Yesterday I sent an email to a friend recommending a book I thought she would enjoy. I included a link to its listing on Amazon. Ten minutes later, I went to my Facebook feed. Right there, beside my friends’ updates, was an ad for the same book. Coincidence? Of course not. However, the email account is under one name, and the Facebook account under another. Different passwords completely, which should mean, theoretically, that it’s two different people. So how can that happen?
The password-protected identity is just an illusion, I guess, and somehow the algorithms at work in the cloud know that there is one person at the keyboard behind two different accounts. Which doesn’t make sense, because if my partner and I were sharing an account and/or password, how would an algorithm differentiate between us? And if the answer is “it wouldn’t”, then everyone sharing an account or password is going to be extemely paranoid about everything they say or share digitally, particularly if they don’t want it shared with their significant other (or, for that matter, with the entire online community).
I can’t get used to the thought of algorithms rifling through my drawers and pulling out bits of lingerie to examine and sniff. Knowing that it’s all a huge marketing ploy doesn’t make it any less creepy. Knowing that there’s no “real” person viewing or sharing my information doesn’t make it any less exploitative. And knowing that I’m just scratching the surface makes me want to stop scratching, for fear of unearthing something that will drive me away from the wonderful world of the Internet, which held out such sparkling potential 25 years ago.
For now, suffice it to say that we are all being watched online (and, more increasingly, by hidden cameras in the real world). At some point, this is going to force a showdown. Those who don’t mind sharing will “bare it all.” Those who don’t like sharing will “shut it down.”
So… are you comfortable being naked in public? And if not, can I sell you a big coat?