I have been quietly rebelling against the so-called Information Age since the last day I rented a movie on video tape to view on a VCR. I had accidentally left my movie rental card at home. The clerk said, “no problem” and asked for my driver’s license. I thought he just wanted to verify my identity, prove that I was who I said I was before renting me the movie. No, he slid my driver’s license through the card scanner and a list of every movie that I ever rented there popped up on his screen. Whoa… one word popped into my head: linked.
Yes, I was suddenly aware of the possibility of all those databases out there linking up. Back then, grocery stores were just starting to issue what I call “discounts for data” cards and receipts everywhere were becoming much more detailed, listing exactly what was purchased instead of general departments (Ex. “red leaf lettuce” instead of just “produce”). It seemed like more and more information was being collected every day as everything was migrating onto computer systems. If all those store databases linked up with other databases documenting everything from credit card purchases, automobile services, gasoline gallons and locations of fills, use of home utilities and telephone records, pharmacy and medical records, and this and that and everything else… whoa, if all these databases ever link up, they (whoever “they” were) could know everything about everybody. They could create highly detailed personal profiles on individuals right down to the scent of their soap and what brand of toilet paper hangs on the roll.
I brought this up in a conversation with Dr. Terence Heltzel, Ph.D., at the Howland branch of PsyCare. He told me to quit being so paranoid. WHY would anyone WANT to link up databases and create personal profiles on people?
We had that conversation BEFORE 9/11.
And I was not paranoid about it… just realistically aware of the possibility. Welcome to the Information Age, baby. It’s us against the machines, our human rights of privacy against the constant gathering and storage of our personal information.
There is only ONE way to rebel: GIGO!!!
Yes, GIGO. Garbage In = Garbage Out, lie to the machines. One bit of erroneous data invalidates the rest, or at the least, creates doubt. One obvious error raises the possibility of other errors.
Somewhere in all those databases, it says that I have a pet giraffe and I enjoy world traveling, even though I’ve never had a passport. I have been lying to machines for years, swapped “discounts for data” cards with other people so our documented purchases include items we don’t use, and quietly rebelling in various other ways.
The best GIGOs are computer generated and/or false data entered into computers by other people. Like the map on my cell phone gps is not accurate. I have the opportunity to correct it, to drag the arrow over a couple blocks to my precise location, but why should I? Does it need to know exactly where I am at all times? Hell no… most of the time, it is turned off anyway. (Although I think it still works when it is off because otherwise, why would a google search with the gps off list things by distance from my phone?) I let a lot of errors slide, laughed when I saw so many obvious mistakes on my background check. Yes, I did one on myself. I was curious… who am I?
I’ve been quietly rebelling against the Information Age and trying to maintain a little privacy for so long that it has become a habit, rarely crosses my mind so obviously, I am NOT paranoid. I also don’t think that I am the only one quietly rebelling against the deterioration of personal privacy. I see too many other people saying “no” when asked for personal information. Since when does a dress shop or a bookstore need your postal zipcode or telephone number, especially when you are paying cash?
The reason I decided to write about this today is because I recently encountered a new GIGO, an amusing little typo entered into a business computer by someone else, thus making it impossible for me to access my online statement so I can pay my bill. (They quit mailing paper statements.) After several failed attempts to use their computerized phone service, I was finally able to speak to a real person. He tried to fix the problem, but he can’t change the data… so until I mail proof of who I am along with documentation of my birth to a special address so their techies can verify MY real data is correct and their GIGO data is false, I am eleven years younger than I thought I was.
Should I provide the documentation to prove that I was indeed born in 1960 instead of 1971? Or just use the false data to access my statement?
That one might come back to bite me as data in one computer has a way of migrating to another.
Thanks for reading today!