Opinion » Cybernaut


I think I’m paranoid…



Watching what passes for news on the 24 hour networks, I have to wonder what the intention is — what part of the news is just catering to the masses with salacious stories about celebrities and fad diets, and what part of the coverage is contrived to divert your focus from the important questions. It’s like someone snapping their fingers in your face, shouting “look up here right now!” while something kind of spooky is taking place in the shadows behind them.

Always up for a good conspiracy theory (I’m pretty sure I’ve figured out how they get the caramel in a Caramilk bar), I naturally tend towards the evil-in-the-shadows theory when it comes to most things.

Like advertising.

I visit Cracked.com periodically for their humorous lists — recent gems include “6 Famous Songs That Don’t Mean What You Think”, “6 Great Action Heroes (Who Should Be Convicted of Murder)”, and “20 Jobs Too Awesome to Exist” — when I stumbled across a piece called “The 5 Creepiest Advertising Techniques of the (Near) Future”.

A lot of the things I suspected, or have heard of before, but it was jarring to see it all in one place, and to realize how much revolves around the Internet.

Basically, there are a lot of companies out there who want you as a customer and want to be able to tailor their advertising messages to increase their chance of succeeding. To do that, they have to get to know you. They want to know what movies and television shows you watch, what car you drive, what websites you visit, and how you spend your free time. If you’re anti-brand and buy from small companies, they want to know what those companies are so they can acquire the labels for themselves.

The only way to get this information is to spy on you.

And if you’re not bothered that a few companies are tracking what you do, keep in mind the fact that American telecom companies after 9/11 had no problem turning phone and Internet data over to the U.S. government, despite the fact that they didn’t have a warrant or a specific target in mind.

Companies can use the data they collect, and sell that information to other companies. A whole data trading industry has popped up where people sell your valuable personal information to telemarketers, spammers, and other bottom feeders.

According to the Cracked.com article, which itself has links to other stories, you’re probably being spied on by TiVo and your PVR, while every site you visit is being tracked by Google to allow it to one day customize search results based on your browsing history.