Privacy, anonymity and you

The Digital Alarmist

Roger Marshall is a computer scientist, a newly minted Luddite and a cynic.

Imagine a scenario in which you just ate at a restaurant but failed to notice the busboy meticulously picking up your dirty dishes and utensils with gloved hands and quickly rushing off to the backroom to hand them over to a third party. Congratulations, you just provided this mysterious third party your DNA and fingerprint samples.  All the better if you are a somebody, such as a diplomat or a political figure of consequence and it wasn’t a restaurant but a fancy State dinner. Far-fetched? Not really. Am I paranoid? Perhaps.

Just recently, detectives in New York tricked a 12-year-old suspected of a felony by offering him a soda and swabbing the straw to obtain the juvenile’s DNA sample, which was later checked against the NY police department’s DNA database.

The next time you apply for a job which requires taking a drug test by supplying your urine sample or you are suspected of drunk driving and asked to undergo a breath-analyzer test, you could very well be providing your DNA sample.

If you are not concerned about privacy, maybe you should be.  Here are some examples of how your privacy is being compromised on an almost daily basis, either involuntarily or voluntarily:

In a 24/7 surveillance society, your face, your DNA, your audio recordings and your fingerprints obtained without your consent are checked against giant image and audio databases to verify who you are and validate your existence.

In a 24/7 web-availability world, if you wish to sign on to some website, you are asked to validate yourself using your Facebook, Google, Amazon, Twitter or Microsoft account even though the website in question may have nothing to do with these IT companies.

In a 24/7 social media culture, through your own obsession to validate your existence by ‘keeping in touch’ with family and friends.

In a 24/7 consumer environment, through your pressing desire to obtain the best possible deals on all and sundry by willingly providing all sorts of personal details which can be stored in text databases for later use or misuse.

In a 24/7 politically charged fear of the ‘other’ climate, through your desire for security irrespective of cost motivates you to purchase a variety of digital devices such as doorbell cameras.

In a 24/7 narcissism-run-rampant lifestyle, by providing your own DNA to companies such as ancestry.com and genealogy.com to prove you are a ‘somebody’ of consequence, unaware that such crucial information can be shared by these companies with interested parties.

All the handwringing over privacy aside, you have become immune to the ubiquitous presence of security cameras in public and private spaces.  You invited Amazon, Apple, Google, Microsoft, Uber, Facebook and Twitter to tune into your private lives and private conversations through digital artifacts such as webcams, Alexa, Siri, Google Assistant and Cortana, and actively posting audio, video and text on social media circuses. What will you do next?

I am reminded of the song ‘Hotel California’.

“Welcome to the Hotel California…

We are all just prisoners here of our own device…
Last thing I remember, I was running for the door
I had to find the passage back to the place I was before
“Relax,” said the night man, “We are

programmed to receive

You can check out any time you like

but you can never leave”

Presumably, Hotel California is somewhere in the heart of Silicon Valley.

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