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Monday, February 24, 2014

What's the Use of Trying to Hide?

English: Different customer loyality cards (ai...
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?

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  1. And a good Monday morning to you too Lee.
    I don't like putting my credit/debit
    cards on line, I am more concerned at the moment with the pop ups on the dashboard of my blog. So many ads that I can't see what is going on and also pop ups about the condition of my pc which is perfectly ok has it has been checked, I presume they are after money and credit card details. I am more afraid of them than the Government.
    Have a nice day.

  2. You might want to see the Ted talk by Alessandro Acquisiti on why privacy matters. It is an interesting and somewhat sobering perspective on how much information someone can find out about you from your online presence. The classic look into the future of advertising is in the movie Minority Report. Instantaneous ads tailored to your tastes as you walk through the mall. Online news is already being delivered that way. Big data is set to have a large effect on our lives, yet very few use encryption services because they tend not to be intuitive or convenient.

  3. One more step closer to the mark of the beast. :-) Just because you're paranoid, doesn't mean they're not out to get you.

    Love Jesus, eat cheesecake, listen closely...
    DJ Glen

  4. Lee in my comment to you Why is the word Credit Card is written in red with a green mark? I certainly didn't put a link on the words.


  5. You know I maintain a low profile.
    I've known for a long time that the Internet tracks what you visit. That's how companies know what to suggest based on what they think you like.
    And I think DJ might be right.

  6. I refuse to do banking and bill paying online. I don't want people having access to my checking account and I want control over when bills get paid. Russell thinks I put too much 'out there' on Facebook, but I have my profile locked down so that only FB friends can see it.

    But I am pretty creeped out that I see ads on FB directly related to things I've recently googled. I wanted to see where Blue Man Group plays in Boston and since then I am bombarded w/ BMG Boston ads on Facebook.

  7. Yvonne--Wish I could help and it sounds like you've already spent money to address this problem. When I had this problem I ran programs like "Spybot" and other PC cleaners and that fixed the pop-up problem. There are settings you can also fix in order to stop the pop ups. Those things are annoying, but you need someone who can look at your computer and find out what's wrong.
    As far as the "Credit Card" showing up in red and green, I don't see it on my computer and have no idea what that could be about.

    Judy -- Online presence certainly adds a lot of additional risk to one's privacy, but we're still out there for people to find us. What we don't put online about ourselves other entities will.

    DJ -- This has all been predicted and now those predictions are much easier for us to understand. It's a wonder that so many discard what the Bible says.

    Alex -- You can run, but you can't hide. Not forever. A day of revelation is coming for all of us.

    JoJo --- You don't have to put things online to take a risk. It might be safer to trust the faceless computer than leave info in the hands of a real person. Who are those people at the help desks when you call and 800 number? Can the bank representative be trusted completely? It is fascinating how our computer searches ID us as customers even if we were looking at something for other reasons that wanting the product. Sometimes it can be helpful, but much of the time it is creepy.


  8. >>... It's a wonder that so many discard what the Bible says.

    Mmmmm... Not really. Because The Bible even tells us why they do so.

    Read yer Bible, Peoples! The End is near (but still not as near as I'd like it to be). OK, I'm-a gonna stick my neck out and say...

    Watch out for the year 2029!
    (Is that close enough, Peoples?)

    ~ D-FensDogg
    'Loyal American Underground'

  9. I don't really maintain a low profile because I'm not interesting enough to do so. I've got nothing to hide, so what you see online is what I am.

    Also, I have popup blockers and ad blockers up the wazoo, so I haven't seen an ad in years.

  10. Lee, I tend to agree with you. There is no hiding from the government if they want to find you. Do I think that they are keeping tabs on everyone? Absolutely. Do I think most people land on their "Irrelevant List?" Yep. Is it possible that a day will come in the future that some of the Irrelevants become Relevant? Sure.

    As you say, if you own a car, work, and pay taxes they already know about you. So, I might as well make my life easier and bank online and use those grocery cards for discounts. Does that mean that they are more aware of my likes? Yep.

    I became aware of the ads pertaining to things I "like" on Facebook. The ads run down the sidebar. At first I thought it was strange that they knew I liked, believed, searched specific things. Then I recognized the pattern for what it was. I have read that the government can tell a Whole Lot about people just from their Facebook profile. It doesn't even have to contain a lot of information for them to intersect lines.

  11. The FB ads give me the creeps. It's like they know what I'm thinking. I hate it.

  12. Yes, we are being marketed as I type this! Profiles of habits being formed-it bothers me, but like you said-it is difficult to hide!

    Well said Lee! Happy Monday to you~

  13. StMc-- I don't know about 2029. You may be giving this world more time than it's got coming.

    Beer -- I don't get the pop-ups either so I must have my settings right or something. The biggest problem that I ever had was with a work computer that other employees were using for who knows what. It took me a while to clean it up, but I finally managed on my own with some advice from Google searches.

