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The Eyes Have It

It should come as no surprise that companies track our every move on the web. What’s surprising are the growing numbers of companies doing such and their perniciously invisible methods.

This may seem like niggling compared to Britain, a once-free country now known as “the surveilllance society.” Cameras are everywhere; the government has seemingly unlimited powers to usurp one’s privacy. So why fuss over a little non-intrusive data collection about your online habits? After all, it’s only about selling you a better mousetrap, right?

The potential for abuse is staggering: perhaps not by malicious intent, but mere negligence. Several years ago my identity was stolen – not by some phisher or hacker. It was a major credit monitoring company. They merged my personal information with some fool having a name nearly identical to my own, and sent it to him. The creep got a free ride, stealing goods and services like cable tv and billed it to me. He got the free ride because the company listed him on my credit report as an alias. Yet the onus was on me to prove my innocence and reassert my identity, despite the glaring faults in the reporting itself. After nearly nine months of investigation, the snake slithered away unscathed at my expense. The detective assigned to the case told me they couldn’t do anything about it, because “the authorities won’t prosecute identity theft crimes under $5,000″.

Hint to creeps: if you’re going to steal, keep it under five grand and you’re good as gold! Victims are guilty until proven innocent.

If I could boil the bigger argument down to two simple words, it would be these: full disclosure. Interesting how both corporate and governmental interests want to preserve “privacy rights” only for themselves. Sure, they’re just building better mousetraps – but to them, we’re the mice.

So is Google googling us? Is it worming its way inside, like John Steinbeck’s creature in The Affair at 7, Rue de M - ?

Will the human factor win out? Is this social or socialized networking? I really don’t know. Not yet, anyway.

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