Archive for the ‘internet’ Category

It’s looking over your shoulder

June 15, 2007

Last night was one of those nights when the muse awoke me sometime in the wee, small hours with a demand to write. I lay there for a while, thinking over the proposition and struggling with my desire to capture the idea and the equally strong desire to stay snuggled beneath the duvet in the warm fug of the matrimonial bed.

In the end, warm fug won over cold writing. It’s winter here and the nights are cold and often clammy. We don’t tend to have central heating in our houses, being rather too close to our forefathers’ hardy pioneer spirit to consider such percieved wussiness as an essential, so the temperature in our houses is generally much colder than those of our European or North American counterparts. As I drifted off to sleep, I thought about how convienient it would be to be able to simply dictate the story direct from my mind to my computer, a silent flow of data travelling from the complexity of my brain to the binary of the PC. A kind of have my story and sleep on it too equivalent of cake and eating. But then I thought some more and decided that my computer and the vast tentacled array that it is coupled to through the Internet already knows a great deal more about the contents of my mind than I may be comfortable with.

Take Google options for instance. A very helpful place, with lots to do. Search, blog, upload your digipix to the net and much, much more.

If you have an enquiring mind, you possibly use the Google search engine every day. Possibly many times. It is a great idea – a vast, if somewhat random repository of much information that would otherwise be very hard, if not impossible in some cases, to access. It is easy once you get the hang of it – simply bang in your search terms, and kind Google rushes quickly to sort them into a generally relevant bunch of links for you to peruse. We can look up all sorts of things from the history of the USA to breeding lines for budgies, from the development of artificial intelligence to a recipe for biriani chicken. Of course sometimes you may be searching for information that you might not be happy about someone like your Aunt Cynthia knowing about. Or your mother or father. Or even your partner. But you are cunning. You know how to delete your History on the PC, so…no worries, mate.

But Google always remembers. Google remembers every single seach you have ever done. Google remembers which links you clicked and which images you viewed. Google knows when you search and remembers the day and the hour. If you have gmail, Google knows the contents of your mail and who you send them to and receive them from. Even if you delete your mails, Google has a h-u-g-e box that it keeps all the old mail in. As does your computer, by the way.

If you have a Google account of any sort, a gmail or Picasa for your on-line photos, you can test this for yourself.

Go to Google. You are most likely already logged on to your account. Click on the “My Account” button which you will find at the top right-hand side of the screen – many people don’t even notice it sitting up there- and when the secreen re-loads, click “Web History”. If you are not logged on, you can sign in. Spend some time there – click around in the various options presented to you and you may well be astounded at just how much you have searched. Stuff you have long forgotten about. Some you may be happy to see again and some may make you look over your shoulder.

If you know about all this already, you probably fall into one of two camps. You will either be completely unconcerned or you will be searching using a proxy of some sort, such as Scroogle.

And if you are completely unconcerned, maybe you should ask yourself one question: Why do they want to know?