mad anthony

Rants, politics, and thoughts on politics, technology, life,
and stuff from a generally politically conservative Baltimoron.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Privacy doesn't matter...

I went to the Timonium minifest hamfest yesterday with bsom. While we were there, an older gentleman started talking to bsom looking for suggestions for a video-editing machine he was building. While he was talking, he mentioned quite a few rather paranoid things - he runs Windows 2000 because he doesn't want to do online activation/validation or have to run Windows Genuine Advantage. He mentioned that he runs a linux machine for connecting to the web, because he's worried about someone tracking his search history, and that he has heard that Microsoft EULA (end user license agreements) give Microsoft the rights to anything you create with your machine, that Google had a plan to turn on your webcam and microphones and then run all the video and audio it captured through it's supercomputers, and that Microsoft Windows XP keeps a hidden encrypted partition on your hard drive that backs up all your data and can only be opened by the NSA.

Obviously, he goes to the more tin-foil side of the privacy game. But I don't get the big deal about privacy. Obviously, there are things I want to keep private - I don't want my credit card number or social security number getting out, but this isn't because of deep, dark secrets but because I don't want my identity/money getting jacked. I wouldn't want to live in a glass house, and while I have an IP camera in my basement that anyone can view, I'd be reluctant to put one in, say, my bathroom. But that's mostly because I don't look good naked.

As far as my browsing history, I'd probably be a little embarrassed if my mom or my boss's boss' boss saw it, but I don't really care if a faceless corporation sees it. Hell, if someone really wanted to watch my home office for 24 hours a day, they would see 22.5 hours of dark and wall most days, and during the hour or two a day I use my PC, they would mostly hear me typing, and occasionally singing off-key to iTunes or yelling at my cat to stop biting me.

If anything, I wish companies had better information about me. Why isn't junk mail targeted - why do I get so many offers for shit I would never buy that I need a special shredder just for it? I get offers for credit cards offering airline miles as rewards, despite the fact that I haven't been on a plane since 2001. And email, being nearly free, is even worse - besides the usual spam, I get emails from companies I bought one item from on clearance 2 years ago (thanks, J Crew, and no, I'm not going to buy $175 worth of preppy gear to get free shipping).

I'm intrigued by the idea using all the info that companies can gather about me to help me find products I like or to save money- better direct marketing, coupons for products I use, reminders that I'm about to run out of Vault Zero and coffee filters. I don't care if the big corporate entities know that I like gourmet peanut butter and read deal sites. And I'm convinced that there is nothing sitting on my trusty Celeron that Microsoft has any desire to read or own.


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