Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Privacy on the Internet 

It sounds downright ominous, someone somewhere out there on the internet is stalking us, tracking our every click, learning everything that can be known about us as we choose to watch news videos, buy Jergens lotion, read the New York Times, work the Daily Jigsaw… and WHO KNOWS what nefarious schemes might be unfolding against us?

Truth is, other than a few curious and morally unformed teenagers, the occasional terrorist, who is not at all interested in learning anything about us, and, of course, that occasional greedy sociopath, soon to be featured on AMW, these folks are no more dangerous than those dapper gentlemen who used to stalk us in in our homes with their vacuum cleaners, super duper capacity garden trash bags and the latest, most effective arthritis remedy to soothe our aching backs after we try dragging one of those same super duper capacity garden trash bags to our curbs.

You might try thinking of these shadowy folk as your own personal but deaf and illiterate butler, who cannot divine your wishes except by observing you and who wants, even more than his next peanut butter cracker pack, to deliver to your desktop advertisements of all those things you most deeply long to purchase.

Now, when MSN tries to lure me with the latest flap about the hottest new chick on the street corner, it’s because my poor dear Internet butler, sadly enough, has learned so little about me over these past decades. That’s why Shockwave tries to interest me in joining the army and shows me all the latest clips from the newest most horrible of all horror films currently in circulation...

For me the problem is not that these folks are tracking me but that they don’t have a clue who I am. Why else would the New York Times assault my sensibilities with a Victoria’s Secret ad? Heavens to Betsy, I had to resort to emailing the ad department and that was time consuming.. My own personal internet butler doesn’t realize I don’t support the producers of pornography? I hate to call him a failure, but, my dear, how off the mark could you get?

On my ideal internet, Starbucks would entice me with a video in which a Hazelnut Latte is poured into an exquisitely formed white china cup (provided with it’s own click) – the best of all possible ancient European instrument ensembles would regale me with a few enticing notes and a click, and the folks who make ice cleats with heels would pop up on my screen in winter, with, of course, a convenient click.

No brave new world would be at all bad, if it could just be done right...

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