November Secret Subject Swap - Electronic Surveillance

Welcome to November’s Secret Subject Swap. Again 12 brave bloggers picked a secret subject for someone else and were assigned a secret subject to interpret in their own style. Today we are all simultaneously divulging our topics and submitting our posts.

Here are links to all the sites now featuring Secret Subject Swap posts.  
Sit back, grab a cup and check them all out:

My subject is 
There is a new law immediately in effect that links anything you search on the web to all your social media sites and your emails. It does not matter if you are on your phone, personal laptop or public computer, you will have to access the internet with your personal identification or you cannot use it. Would this terrify you, make you change your searches, oddly free and comfort you or cause you to lead a revolt or something else? Either way you must include two pros and two cons for this complete, mandated transparency.

It was submitted by Sparkly Poetic Weirdo - thanks, Jenn!

Big Brother is watching you, huh?

You know I think even if there currently isn't an official law in place, extensive surveillance has been happening for quite a while already.

The press is looking for clues in celebrities' garbage. People have other people followed by private investigators. Companies have security systems in place which theoretically enables them to read every key you type. If you are bored one day google how to surf anonymously - the amount of results alone will tell you that you are basically surfing publicly!

In a previous post I wrote about how we are being influenced by our own internet history, courtesy of IP address and cookies.

I'm not talking about this kind of cookies!

And it doesn't stop at your internet activities. Credit / debit cards, customer loyalty cards, video surveillance in certain places - if needed, you can be found and exposed completely.

Is that bad? I guess it all depends on who you are, what's at stake or what kind of skeletons you are trying to keep in your closet. 

Let's take Monday a couple of weeks ago. The first working day after fall break. Regular moms do laundry, shop for groceries or vacuum the floors. 

God knows I should have been doing all of the above. But not that Monday. Not that part-time working mom.

Let's assume at about 11:30am on that Monday, my husband got a call from a hospital in Waldshut, Germany. "Your wife has been involved in a car accident. We expect her to be OK but we'd like to keep her over night for observation and do some tests, too. She's unconscious right now, so you can't talk to her. Neighter do we for that matter. Do you happen to know her blood type?"

Now at first he'd probably be like "thank God she's alive", but then he would definitely ask himself "what the h*** was she doing in Germany?"

That's where my electronic history would come in.

He would find out that at about 4am (because... jet-lag) I was surfing on a shoe website. The girl who claims to be a purse person! It wasn't even for myself, I swear! 

Originally I was just looking for specific, reasonable winter boots for Colin that hadn't been available at the store before we left for vacation. During our trip we didn't have much shopping time, and on the dedicated day, I wasn't in the mood. 

Then - on that particular very early Monday morning back home - I saw THIS:

It seemed like this brand called kangaROO only has distributors in Germany which wasn't all too bad because the border is  just on the other side of the Rhine river! Hey, we were just back from a trip during which we made over 2,000 miles by car! So what's the big deal running an errand 33 miles away only because it included crossing the border to our neighbor country? People do it all the time for groceries, btw. Sometimes they get caught for accidentaly sneaking in too much meat.

I considered calling ahead to ask if they actually carried those sneakers, but the stores only opened at 9am. By that time I would already be there, because I would need to drive back and make lunch in time. Plus I had three different addresses to go to (all of them would be trackable, by the way, not only on my computer, but also on the car GPS.) 

Then he'd find out that a foreign currency transaction has been charged on my debit card . (Living in Switzerland I don't usually need Euros, because our currency is Swiss Francs.)

He'd discover a stop at the gas station halfway to the border. He probably wouldn't notice that the transaction included a Coke Zero, too, haha. I shouldn't have drank that, though.

To cut the long story short, it was a complete and utter wild goose chase. Not only did the stores not carry ANY kangaROO shoes, "what makes you think we do? We haven't been an official distributor in years!" (note to self: not everything you read on the Internet is necessarily true) but of course no Halloween sneakers in particular!

