Big Brother IS Watching …

Big Brother is watching us all … and his name, at least one of his names, is Google.  Let me tell you a little story.

eyesJane Doe wanted a new pair of shoes.  She had in mind a pair of Reebok sneakers in white with light blue trim.  Jane goes on line and puts a few key words into a search engine, probably Google.  A number of options are listed including on-line sites such as Amazon, and also listed are stores near Jane’s home.  Wanting to try on the shoes for a good fit, Jane decides against the on-line sites and chooses a store or two near home.  On Saturday, Jane picks up her wallet and cell phone and heads to the first store.  They do not have the colour she wants, so she goes to the second store, finds exactly what she wants on sale, so she happily pays for the shoes with her handy-dandy credit card.

Meanwhile, back in a room with many computers, data is being crunched and spit out to marketers who pay Google for certain services.  The program is called “advanced machine learning and mapping technology”.  It picked up Jane’s trail as soon as she Googled “reebok womens white blue”.  It noted what colour and size she was seeking, and what recommendations she received.  Okay, not too surprising so far.  But … when Jane left the house, it began tracking her location via the GPS in her cell phone.  When she stopped at the first store, it followed her.  And when she went to the second store, it followed her there, too.  AND … when Jane paid for the shoes with her credit card, they knew that too.  And all of this information is transferred to marketing companies so that they can target and bombard Jane with ads for similar or related products.  They now know her shoe size, brand & colour preference, and location.

According to an article by NPR:

“Google is both a search behemoth and an online advertising powerhouse, and it takes advantage of its vast collection of data to create detailed ad metrics. For several years, the company has been using location data on phones to track store visits — for example, to see how many people clicked on a PetSmart ad and then visited their local PetSmart.

But the new system goes further, and looks at actual purchases, by relying on in-store credit card transactions. Google says it doesn’t have access to that data directly. However, the company has “third-party partnerships” that “capture approximately 70% of credit and debit card transactions in the United States,” Google said in May.

That data gets cross-referenced with information Google already has, to connect user accounts to in-person purchases. Aggregated data showing the relationship between Google ads and purchases is then delivered to advertisers.”

Google executives say they are using complex, patent-pending mathematical formulas to protect the privacy of consumers and that the formulas make it impossible for Google to know the identity of the real-world shoppers, and for the retailers to know the identities of Google’s users. Now first off, I do not trust anyone who tells me that something is “impossible”.  Anything is possible with the right tools and knowledge.  And second, if Russia was able to hack into servers that were considered among the most secure in the nation …. enough said. Google has refused to name its “third-party partners”, what data is acquired or what steps they are taking to de-identify that data, all of which is suspicious in and of itself.

Google tells NPR that users have “robust controls” over their data, and can opt out of purchase tracking by removing permission for Google to use their “Web and App activity.” (To do so, visit “My Activity” in your Google account, select “Activity Controls” and de-select “Web and App activity.”)

I did the above steps, and while I was at it, turned off every tracking permission I found, such as track location data, YouTube history, etc.  However, I still do not trust them.  We have only their word that if we uncheck the box, they will no longer track us.  This is disturbing to me, and I am not alone.

A privacy watchdog group has filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) is concerned that Google’s methods, the details of which are not public, may not sufficiently safeguard users’ privacy, and they are asking the Federal Trade Commission to investigate. “Google claims that they don’t know who the users are, that they are being de-identified,” says Marc Rotenberg, the president of EPIC. “We want the FTC to take a closer look.”

I hate to say it, but even if the FTC investigates and finds that all possible measures are being taken to ensure our privacy, and even though I turned off all tracking options for Google, I believe that in the future I will either turn off my cell phone or just leave it at home when I go out.  And rather than pay for anything with credit card, I shall use cash.  Ten years ago, I might not have been so untrusting, but in today’s world where every day there is another tale of cyber-hacking, and in the era of Trump who has no compunction about giving businesses almost unlimited power over we the consumer, I trust no one.

Big Brother is watching and if he gets close enough, I will poke him in the eye with a stick!

eyes-4.jpgToday, our own government is threatening to make our private voting information public, net neutrality is being threatened, and now this.  The Internet is a wonderful thing … or is it???

58 thoughts on “Big Brother IS Watching …

  1. Pingback: Facebook Wants Your Bank Account!!! | Filosofa's Word

  2. I can completely relate to the increasing need to tighten my privacy and become more careful! There have been countless times where personalised advertisements have appeared instantly after I have made a few google searches for a certain product. I also think that I will increase my privacy and location settings on my phone. It’s concerning how much information about us that the internet can gather! There’s no escaping the feeling of paranoia when using your phone for most processes and yet, it is too inconvenient and impractical to switch back to previous ways e.g. using cash for purchases.

