Guest Editorial: Big Brother Is Blind
Column written by on Thursday, May 9, 2002
[Editor's Note: The following opinion piece does not necessarily reflect the viewpoints of Humorix. In fact, we're sure that it doesn't.]
Everywhere I turn, geeks are complaining about the lack of privacy online and offline. The FBI wants to read their files, spammers want to snatch their email addresses, Big Evil Corporations want to know their beverage preferences, and Small Evil Companies want to plant spyware on their computers.
But is the privacy situation really that bad? Even though corporations have probably collected megabytes of information about me, they continue to send me junk mail advertising "feminine hygiene products". At the same time, I receive an average of 52.3 pieces of spam each days advertising "penis enlargement" (mine is already long enough, thank you very much).
Meanwhile, the US Federal government, which undoubtedly has the world's largest Beowulf cluster of privacy-invading database servers, is entirely clueless. They hand out student visas to dead terrorists. They strip-search three year olds at airports but let adults that fit terrorist profiles waltz through. They spend $30 mailing out an income tax bill for one cent.
So the FBI, CIA, NSA, ATF, DEA, IRS, and other three-letter wonders constantly invade your privacy. What's the big deal? If this is Big Brother, he must be deaf and blind with an IQ of 58.
Even with cookies, web bugs, spyware, and other online privacy-invading schemes, corporations still haven't been able to capitalize on their terabyte database of collected information. Sure, they might know that you're a man, but that won't stop them from advertising yeast infection medications to you. Oh, their database might show that you're lactose intolerant, but that won't prevent them from mailing out grocery store flyers promoting special discounts on Monterrey Jack. Yeah, they probably know that you only run Windows, but that won't stop CompUSSR from mailing out circulars offering computers that only come pre-installed with Windows.
I once made the mistake of posting a comment to an obscure Usenet group with my real email address. As a result, I get an average of 1000 spam messages per day. And yet, not one single mailing has ever been relevant to me. I don't want a home loan, I don't want to run a background check on my neighbor's second cousin, I don't need debt consultation, I don't even want to know about human growth hormones, I don't want to gamble my life savings away at some offshore Internet casino, I don't need toner cartridges, and I certainly don't want to kill my boss and throw away the alarm clock (I run my own small business that manufactures alarm clocks).
Thousands of spammers know my email address, but they don't know a darned thing about me. I wish they would invade my privacy and realize that I will never, ever be interested in any of their "products" (I use that term loosely) -- then maybe they would leave me alone!
In conclusion, government and corporations invade our privacy, but they don't actually use any of the information they collect, so there's really nothing to worry about. A deaf and blind Big Brother sitting in front of a computer with access to terabytes of personal information is still a deaf and blind Big Brother.
Let's move on and find another more important issue to direct our slactivism towards.