The good news is: 

  1. I enjoyed my little solo trip! I even strolled around the old town because it was charming, yet freezing cold, and I didn't bring a jacket. Also I needed to pee. Remember, Coke? So it was a short walk!
  2. An e-mail to kangaROO revealed that I didn't have to travel to the shoe. The shoe would actually come to my house! It's called Amazon. Only I'm hearing about a strike of the German Amazon workers. This might be the reason why my package hasn't arrived one full week after placing the order. Speaking of Amazon Europe - my package went from Eastern Germany to Belgium, Luxembourg, France and finally Switzerland.

That's about two thirds of the distance from Seattle, WA to San Diego, CA., but a package in the U.S. would  probably take two or three working days. Just saying.

You won't believe what just happened! As I was writing this, there was a ring at the door. The postman delivered my KangaROOs! Yahoo! 

Apologies. I digressed. 

You wanted to know, though, right? 

Also you noticed that I said "my" - didn't I claim to want them for Colin? Well, you know, I noticed that the largest boys' size fits my own little feet. So yes, I ordered some for the both of us :-) 

This will mislead the internet spies, wanna bet? Where did part-time mom's older son come from all of the sudden? Why isn't she ordering other stuff for him? Why doesn't she ever post any pictures of him? Is he a secret love child who lives someplace else? 

Guess what else? There was still room in the box. I filled it with Halloween goodies. 

Man, that boy is really well taken care of… Candy, glow in the dark balloons, a playmobil ghost, skeleton straws, a Halloween Bingo game, pencils… You can read all about our spooky night on my Halloween post.

But first he's going to have to unscramble a couple of words!

mupnipk, depirs, elkostsen, luksl, ticwh

Can you do it? He did!

Back to the topic at hand. 

My main question is: 

Who on earth is even remotely interested in what good old me is doing online? I really hope that they (the Government? Marketing researchers? Psychologists?) have better things to do than following my electronic footsteps. 

That's easy for me to say, though, right? I'm a harmless part-time working mom who spends too much time on Facebook and likes to travel, write, bake, craft and shop. No big deal.

What if I am a bad guy? Looking for ways to, let's say, assemble an explosive device and visit a prominent building? (See? Now you've got me scared. I don't even dare to spell out things. What if somebody reads it and arrests me?) On the other hand, I took pictures of (insert car brand that makes Mustangs, replace d by t)  Me@de  AND here, against the strict forbiddance recommendation of some men in black, and nobody ever bothered me.

pedophile or some other kind of disturbed person would hate for others to find out, especially if they are priests or teachers.

A successful sports celebrity would not appreciate anyone finding out about their searching for medical treatments, chances of survival and the like.

A politician running for office would certainly not want anybody to know that he is gambling online, looking for ways to cover his debts by contacting loan sharks plus cheating on his wife.

Coming to an end I have to actually complete my assignment. Two pros and cons:

I am in favor of some awareness of our electronic activities for the following reasons:

In life we are generally responsible for our actions. What is said is said, what is written is written. We should be aware of the fact that people who were not supposed to hear or read it, are going to hear or read it and draw their conclusions which of course can lead to misunderstandings and unwanted consequences of all kinds.

In the olden days when we needed information we had to ask somebody smart or go to the library where we had to give them our name and address, and there would be a record of the books we borrowed. Why should it be any different to obtain information on the internet? Free information no less?

Speaking of transparency, I would even promote that medical professionals have access to our records. It would avoid repeating certain invasive tests and simply give them a better picture of what other doctors already tried. They could find out about my blood type with a simple mouse click, for example.

What speaks against complete data transparency, is everybody's personal freedom. Probably one of our most precious values. If we want to tell anybody what we are up to, we should be able to determine who and when we want to share our info with, and who exactly anybody is. 

Also existing laws like good old privacy of correspondence and data protection should not be undermined or overridden by some carte blanche to electronically spy on us. I guess it would be called e-carte blanche in that case, haha!

What do you think on the subject?