    I’m actually writing a blog as part of my campaign Private-Unsee, which aims to educate internet users and motivate them to independently tighten their online privacy and keep personal information offline and private. Your article was definitely a great relatable read!


    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m so glad you found value in this post! Yes, we must be careful, but also we must be cautious not to border on paranoia. There are very few sites that I allow to ‘store’ my credit card information, yet I sometimes wonder if they do so anyway. And when practical, I use cash, but admittedly, there are times it just isn’t efficient. The real shame is that we have to think this way. But … welcome to the 21st century, I guess. Thanks for reading and commenting! I am interested in your project and plan to check it out!


    • Agreed … and I knew that, but what got me is that the path that starts when you google something on your computer at home can be followed as you walk or drive around town with cell phone in pocket. And then … that somebody can know what I purchased and that I paid for it with my credit card #xxx-xxxxx-xx is just too much! I’m thinking that log cabin in the woods is looking better all the time!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Of course, some of us don’t always give them the complete picture they may be looking for. Some of us annoy Yahoo by telling them we don’t like the add because it’s not relevant. Some of us look for all sorts of crazy on Google so they can’t get a pattern and delete most of our e-mail without even reading it. Some of us report some companies e-mails as Spam ‘cuz we think they are.
    Some of us are so unresponsive to commercial intrigues as they must wonder if we’ve actually passed on.
    Some of us finds Crazy works as a good fog (Or ‘chaff’).
    Some of us one day are going to apply for a $1 billon loan if their bank doesn’t shut the heck up about their stupid product.

    Liked by 1 person

    • 🙃 😀 🙃 You’ve given me ideas, sir! Actually, some I already do … though my intent wasn’t to confound them so much as to cut down on my own annoyance, such as spammy emails (I have a great spam filter and almost none slip through), not answering the phone unless it is somebody on my contact list. But I must try some of the others, and applying for a billion dollar loan really sounds like great fun!!! Tie them up for hours! 😀 You da man, Roger! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. It’s definitely a different world out there now. I was thinking about that while I was in Ottawa. 27 years ago when I lived there there were no cellphones, no Internet to speak of, no email. I mean, how did we live? And how much harder was it for THEM to find out about how we lived?? A different world…

    Liked by 3 people

    • Quite a different world indeed! Many technological inventions have a strong upside to counter the negative, for example the cell phone. Remember when if your car broke down you walked or thumbed to the nearest pay phone? There is much to be said for the convenience of smart phones, but I do NOT like the GPS. However, even that has been helpful on my trips to Pennsylvania, as I have the most horrible sense of direction and would have likely ended up in California without my Google maps! 😀 Sigh … I wonder what life on this planet will be 100 years from now?

      Liked by 2 people

  5. Yee-ahh … ever since the late nineties when internet came to Canada, for us ordinary folks. This was obviously the reason for it. Spying on all and sundry. If we believe that it was just something the US military had lying around and pushed out, in a fit of generosity? Then we probably believe in the tooth fairy, too? I now keep a small strip of opaque tape over my camera, when I’m not using it. Paranoid? Probably, yet that does not mean they are not switching it on unbeknown … sigh! Google is building several large data storing facilities around the world. Do not suppose that’s for something as benign, as shopping tastes. Cheers Jamie

    Liked by 2 people

    • Quite so! I have not yet put tape over my camera, but have been meaning to do so ever since I read that some reporters … not loons, but highly respectable journalists … keep tape over theirs. I always thought … well, never mind … I have been naive, for sure. I wasn’t aware that Google was building those facilities … I shall have to see what I can find on that one. I’m concluding that a minimalist lifestyle may be the best sort.
      Cheers, my friend!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Well, this is no surprise I’m afraid. I use Firefox on my phone and used to when I had a laptop. On PC’s Firefox has an add on called Ghostery. It is an amazing but can be an annoying thing. The first thing it does is tell you, the minute you open up any link, how many adware’s have just clocked your visit. Then you can click on the little ghost that appears on screen to find out who they all belong to and block them if you wish.
    I have adware blocker on Firefox on my phone too (but different and in the background). I clear my browsing history frequently and do not allow automatic logins for anything.
    My phone works on WiFi only…I have a really old mobile cell phone for calls, so my phone doesn’t clock my movements, other than on wifi.
    My husband mostly uses his credit cards so mine are largely dormant. But yes, there is a tie in…he does get targeted by companies who know where we have been.

    Big brother is definitely rearing up to track our movements. Worryingly, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is about to launch onto the market in so many ways that it is even worrying Stephen Hawking. I heard this morning that Facebook just tried an experiment with two Robots to see if they could learn to communicate with each other to acquire ‘stuff!’ What happened caused them to shut the Robots down. Apparently, they began OK, speaking English words, but as they learned what to do, they developed their own language and from the sound of it, the language was a sort of binary form of repetitive English words that meant something completely different.