    Robin -- A computer can use comparative data to figure all sorts of things about us. I think that's where it all really happens. When the red flags come up then closer scrutiny is put in the hands of humans. This post and your comment may have put up red flags about us, but still so many people say and have said the same things that we are still fairly irrelevant.

    Nicole -- They at least know what you have thought in the past. The ads are just bets placed that you're still interested in those same things.

    Ella -- When the data is used to my benefit I don't mind too much, but it can all be used against me too and that's the scary part. If it was just people keeping track then it wouldn't be too much to be concerned about, but the computers can make connections that human minds often miss. They may be right connections or wrong ones, but still the attention we receive can create problems for us.


  14. >>... StMc-- I don't know about 2029. You may be giving this world more time than it's got coming.

    Possibly true, no doubt.

    But at the same time, God has already shown MORE patience with us than we deserve. He has Divine Patience, which is hard for us 'believers' to understand. (As The Bible says, even those souls who were martyred on His behalf will question the length of his patience.)

    Surely you know I have read The Bible more times than (probably) anyone else you know. That doesn't make me right (ABSOLUTELY NOT!), but rest assured, I did not just pluck that date, 2029, out of thin air; it was based on some intricate prophetic Bible verse calculations (which I myself cannot take personal credit for!)

    We'll see... but either way, anyone who reads and understands The Holy Bible can see the prophetic "signs" manifesting in OUR TIMES, and they know that - regardless of the date - it is "late in the day", and the "Apocalypse" is not far off.

    ~ D-FensDogg
    'Loyal American Underground'

  15. I really don't like how 'they' know so much about us but like you I use those store cards that give me discounts. I use a credit card that isn't my bankcard for online purchases. Probably won't matter if someone hacks me. Are we all to accepting of our loss of privacy?

  16. So much of our data is public knowledge, none of this stuff really matters. I mean, I get snail mail all the time urging me to re-finance my house, because mortgages are public knowledge. Since I live in an area where house prices are rising, we get spammed about loans ALL the time. And that just because some company looked at a list.

    Basically, anyone that WANTS to find out about you CAN, no matter how private you think you're being.

    And, I have to say, doing finance stuff online is way safer than using checks these days.

  17. First, to Arlee- excellent post. I agree 100%. One of my best friends always reads my blog but refuses to comment save through e-mail because of being afraid to have a Google account. Fact check- I think we all probably "have" Google accounts whether we have one or not.

    Second, to STM- while I do lean more to your guess than the other, I always remind myself that people in 1000 AD, 1346, and 1940 all thought the end was coming to their doorstep soon. When the whole picture fits the whole prophecy, look out!

  18. StMc -- All signs point to something happening soon whether it be tomorrow or 100 years from now. 2029 may be the time but no one knows for sure.

    Susan GK -- I think most of us are fairly resigned to the fact that we do not control our privacy. Convenience and good deals are something that most of us welcome if that's he easy way.

    Angela --And it's all been said often.

    Andrew -- So true. Checks in the mail can disappear more easily than an online transaction. The computers have no mind to con us unless they've been programmed to do so.

    CW - Google sees all and knows all and if they don't then they can look it up.


  19. Great post Lee! I'm a little more private with my personal items so I don't go into it that much on my blog or social media sites. I'm going back and forth because some of my better material is the more personal stuff. As for internet security, I'm with you. The convenience and time savings for doing things online trump the threat of identity fraud. However, we should still be careful. Better safe than sorry. Thanks for the reminder on taxes!

  20. I'm with you, Lee. I prefer to save time and use online bill pay and such. Those bitter cookies are a fact of online life nowadays. I do worry about identity theft and do what I can to limit my risk but I refuse to live a fear-based life.

  21. The Google ads are based on what you search, and they build a profile of you based on that, which you can actually see if you want to (search "Google ad settings). I checked mine out of curiosity, and they had me pegged for 20 years younger than I am (cool!). Some of my interests were dead-on, but some of them were laughable, and obviously related to things I had to search for various freelance assignments.

  22. I am happy to leave a trail as me and me are not entirely the same person although we are both me. Its just that one me knows the other me and some know both me's and some know just me or me but not both me and me.

  23. You can spend time worrying about it or you can realize that if someone wants information about you, they'll find some way to get it. Nowadays it's so much easier to find things with the internet and all, but we left tracks before.

    I weigh the sides on the loyalty card thing. Yes, they track you. But they reward you by saving you a little money. It's all a balance.

  24. Buck -- We should take precautions on and offline to prevent being defrauded, but I think doing things online is essentially "safe" though not especially conducive to hiding oneself.

    Jagoda -- I'm not that savvy about protecting myself, but I don't know that it matters. Anyone can get scammed or hacked, even corporations and government agencies with theoretically great security.

    Kelly -- Yes, I've found that research can lead to getting some funny recommendations. I've also noticed I get a lot of ads in Spanish. Not sure if that's because I use Google Translate for Spanish to English or if it's a matter of my geographical location.

    Rob -- With convoluted reasoning like that you probably leave a confusing trail.

