Sometimes I think the web is a living thing. I have had peculiar experiences that make me wonder if all the connectiveness has crossed some metaphysical line, and created an organism that can act on its own accord and overcome data barriers through sheer force of will.
Last December my Amazon account got hacked. I have no idea how. I don’t even know why, since whoever did it did not charge anything to my credit card of record, and once into my account they could have. Instead they used another credit card, and bought very little. Those peculiar details aside, I am still scratching my head regarding how it was done, since I never have cause to click on emails from Amazon, real ones or phishing ones. The good news is I lost no money. The bad news is that it took hours and hours to get it all straightened out.
See, I think whoever did this got the information some other way and not from any carelessness on my part or security weakness on Amazon’s part. I think they just got it “out there” somehow. It seems to me that part A of the web is somehow talking to part B of the web and we don’t know it.
Here is another example. Let’s say that I use Google to research diabetes after learning that a family member has received that diagnosis. The next day I will find ads for diabetes products being pitched to me on Facebook. Not Google ads, mind you. Facebook ads. Now, Google and Facebook are competitors. In theory they should not be sharing data on me. Their policies say they will not. Yet I do not think the arrival of those ads is an accident. The question I have is whether Google knows that Facebook is getting that data.
A weird experience has happened on Twitter too. There I once wrote a tweet about a product, but deleted it before I sent it. Within hours I was being followed by companies that made that product. That would be predictable if I had actually sent the tweet. Since I had not, it was spooky. Is Twitter following every keystroke I make?
Where the web is concerned, I long ago decided that I would assume anything I wrote or posted would be fair game for copying, etc. As my mother used to say, never put it in writing if you want to keep it private. So I follow that policy myself, and also opt out of the more intrusive options on places like Facebook. I can live without the world being able to locate me every minute, ya know? I clean out cookies. I run regular virus and keystroke logger scans. I even read privacy policies, but suspect they are saying things I am not understanding most of the time.
But when I experience things like those above, they suggest the boundaries between companies are very porous, and that data and information about me is freely circulating even between competitors. I can control what I write, but I can’t control who follows my searches and feeds them into a database. Then I wonder if any of my privacy settings matter, and whether there can ever be anything like privacy on the web these days.
Can people learn a lot about you on the web, or do you limit the personal stuff?
If you learned someone somewhere was tracking the books you read from your web posts and purchases, and compiling a profile on you, would it bother you?