    I also watched a program on TV (rare for me), on driverless cars. The AI is fast developing for this to be combined with electric vehicles. The program also showed an AI Robot that could learn tasks by itself. One that is particularly hard for children to learn, tying shoe laces… was a doddle for this Robot after watching (not doing), only once.

    I also watched a program on Alan Turing, the Code Breaker who cracked Germany’s World War II Enigma messaging machine. Turing’s early work on this and other problems l, began the early computers (computational machines). Turing even figured out the mathematical coding for patterns in nature (fur with stripes or spots). His work has been carried by others since his suicide, and our world is really becoming a series of on or off switches (1’s and 0’s)

    One has to ask ourselves where we are headed? Will AI vehicles suddenly turn on us and take us to places we never requested? Will they develop their own numerical self recognition. Will they become conscious and track humans as the ‘enemy?’

    I can’t help but think of the rogue computer, ‘Hal’ in the movie 2001! Science fiction is fast becoming Science Fact and we have to decide if we are going to embrace and hopefully benefit from it while society becomes very regulated, or if we are going to see it as detrimental to our individualism and autonomy to exist in a free world? Our choices may not even be considered by those who embrace control of others…so where will that lead?

    Liked by 3 people

    • “Will AI vehicles suddenly turn on us and take us to places we never requested?” gives me an idea for a story … hmmmmmm …

      Yes, technology has gone a few steps too far to suit me. While we are worrying about corrupt politicians taking away our democratic freedoms, perhaps we should be more concerned about becoming a slave to technology powered by big corporations with no conscience whatsoever. I dunno. I can’t help but wonder what the world will look like 100 years from now. I used to think I’d like to live forever, but these days I find myself grateful that I won’t be around to see what more damage humankind does.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Years ago (about 30 I think) I started to write a story that only got as far as two chapters, and yes, the SciFi theme did encompass AI, holographic telecommunications and embedded chip scanning for everything that humans needed to accomplish (automatic door opening, monetary transfer, and vehicle summoning and control). The plot was about someone who had been hired to hunt down another who’s tracking had stopped recording their movements. I left the work (using old fashioned paper and pencil) uncompleted, because I began to think it too far-fetched and not particularly believable. But here we are and that scenario almost looks too mundane to work as SciFi…
        We live in changing times and we are no longer alone in all we do!

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Jill, spying on its users and selling such spying for profit. Maybe Google needs to pay us. We are like the NASCAR drivers with everyone’s logo on our car.

    The less extreme thing for us to do is turn our phone off when we are not using it. And, maybe pay for more things in cash. Keith

    Liked by 2 people

    • I agree … we cannot become so paranoid that we keep our blinds closed and never leave our homes, but I do think some more caution is warranted, like clearing our browser cache more often, using credit cards far less, and yes, turning the phone off sometimes. it is frightening to me, though, to know that wherever I am, somebody can know where I am. Sigh. Welcome to life in the 21st century and beyond. It makes it almost humorous to think what happens to all this technology in the event of an EMP incident. Note that I said ‘almost’ humorous. 🙂


        • I am on Facebook, mainly as a way to keep up with grandkids, nieces and nephews who live far away. I have a Twitter account, but I never use it, for it confounds this old, shriveled brain. I often threaten to quit Facebook, as it brings more annoyance than pleasure most days, but again … I can keep up with a large number of people with little effort, and I do appreciate that. But to your point … you are right … everything we do online give us greater exposure and puts us at greater risk for being manipulated. Some days I think I shall quit following politics, find a little cabin in the forest, and write about humble little munchkins taking over the world and making everybody get along with each other. 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

        • Linked in (in my opinion) is as bad as all other social networking sites. I do have a dormant, non descriptive and privatized account there. When I first joined (years before it became fashionable), I would be bombarded with people I ought to know (and often did). But the crunch came when a really old former boss emailed me to sat that he had received a Linked-In request from me to connect. This insideous network, (like Care2), had picked up my whole address book and was busy putting us all together.

          By the way, Care2 offers free e-cards (without the need to join the site). Be careful because it also picks up you entire electronic address book, even from supposedly secure online email accounts.

          Just recently here on this site, I have come across and been invited as a recipient of bogus award schemes (best blog, most mysterious blog, most interesting blog, and on and on). These are nothing more than chain letters collecting up names and blog links.

          I have still continued to use social media, but if ever I encountered a real problem, I would shed those accounts, places and followers quicker than you could say “It’s all so great, so great, we’ll make America great again, true, so great!

          Liked by 1 person

          • It is maddening and frightening how easily we can be duped. And I can’t help but think that if the people who concoct these schemes would put all that talent and knowledge to use for good purposes, imagine what they might do! But instead, they use it for mischief, greed and sometimes even evil. Sigh. Welcome to the 21st century.

