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Who’s watching who and why?

These days – in the circles wot I move in – it has become a bit of a cliché to mention in company that one is a tad concerned by the manner in which we are, or may be, being watched over or observed without our knowledge or consent.

Rusters occasionally detail on this organ instances of the same – a recent example detailed issues with ‘free period subscription offers’ that turn into something else.

From a personal point of view I have always been paranoid from Day One about logging my banking (or any other) personal details anywhere on the internet, on the vague suspicion that – if anyone ever gets to know them … as night follows day, someone will at some point hack their website and gain access to my tiny stash of savings.

Apart from anything else – with all this hoo-hah going on about “Fake News” and foreign governments interfering in Western elections  and so on – can anyone actually trust anything we’re told by anyone?

Then there are these ‘cookie’ things, which I still don’t understand.

I though you were supposed to be now legally able to decide (or at least from time to time review) what personal details you are ‘giving out’ to anyone else, but in my experience – as I arrive on any website on any subject – immediately up pops a balloon stating that the website makes use of cookies in order to … er … well, I never quite follow or understand how or why they need to track what you, the visitor, is doing online, but that’s basically what they’re doing … and you aren’t allowed to go round their website, or access any information on it unless you “agree” to their terms.

Effectively, of course, there’s no choice in the matter.

You’ve gone to the ruddy website in the first place because you’re looking for some enlightenment which hopefully they may possess – and you have to agree to ‘give your life away’ to them in consideration for them agreeing to let you look at their information for free.

Which (arguably) isn’t a fair bargain, even if it’s legal.

Another items that worries me silly is that – ever since I first personally owned a computer [and don’t ask me when that was because, however I answer I will be wrong … could it be 1980 … 1985 … 1990?], I’ve probably owned over time at least ten different devices (and it could even be double that) … and, as far as I can remember, on every single one of them I’ve thought it prudent to take out a ‘safety protection software package’ with some well-known brand provider of same in order to maintain my security.

Does that mean that in September 2019 I might still be paying ten to twenty annual subscriptions to ‘safety’ software package-providers? I ask because – dear readers – I’m pretty damned sure that I’ve never once cancelled a subscription to one in my life!

Big brother is watching

Being the product of my ancestry and style of upbringing, I begin my approach to most aspects of life from a pretty ‘black and white’ viewpoint, i.e. there’s a right and wrong way of doing things: integrity is a guiding principle: there’s such a thing as the rule of law which must be respected: we all have the capacity to make choices and – ergo –  also everyone should be responsible for their own actions and indeed the consequences thereof.

In other words, when it comes to laws, generally-speaking, they should be obeyed and anyone who doesn’t obey them should face the punishment stated for those found wanting in this respect.

From there, of course, it’s a very short distance to the proposition that nobody need be concerned about any form of (open or covert) surveillance – after all, if you’re doing nothing wrong (or have nothing to hide), what the problem?

But it’s not quite as simple as that, is it?

After all, which parent would be entirely happy in circumstances where the next user of their family computer might be their teenage (or younger) daughter.

Who one day might click on ‘recent searches’ and note that their elder and better has been googling “What to do about a nightmare teenage daughter?” … “How to murder the Prime Minister and get away with it?” … or even a succession of dodgy websites featuring a number of ladies with their tops off and very large chests? [And on the last of these, in mitigation, can I please lodge the fact that I was actually trying to look up the recipe for Big Macs and accidentally typed “Big Ones” by mistake?]

There’s plenty of anguish being expressed in the media at the moment about the potential ‘invasion of privacy’ aspects of introducing Big Brother-style ‘facial recognition’ cameras somewhere, or indeed everywhere.

To repeat my point, there are arguments on both sides: on one, if you’ve personally got nothing to hide and their use helps to reduce crime and/or maximise the catching and punishing of people who break the law, what’s not to like?; on the other, does anyone really want perhaps 90% of their life being recorded and potentially reviewed somewhere by someone as a matter of principle, let alone by someone whose motives are unclear or unknown? Or indeed one day by a successor whose motives may be different and/or malicious?

I’ve encountered recent examples of people complaining that on their computer they have clearly been bombarded with advertisements and promotions because (presumably) some website somewhere they’ve visited at some point has been ‘following’ them by harvesting cookie-information and thereby being able to “sell” their computer’s identity as a ‘target’ to those who might be interested, e.g. (say) owners of estate agents operating out of Guildford who might like to know that you once looked up a property vaguely in that area of the south-east.

I’ve even had people in my circle who have complained that their smartphone ‘Siri’ facility (via which you can ask your phone a general knowledge question and it provides a voiced answer almost in real time) clearly has an inbuilt capability to ‘listen’ to conversations in its vicinity.

One gave an example of a conversation in which she spoke of dreaming of going on a holiday to the Maldives one day … and not much later suddenly receiving a series of a promotions on her smartphone offering just that!

I’m recording all this today only because – when I came to my computer not long after midnight overnight – within quarter of an hour my computer suddenly decided to switch itself off and automatically re-start again. It’s an occurrence that has happened to me at least ten times in the past two years.

I don’t know whether the instigator each time has been Microsoft (my computer is a PC), or Google, or Facebook, or Amazon, or eBay … or even MI5 … but I just wanted Rust readers to be aware that – if they don’t hear from me again – I have clearly been under surveillance by someone and that quite possibly they may not have my best interests at heart.

About Arthur Nelson

Looking forward to his retirement in 2015, Arthur has written poetry since childhood and regularly takes part in poetry workshops and ‘open mike’ evenings. More Posts