|Different customer loyality cards (airlines, car rental companies, hotels etc.) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
Tax Time Again
The other day a family member mentioned that she was going to the library to pick up the necessary forms to do taxes. I told her that my wife and I had started using TurboTax a few years ago. We started using a professional tax preparer years ago when taxes became too complicated for my addled brain. After the tax preparer started getting too greedy and charging more than I cared to pay, we switched to doing our taxes ourselves with the help of software. That's essentially what the tax preparer was doing anyway and I felt confident enough to enter data myself into a program that figured every out for me.
My family member told me that they didn't trust doing anything online--not even pay bills. I gave up on all those worries years ago in favor of convenience and saving time. So what if I put my data online? There's probably as much risk involved as in anything else. I save gas, stamps, and time by just sitting at my computer taking care of business. And now I get my taxes done a lot less expensively and probably more accurately.
I hate doing taxes and paying bills. If I can make my life easier then I'll do it. I'm willing to take whatever risk is involved. Life is full of risks.
Fear of Being Found Out
The biggest problem I see about being on any social media--Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, or whatever you want to come up with--is the time investment. That stuff is a big time suck if you're on it too much. I'm not concerned so much about being "found out". After all I have blogs where I reveal all sorts of information about myself.
Not that I reveal that much about myself on the social media sites--you'll find out more about me on my blogs than anywhere--but collectively there is enough data that I willingly put online that a snoop could put together a vast profile about me and my life. Am I worried about that? Not really. I have voluntarily put up stuff for that snoop to piece together who I am, where I am, and what I've done in my life. I'm probably more likely to be the victim of a random stick-up or a shooting.
Anyone who owns or rents a house and has utilities and a legally documented vehicle has already put themselves out there. If you've got credit cards then there's no hiding. Memberships in any kind of club or what have you provides more information about you.
If you're like me, you probably have some loyalty cards to places like supermarkets in order to save money and receive special offers. My grocery card affords me at least $20 to $30 in an average visit during which I've bought about $60 worth of groceries. Every couple months they send me coupons for free bagels and sausage because they know I regularly buy it. That's cool since I'm saving about $6 or more on those alone. The stores are spying on us and if we use credit cards then lots more spies are getting in on the action.
Maybe I'll regret all of this one day. But seriously--where is a body going to hide if they are living in society. There are cameras everywhere and satellites can not only pinpoint your house and take a picture of it, but can track your whereabouts if that's what the satellite controller wants to do.
The Google AdSense Test
Last week I had a post about my Google Ads. I asked the readers about what Google ads they could see on my page as they looked at it from their computers. Some of you know why you see certain ads on your computer. For those who don't, I'll explain. I won't go into detail about "cookies" or anything like that, but just give a general idea.
In my own experience, the first time I noticed anything personal about the advertising I received was a few years ago when I saw the pocket hose they advertise on TV. It looked pretty nifty so I decided to see if there were other places I could get it besides ordering from the toll free number shown in the ad. I did a search online and found it available on Amazon as well as a number of stores with outlets in my area. Soon I was noticing that when I was on a page with ads there was often an ad about the hose.
At first I thought it was a coincidence that I was seeing these ads about the hose. Then I started paying attention to other ads and realizing that whenever I looked up something I would frequently see ads about that thing. I also became more aware of the emails I was getting from companies where I had made inquiries. The companies are keeping track of all of us and if the government needed that information badly enough they could certainly obtain it.
Now many of you have probably known all of this for a long time. Others may be like I was and don't pay much attention about what goes on regarding the internet. And it doesn't have to be just the internet.
More than once I've "entered a contest" where I've filled out a card with my information and dropped it in a box at a mall or some public place or even by mail. For years after that I have received information related to whoever had sponsored the contest. Most contests and other places where you have to fill out personal data are really ruses for data collection. I used to do it in some of the places where I worked. Lead generation and mailing lists are big business and those leads can circulate for years. Much of our junk mail comes from companies buying lists from other companies that specialize in data collection. Anyone can obtain data if they go to the right sources and are willing to pay for it.
We can put up smoke screens and muddle the data trails, but we can all be found. We have no secrets if we have divulged them to another person or entity. And we divulge plenty of information. That info can be scrutinized, evaluated, and tested in order to extrapolate prognostications about your life. Super computers can analyze personal data as easily as the IRS computers can find mistakes in your tax returns that may cause you to get a request to correct your mistake or even the red flags that can lead to an audit.
You have no secrets other than those inside your mind which probably don't mean much to the government or corporations. If you're trying to hide, you can be successful on certain levels, but ultimately not if someone is trying hard enough to find you. Anyone who's reading this blog right now probably has participated on the internet enough in their lifetime to have left a trail with more footprints that they might realize. Some people do manage to stay undercover or secreted away, but maybe that's because the powers that be are allowing it. You might hide for a while, but someone's got your number--or maybe your "cookie".
Do you try to keep a low profile? Why? Do you join loyalty clubs or enter contests? Does the computer tracking of your likes and dislikes bother you? Are you concerned about the potential of the government to intrude in your life and to control it?