an email or anything else that’s going out over the web: I won’t do it even when the address is preceded by that ‘secure’ transfer protocol — https.

Well, just some idle ruminations of a so far safe paranoid …

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