    Liz - I'm for the benefits and not going to worry myself over the possible downsides.


  25. I try to be safe about what I share. My birth year, for instance, my mom's maiden name, things that are used as password hints, my children's photos. But on the other hand, I am not bending over backward to insure I don't put out any detail that can come back on me, because it doesn't have to be digital to do so. I was on plenty of mailing lists well before I spent any time online. If people want data, they'll get it. Plus, my dad was NSA when I was a kid, so I don't have the apparent "in" hatred that's going around these days. Besides which, I've always lived in a household where one person had a security clearance, so I guess I've always taken it for granted that nothing I do is really secret.

  26. I don't try to keep a low profile, but I do take precautions to (hopefully) protect myself from hackers, scam artists, stalkers, and thieves. I love social media and blogs too much to give up my computer and hide in a cave.

  27. Like Alex even I try to keep a low profile on the internet as it keeps a track of the sites we visit.

  28. I limit what I say and do out in cyber-land. Since I work and write, I don't have a ton of time or the energy to keep up.

  29. When I started helping my mom with her taxes, I went to Turbo Tax to save her some money. It worked fine. Her taxes were simple and I didn't see any reason to pay a tax preparer to do them.

    As to privacy, that is extremely precious to me. While I'm on social media, I'm there as a professional. I keep my family and friends separate from what I do as a writer. While I enjoy the people I meet online, I also respect their privacy, and if I receive personal messages, they are treated as such. Still I'm nervous when I phone a company for services and they know my address before I tell them.

    We live in the great "Cookie" age and there's not a lot we can do about unless we totally disengage and don't even pay our taxes.

  30. I do so agree with you Lee, nothing we do is private any more, not that I particularly care, I have nothing to hide anyway. I sure haven't any money to steal either. I do all my stuff on line and am always surprised by people who are "scared" to use the computer for banking or shopping. The don't want to use their credit card on line but they give it to a waiter to disappear with. I guess that's gradually changing of course.

    I use Ufile online to do my taxes, costs me $25 for both of us.

  31. Sometime's a blogger has to do what a blogger has to do. I'm not real worried about it, though I do hate getting spam. I don't enter a lot of contest, and I avoid signing up for things. It's easier that way. It's not about being invisible. As you say, that idea has pretty much gone out the window.

  32. I doubt that there is any real privacy left, which is what I hear you saying here. Therefore, I don't try to limit it - as far as stores are concerned. However, I stop putting in my email address to get to a web site. I resent having to give that info just so that I can see the site. It's not that important. There's 50 more like it elsewhere.
    Bottom line: If I need something or want something, I go for it at the risk of ending up on a mailing list. SS#, address, cell number... things like that, I keep private.

  33. I've strived to keep a low online profile ever since I got completely wiped out in the chat rooms. About 99% of what I put out there has been regurgitated to the nth degree, so there really isn't nothing new for people to latch onto.

    Still....old thoughts of paranoia die hard, so as much as possible I make it very difficult to find me. For example, you can find me on Facebook, but I disabled the search engine mechanism so that if my name does crop, no FB related links will pop up (much).

    I also make it difficult for people to leave disgusting insults/comments/spam on my blog.

  34. Interesting, because my WIP touches on this very thing. While I don't buy every conspiracy theory out there, recent events involving the NSA should concern anyone. I try to watch my back, but I've had people stalk me for various reasons and anyone who is determined can track down a person living in a developed part of the world.

  35. Shannon -- National Security is essential I think, but it can also be used against the populace. I'm becoming more wary of our government as time goes on.

    Patricia -- Some precautions are wise, but going overboard with it is somewhat ludicrous.

    Rachna -- The internet is not the only place where we are being kept track of.

    Shelly -- My activity gets limited mostly because of slow internet or computer or something.

    C.Lee -- Civil privacy between individuals I understand and respect, but those aren't the ones I fear.

    Jo -- So true. We should be more concerned with our card information being entrusted to a person that we don't know than online.

    MJ -- I sign up for less than I used to, but still if I can get a good deal or something free I might take advantage of that.

    Anita -- No SS#'s and I rarely give out my cell phone. Try to avoid giving my email too much so I don't get more junk email.

    GB -- Once again as I've said previously, those aren't the people I'm that concerned with. Government can oppress us more when it wants to.

    Steven -- Even in undeveloped parts it's getting easier to track down people. Since cell phones are so ubiquitous they can be used to get info on people. It's prudent to watch our surroundings but the forces we can't see or hear are the ones who can catch us unawares.


  36. Just heard of a new encrypted phone for over $600 - offers more privacy, supposedly. Bet the makers know all you do, when, how, and why, but now keep all that information from the others, but I'm sure at some point will sell it for a price. Cookies are giving away all your secrets, but hey lets make a hero out of a traitor and let the retail giants control the world! Privacy does not exist!

  37. I live in Singapore, where nothing is private, and I'm used to it now.

    What you're talking about is very real-- anyone with a credit card, a phone number and an address where they pay bills from is an open book for others to read about.


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