Anonymiss in DC











{December 12, 2008}   Creepiness

Last night, I randomly got to talking with some people about the amount of personal information out there about all of us.

You know how on those shows, like 24 or CSI, they always come up with all these random facts to they throw at people during interrogation sessions? Usually they stick to semi-pertinent facts like things like “I know you booked a hotel room six months ago in Chicago, and that you checked in the same night as your accomplice. Is that coincidence?” or “Our traffic cameras recorded you driving a minivan down Main Street with two small children in the backseat. You don’t have children, Ms. Smith. So tell me, WHERE ARE TOMMY AND JANE JONES?”

… but I digress.

Imagine, just for five seconds, that you have some crazy Jack Bauer cop (or stalker) on your back who wants to know EVERYTHING about you.

While I highly doubt my supremely exciting life is worth anyone’s investigative efforts, and while I also don’t really care whether anyone out there sees I prefer Cottonelle toilet paper to Charmin Ultra, it’s still a little creepy to me that someone could very easily figure that out without ever even meeting me..

I could go on and on about how everyone would know which stores I shop at most often from my credit card bills, but I think this is creepier:  Think about those grocery cards we compulsively scan EVERY time we buy groceries. I suppose if anyone were ever really interested, they could check out how many frozen dinners I buy every week, whether I really do buy all organic food (ha!), whether I like Grey Poupon better than French’s…whether I prefer the minty-freshness of Crest better than that of Colgate… whether I prefer Pepsi or Coke, chow down on Campbell’s chicken noodle or Progresso’s… and even what my favorite Haagen Dazs flavor is.

You get the idea. It’s just a little… I don’t know… weird. Creepy.

And then think about library cards. I know, I know, this is an old conversation.  It  kept popping up back back about 7 or 8 years ago, before everyone mindlessly capitulated to the childish, paranoid ambitions of the Bush Administration, as embodied by the USA PATRIOT Act. ( I’m still wondering if they bug the houses of people whose library records indicate a preference for books by Al Franken or Michael Moore).

I know they supposedly don’t really do anything with this stuff, but what if someone wanted to? Can you imagine- you want to adopt a baby, or keep custody of your kid, and someone points out that you always check out stacks of trashy pseudo-pornographic romance novels? Or that you’ve borrowed (gasp) the Communist Manifesto? Or, slightly less threatening: How is your garden going, Mr. Green? I KNOW ABOUT THAT BOOK YOU READ ON FERNS LAST WINTER!!

And NETFLIX!  Isn’t it slightly creepy– even if not really threatening in any way– that someone could take a peek at all the movies you’ve watched in the last 12 months? (Maybe you don’t WANT the whole world to know you rented Crossroads).

And all you EZ Pass people– doesn’t it weird you out that some office somewhere has a list of all the dates and times that you drove through the Lincoln tunnel? I know you’re probably thinking, who cares?! Well, you might, if you’re driving through the Lincoln Tunnel for a hot date with someone other than your spouse. Come divorce time, that could come back to bite you. (I know this is old news, but I think it’s worth repeating. Have you seen this article about lawyers using EZ Pass records to bust cheating spouses?) Now look, I’m not trying to protect people engaged in shady behaviors or anything, but that’s still seriously creepy. There is no such thing as anonymity anymore in this world.

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