            Liked by 1 person

  8. Wow; no, it’s not fun when you realize that your phone is leaving breadcrumbs.. Google does not need to be your very-own personal shopper!!!!

    No one likes to be manipulated by subtle or sneaky marketing. I deliberately avoid picking up an item ‘on my shopping list’ if it’s in the queue of ‘buy me’ products when I enter a store… I wait and retrieve it from its proper place on the shelves!

    I disconnected from credit cards – and telephones! – long ago to most people’s dismay, and at times its extremely inconvenient, but I am also much more liberated from ‘the system.’ It also makes one more disciplined, and one learns to plan ahead… Those choices were not made to outsmart or be sneaky — it just seemed right for me. Long ago, ‘cell phones’ seemed to be more of an intrusion on the quality of my day..

    Now I am glad that – aside from my online history – I leave a quiet and unobtrusive trail!

    Liked by 3 people

    • You are so right, Kim! I do not use credit cards, though I have a debit card that serves as a credit card, so as far as tracking, it carries the same potential hazard. It is my preference to use that instead of cash, because as a retired CPA I track spending to the penny … drives my daughter nuts 😀 … but I think I will be leaning more toward paying with cash now. It is a slap in the face to be treated this way, when we are the customer and we are the ones putting our hard-earned dollars in the hands of these unconscionable rich corporations and CEOs. Sigh.

      I admire you for giving up your cell phone! I think I could get used to not having one without much trouble, but most people I know are so attached at the hip to theirs that they would certainly go through severe withdrawal! 🙂


    • Many, many thanks for the re-blog, my friend! It is an important message … I was stunned when I read the article. Of course I knew that every step we take online leaves a trail, but when I found that the trail is even followed when we leave the house … too much!!! Thanks again!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Like you I am totally mistrusting of what commercial organisations ‘promise’ to do with our data and how securely they keep it – especially bearing in mind how many times I have, at the simplest level, removed myself from mailing lists and yet their mailshots keep returning to my door or my inbox. I do not use a Google account so cannot instruct them what to do or not to do, believe it or not, with my data. However, I do go into my search engine’s privacy options and delete cookies as often as I remember. Like just now, thank you for the reminder! I have also told those sites which participate (do they really?) in the accepted schemes not to track me. Like you, I think I may start using cash. What a good way of defeating the system. I always read the worrying tech stories from people like John Naughton and Carole Cadwalladr in the Guardian/Observer too. Paranoid, moi????

    Liked by 2 people

    • So many things to try to remember we need to be aware of. Simply checking over one’s shoulder is no longer good enough. Several years ago, my bank merged with another. Being a retired CPA, I am OCD about money, so I check my bank balance online at least once a day. So, one day I found on my bank account a charge for $25 to a charity that I do occasionally support. I did not recall giving them money at that time, so I was puzzled, but thought I would give it a day or two … perhaps they had accidentally put me down for another donation. But the next day, I had a charge for taxi cab fare of $175 somewhere in Taiwan, and multiple charges all over the globe for goods and services. Of course I immediately called the bank, and the police. In the end, it all got straightened out, I was refunded all my money PLUS the overdraft charges that came as a result of my identity theft, and my bank gave me $150 for my time and inconvenience. But still, it took hours to contact all three credit reporting agencies, meet with detectives, get new bank cards, etc. And there was a sense of … never feeling quite secure again. Turned out that in the transition of the bank changing, some employees had gotten sticky fingers and helped themselves, not just mine, but I think several hundred other customers. Reminds me of my grandmother who, having lived through the Great Depression, never trusted banks again and kept all her money under her mattress until the day she died! 😀

      Yes, we ARE getting paranoid, but … the reality is, we must be, for the opposite is naive, and we can no longer afford that. Sigh. Hugs, dear Mary! ❤

      Liked by 1 person

      • I had my PayPal account hacked…and that was supposed to be the secure alternative to bank transfers! 😠

        My hubby and I do keep money on hand… Just in case cards and accounts need to be immobilized in a hurry!

        Liked by 1 person

          • I’m afraid I won’t use paypall now. The perpetrator changed my address to Morocco and tried to purchase luxury items from Japan. The money actually left my bank account which is what twigged me to it in the first place. Fortunately it was all put right but was difficult as I was in Thailand at the time. PayPal operatives could see that my phonecall was from abroad and thought me suspicious… I spent hours trying to convince them the account was mine. Left me very shaken!

            Liked by 1 person

            • Yes, I’m sure! I think we have come to the point that, no matter how good the security, ultimately any system can be hacked. And yet, it is impractical to do everything with cash. Reasonable balance, I suppose.

              Liked by 1 person

  10. Pingback: Big Brother IS Watching – The Militant Negro™

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