Living and Creating Online: Part 1

An interesting phenomenon has been happening with my life recently. I’m moving a ridiculous amount of data online. Just look at the sidebar of this blog to see all the data I have online that is publicly available to anyone. You have what products I am interested in buying, what I am reading online, photos I’m taking, when I’m busy and not busy and even what I am doing right now at this very instance.

It’s insane to me for several reasons.

  1. I have exposed certainly enough for someone to figure out a great deal about myself without ever meeting me.
  2. I let the world know where I am or what I am working on pretty close to 24/7, good thing I don’t have any stalkers they wouldn’t have to work at stalking me.
  3. I still consider myself an extremely private person.

That last one especially puzzled me until a few weeks or so ago. It’s all a matter of convenience and a recognition that information is never going to get harder to find out only easier.

Slashdot today posted an article about shopping centers in UK that are tracking cell phones to see what stores are most frequently visited and in what order. This sort of capability has been available for a long period of time and I literally have my cell phone with me all the time. There is another website, UK only, where you can type in a cell phone number and see where the phone is. Of course the first time you do so the service sends a text message to allow the site to display your location, but after that no warning. So gain control of my phone for about 30 seconds, confirm and delete the text message and you can track me to your heart’s content.

Unfortunately as Bruce Schneier is fond of saying “bits are never going to get harder to copy, only easier.” In the same sense information about me is never going to get harder to find, only easier. Granted I am speeding up that process with my prolific usage of the above mentioned web sites. However better for me to have control of the data and information, than for it to be collected without my knowledge and what data I do volunteer is more likely to pop up first in a search about me.

The other part of this is the convenience of having the information online. I literally need to sign onto a couple of websites and I have access to just about anything I could ever need. As of right now those sites are Google and Remember The Milk, though all that Google needs to do is create a good to-do list and I will have just about all my data on Google’s servers. E-mail and contacts (Gmail), calendar (Google Calendar), random documents (Google Docs) including shopping lists, gift ideas for friends, school work, some random stuff for work, my budget. I joke with some of my friends that Google is my god, in a lot of ways Google may not be my god, but they know almost as much as a god could about me. I’m waiting for Google to know what I want to search for before I do so.

Part 2: I will talk about what are some of the limits that I do place with what I expose online.

Justin Yost is a full-time Software Engineer and a part time educator. A graduate of Texas Tech University with a bachelor's degree in computer science, Justin relishes programming and learning more about anything and everything. When not working, Justin occasionally gives talks at the local PHP Meetup. In his free time, Justin enjoys backpacking and reading science fiction books.

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