By Susan Remson
Every day we read, hear or see something about privacy and how our lives, and the specifics of it, seem to be watered down into one word. DATA.
Where I shop, what I eat, how I spend my money, who I phone, what I watch on TV, and who I vote for and so much more about me is reduced to numbers. DATA.
Everything about me is out there for lobbyists, candidates, marketers, insurers, health care providers and researchers of every shape and discipline to find out all about me. Easily, I am told. DATA.
DATA is my Permanent Record. Remember permanent records? If you’re as old as I am, you went through grade school and high school being told that everything you did would be on your Permanent Record (in my mind it was always capitalized).
From the time you started school you were told that your PM would haunt you for the rest of your life. Every third grader trembled at the thought that every mistake she ever made would follow her for the rest of her life!
Well, now my PM is DATA. Every time I pick up my phone or go to the bank or purchase a banana, my DATA is recorded, although if I don’t want the sale price on bananas, maybe not.
I have been hesitant to get those digital coupons that the grocery offers because I know they are recording my purchasing preferences. And selling my phone number which will lead to more calls from unknown phone numbers that I don’t answer.
I’ve only recently given in to online shopping – maybe that’s because all the stores in my neighborhood are closing and I don’t know where to go to for my basic needs except online. But I am still spooked by those pop-up ads that know exactly what I have searched for and what I might want to buy. And I’m not just talking about buying bananas.
But here’s the thing. Maybe I shouldn’t mind so much. After all, how different is that DATA to my school PM? Okay, maybe it’s more telling, more invasive, more revealing of my personal habits, but when I think about it, I was never very concerned about my PM.
The reason I wasn’t concerned is because I hardly ever did anything wrong in grade school, and in high school I was a meek, shy, obedient student with mediocre grades and few extracurricular activities.
If you were to track down my PM and read it, you’d be pretty bored. If you do want to read it, go ahead. I’ve nothing to hide – nothing of interest anyway, except that I was boring.
So what about that DATA that the world now seems to have on me? Well, I think it’d be pretty boring too. Does the world care that I do my banking mostly at the ATM, that my credit is good, that I have had one speeding ticket in the last 50 years and that I prefer bananas to oranges?
Perhaps, but I’ve really nothing to hide and actually I might even benefit from someone knowing my fruit preferences.
This past week I got an envelope in the mail from the store where I do most of my grocery shopping. It was filled with coupons and each and every coupon was for an item that I have purchased in the past and will probably purchase again. The DATA that the grocery store collected is actually good for my bottom line.
Really, how can I resist a dollar off on toilet paper and a free pound of butter? Not easily!
Maybe the real bottom line is this: If you live your life with nothing to hide, you don’t have to worry about the DATA. It’s not DIRT. It’s just DATA.
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