How many times do you appear in digital media around the world?
How many times have you walked behind someone taking a photo or walked in front of a street camera? Those records exist somewhere. They never go away. They are on some server or hard drive somewhere. You are more than likely on someone's Facebook page that you have never met before. You just appear in the background that time they went to Disney World or the Grand Canyon.
I remember once I got extremely angry at the Hotmail people a decade ago. I had used an account with them through the late 90s, but by 2002, I had stopped using it for a couple of years. However, there were some old email conversations in there I wanted to keep. Anyway, after years of having no issues not using the account except to login every so often, they deleted it without any warning. The next time I tried to sign in they said it had been inactive for 90 days. I protested because I wanted those old emails, but the customer service people said they couldn’t do anything. It really irritated me because I knew they still had access to the data in that email account, they just wouldn’t do anything to restore it.
How many computers contain images of you, records about you, or emails you have written through the years?
Think about how many times you appear in other media and you have no idea. It would be interesting if you had that supercomputer on “Person of Interest” so it could troll the world’s digital data, then dump it in a file for you. You would be amazed. You would see photo after photo of you in the background at a sporting event or national monument, or driving through a toll booth. It’s interesting when you think about it.
I know I have ridden my bicycle by people in Rio about to take a photo of something and I say to myself, well, I guess I inadvertently photobombed their pic. I wonder how many times that has happened and how many countries have a photo of me sitting on their hard drive or in a dusty photo box somewhere.
Furthermore, think about everything you have ever put online. Wouldn’t you like to have some of that back? However, once it is on the internet, it is forever. It can never really be deleted from every place.
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The Right to be Forgotten
Right now in Europe, they are passing laws that are directed at companies like Google and Facebook that basically state that every person has the right to be forgotten on the internet if they want.
So they are about to start requiring Google and companies like it to delete data on everyone if that person chooses. I don’t know how Google will get out of that law, but knowing them, they will.
Honestly, I like the idea of privacy on the internet although I know it is virtually impossible. I don’t even like to put my resume online even though it is a necessary evil. I try to keep it to just a few sites rather than a mass approach to job hunting because I’ve done the opposite in the past and I always thought, how did this person know who I was because they would have an old resume or phone number they I used to use but thought I had deleted from the job hunting databases years ago.
But once your resume goes online with Dice or Monster, it gets sent to or stolen by other companies that want to create their own databases. So that is how it gets out of control.
I would love to go back and scrap my job history from every site. But it isn’t just job hunting. It’s healthcare.
If you ever sign up for private health insurance, whether with Blue Cross, Humana or any of them, they all share your medical history. They even go into your doctor’s office from time to time and are granted access to your health file so they can update their records, and that is whether or not you currently have insurance with them or not. Now, they can probably just pull it up on a shared database and avoid the office visit.
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There is No Privacy on the Internet
If you do not understand that there is no such thing as internet privacy, you should probably get off your computer right now. I am always surprised when people think that they can post anything they want online without getting discovered. Unless you are on a public network, everything you do can be traced back to your IP address at home or work.
And even on public networks, nothing is secure. The NSA can do whatever they want in cyberspace. Long before Edward Snowden reveled anything, I suspected that was the case.
It is important for everyone to understand that everyone knows what you are doing. Well, maybe not everyone, but that is the way you should act online anyway regarding internet privacy issues.
And the data collectors that make money off of your internet history and activities don't care about your privacy either.
I remember about five years ago, Eric Schmidt, the then head of Google said, "well, if you are concerned about someone seeing what you are doing on the internet, you probably shouldn't be doing."
How arrogant. What kind of "dog-ate-my-homework" excuse is that? There are several reason why someone would want to remain anonymous online that have nothing to do with anything nefarious.
There are methods to remain somewhat anonymous like the TOR browser, if you want to block your IP address from a site. One reason that comes to mind is watching videos or any kind of content like that from overseas. Most of the American companies block some of those users. In fact, some Youtube videos cannot be seen outside of the USA.
However, none of this should discourage you from using the internet for the amazing tool it is.
Think about what we can do now in the digital world. It used to take months to travel from Europe to the United States by ship. Letters would arrive months after they were sent just on land from one region to the other, if at all. Now we can see everything almost in real-time. We don’t even send written letters anymore, we just type it and click it.
I was looking at Google Analytics the other night and I saw in real time where someone in Sarajevo was reading my article about Twitter. Shortly after that, someone in the Philippines was reading my article about what to expect from the iPhone 6.
I still find stuff like that amazing. The idea that I could write something in my pajamas and someone on the other side of the world is reading it.
Not even 20 years into the public’s use of the internet and we already take it for granted.
So the next time you are logging in to your favorite site, maybe Infobarrel, take a moment to think about all of the possibilities that exist now that were not even thought about just 20 years ago, or 10 years even. It makes you appreciate the opportunities that are available to you.
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