Thursday, July 9, 2009

Knowlege Is Power

I'm a pretty private person. There are reasons I don't use my name, or The Man's or talk about where we live on this blog. It's too easy to think of what you do on the internet as private, the e-mails you send, the web sights you visit, but none of it is. I don't think it's something to loose sleep over or generally start freaking out about, but I DO think that to pretend these are not issues in the world we live in is naive and foolish. If you at least understand a little bit about the system you can make informed decisions about how you want to interact with it. This isn't conspiracy theory stuff...though it was seen as that in the past. You can find plenty of information on these topics through regular media outlets. For instance, The Man and I heard the MOST interesting (and short) interview yesterday about how credit cards companies are cutting credit lines based on people's purchases. For instance if you are buying more alchohol, grocery shopping at less expensive stores, or getting a massage, they may decide you are about to loose your job and cancel your credit card. These purchases and not just your credit score are also taken into consideration when you need a loan for something bigger like a house. Take the time to listen to it here; it's incredibly interesting. I also ran across an interesting interview with the CEO of Google on privacy. You can listen to it here. He thinks that there is so much info out there on the web about people that young people should be able to easily change their names in their 20's, but at the same time doesn't really see the new lack of privacy as a problem (rather hypocritical of him if you ask me). If you know me you probably wonder why I haven't accepted your Facebook invitation or why I don't have an account. This decision is partly based on very simple, low tech reasons, like I'm afraid of how much time it will suck out of my life, but the other part is deeper. I don't like the way they use the information users post. I tried to find a link to an article I read a while back that talked about how long Facebook keeps your data, even after you delete it. It said to try bringing up a picture in Facebook and save the address to the picture, and then delete the image. You can use the link to bring up that image for months to come. And of course once the link doesn't come up anymore that doesn't mean they don't still have the pic somewhere. But I couldn't find the link to that story. Instead I found this ohhh so creepy video on how Facebook uses your info. I don't have time (or frankly the interest since I have decided not to use it) to do research on how accurate this information is. But if you have a Facebook account, do yourself a favor and go watch it; do research; be informed!
Sometimes you can make some small changes that make a difference. For instance, I've decided to make most of my purchases in cash, to keep credit card companies and banks out of my business as much as possible. And by cash I mean cash, not debit cards. And don't worry, it's not like the commercials say, the world does not fall apart if you pay with cash. You actually spend less if you use cash too. I also recently switched my e-mail to a hushmail account, to have some very limited privacy in e-mails. If you want to read more on these topics I suggest you pick up a copy of Spychips. You can visit their very informative website here. Be forewarned though, the information they provide is pretty thorough and hard to dispute, and will make you want to completely freak, which isn't really healthy either, lol. Their information is a little old, but I'm afraid that's not much of a comfort either since things usually move forward. Some of their most interesting information helps you understand how all this private info is used.
You may think it's no big deal all this information is out there about you, that you don't really care if anyone knows this stuff about you, but do you know how this info is being used? It's used in highly sophisticated ways, included even manipulating your vote for president. You can watch this interesting PBS show for more info on that topic (just click on the "watch the full program online" at the upper right).

All I'm saying is: stay informed and be proactive. Even if you don't do any of your own research and simple listen to and watch the links I have posted here you will be WAY ahead of the average Joe, and at least know what you are agreeing to. Don't let life just happen to you.

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