It’s a little bit worrying. Not just the GOP’s indifference in the face of two mass shootings on the same weekend, but also the fact that the internet knows who I am. I am the reluctant owner of a smartphone. I do like that I have the internet in my pocket, but I’m a touch paranoid that I can be traced to anywhere unless I lose my phone. Even then the government can probably email me and tell me where it is. Don’t get me wrong—I’m not important enough for the government to pay attention to me, but what is really worrisome is that the web knows me. Here’s how I came to learn that. On my home computer I had done a rather obscure Google search. (If you read this blog that won’t surprise you, and no, it wasn’t anything naughty!) When I signed into my work computer—different username, different email address, different IP address—and had to do a work related search, Google auto-suggested the search I did on a different computer over the weekend.
I’m savvy enough to know that Google metrics are all about marketing. The internet wants customer information to predict what they might sell to us. Advertisers pay for that. Assuming that I want to buy underwear and summer dresses online (why?), they tailor their ads to sites I visit. As a sometime fiction writer I go to some sites from which I’m not interested in purchasing anything. (As an aside, old fashioned book research didn’t leave such a “paper trail.”) I’ve gotten used to the idea of my laptop knowing me—it sits on my lap everyday, after all—but the work computer? Does it have to know what I’ve been doing over the weekend?
Artificial intelligence is one thing, but hopping from one login to another feels like being caught in the shower by a stranger. Like everyone else, I appreciate the convenience of devices. When I get up in the morning my laptop’s more sure of who I am than my own sleep-addled brain is. That doesn’t mean my devices really know the essence of who I am. And it certainly doesn’t mean that my work computer has any right to know what I was doing on another device over the weekend. Those who believe machine consciousness is now underway assume that this is a step forward, I suppose. From the perspective of one who’s being stalked by electronic surveillance, however, the view is quite different. Please leave my personal life at the door, as I do when I go to work.