Friday, April 23, 2021

4719 What Privacy?


I dislike writing about myself.  But here I go again. I keep harping on internet stuff. Podcasts, surveys and other annoyances have recently shared this space.  Here’s another.  


Decades of playing or playing at stringed musical instruments is a big part of life here.  So are subscriptions to “updates” from the sellers of the same.  There are about 100 merchants in the “favorites” or “bookmarks” column on the browser.


One morning, dreaming of a new amplifier (I only have three!) I stumbled over a new one from one of the major brands and it was shown in the daily emails from an aggressive but reliable merchant in the Midwest. Nice, detailed pictures. All the right bells and whistles. Light enough in weight for a diminished senior citizen to tote to his next gig.  A pretty good price. Maybe free shipping (to be determined.) Maybe they’ll forget to collect out of state sales tax. 


Not an hour later comes a personalized email: “Hey, can we help you out?  We noticed you were interested in the (insert name of product.)” 


You noticed?  Just how did that happen?  Five hundred bucks.  Not a big deal for a category of stuff that can range well into the high four figures.


There are obviously some pretty sophisticated algorithms floating in the ether.  They send an email. Then they look over your shoulder while you read it.  And if you should actually explore an item available for sale, they know it and pounce like a cat on a sleeping or disabled mouse or bird or -- these days -- cicada. 


This raises an interesting question. What else do they know but don’t tell you they’ve spotted.  Is someone tracking everything you look at?  Are you ready to switch from “Edge” or “Chrome” and do everything online on the so-called dark web?  And how dark is the dark web now that we’re on that subject?


One service promises to bounce your i.p. address through a maze of others in a maze of countries a billion miles from here -- wherever here is.  Do they really?  Can you, yes you… sitting there in East Nowhere, South Carolina convince an artificial intelligence machine that you’re in Bulgaria or Rwanda?


And does it matter?  Can the receiver trace your breadcrumbs back to East Nowhere?


This merchant has spent decades building good will… and in many cases deserves it.  Or did until now.


So pardon this, but here’s a note to that merchant, sent only through this blog:


Sirs: I am an old guy who has shopped with you for a good long time and who loves to watch the stuff you promote. But as someone who hasn’t played in public in decades, I resent the kind of invasion of privacy you just demonstrated. I won’t outright tell you who I am, but it’s usually right there in the signoff.


Now, we’ll see if these people are really on their artificially intelligent toes.  If the emails stop, I’m on to something we all can use.


I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®

Any Questions?

© WR 2021


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