Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Wednesday Musings - Gad Zoosk, Social Media, E-mail and Privacy

Good morning on this overcast "Hump Day" here at the base camp in West, "by God" Virginia. I guess we're in mid-fall now, but one can't be sure from day to day. It's warm and sunny one day, cold and blustery the next day. The leaves are off the trees, so I guess that tells us it's fall and heading into my least favorite season, winter. With all the crazy natural events lately between Hurricane/Super Storm Sandy, the aftermath of which is way too far reaching to want to consider. Then add winter snow storms, a nor'easter and a few earthquakes to spice things up, and that's just in the past few weeks, one has to wonder about things to come.

New Jersey Governor Christie may have made a good point with his comment about waiting for the locusts and pestilence. I also notice that, for at least the past year, Costco, the wholesale warehouse club, has been selling survival kits consisting of everything one needs to survive for a year in air and water tight containers. Do they know something we don't know?

Trick or Tweet!

Gad Zoosk! No that's not a typo. If you and I are friends on Facebook or if we've had any email correspondence at some time in the past four years or so, you may have received an invitation from me to check out my photos on Zoosk. First, please accept my apology. I did not intentionally send that invitation to you or anyone. As a matter of fact, I didn't know I sent it out at all. A trusted friend sent me the same invitation. I went to look at her photos thinking Zoosk was another of the several legitimate photo server sites like Snapfish, Shutterfly and Kodak's site. Wrong!

It almost never pays to make assumptions and this is such an instance. As I attempted to navigate around the site to find my friend's photos, I did it. Yep! I did something I avoid like the plague, I inadvertently clicked on something that gave this site permission to invade and intrude on every Facebook contact I have (I'm not a big Facebook user, thankfully) and every email address in my contact list - which numbers well north of a thousand.

Zoosk, it turns out is a social networking site for single (I assume) people looking for romantic relationships. Well, I'm not interested in any such relationships at this time. And, I'm pretty sure all my married friends who received the invitation aren't either. I enjoyed my experiences with personal ads, dating services and on-line matching sites like way back. They served me well and were fun between 1990 and 2002 or 2003. But, that was then and this is now.

So, now I'm attempting to contact everyone who may have received this intrusive and unintended invitation to apologize for the inconvenience. I'm also carefully trying to figure out how to extract myself from this thing without compounding what's already happened. Daily, I'm receiving lists of women who are viewing the supposed profile I never put up and "flirting" with me. I feel like a piece of fresh meat tossed into a pond full of piranhas. Believe it or not, I still believe in serendipity. The chance meeting of two people who find common interests and a natural attraction to one another.

While I do have several social networking sites including Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace, Plaxo and Twitter sites. I monitor and use them sparingly. My Myspace account only has a handful of connections. My LinkedIn, Facebook, Plaxo and Twitter accounts variously have somewhere between 350 and 500 connections. I also have a account, which I guess is a form of social networking with a very defined purpose. The bottom line is that these sites can be very addictive.

I use a couple applications to monitor the sites. They save me time and prevent me from getting too drawn into the sites. I post updates to the various social media sites to let people know about new posts on my blog and, when I think I have something substantive to contribute that might inform, educate or tickle the funny bone, I post it. I don't want people to know what I had for lunch today or what cute comment my doctor may have made about my slightly corpulent physical statistics that I've been "threatening" to reduce for the past few years. And frankly, that's TMI to learn about others, too.

Certainly, I don't have any problem with others sharing all forms of information about their lives, their children's and grandchildren's lives or anything else they care to. But, my living free philosophy also requires that I don't overload on information that is not of specific relevance to me. If anyone really cares to know what's important to me or what "adventures" I'm involved in they can simply come here to my blog and learn more about me then anyone would ever need to know. Of course, I hope that in sharing my ideas, beliefs and adventures, I may help others to find new ideas, opportunities and enjoy adventures for themselves.

A little bit of anything is okay, but too much of a good thing can be overbearing. I limit my social media involvement and I never play the little games like Farmville and all the other stuff. Now that I slipped and got "boinged" by Zoosk, my defensive shields are back up at full force.

Email and Other Telecommunication Technology

And, speaking of privacy and email, hmmm, were we? I've read several articles recently indicating that email is on the decline and is rapidly being replaced by texting. You can't prove that by me. My spam filter works overtime and my spam box is always full of all sorts of useless drivel. I'm an information junkie, but I've cut back a lot over the past four years as I've been downsizing and simplifying my life. I still receive too much. I need to spend a few days in "retreat" and not take phone calls or have any personal interaction with anyone. Then I can unsubscribe from things I'm not reading any longer, eliminate thousands of old, unread messages that may be a one to three years old, emails that I kept because I planned to reread or archive them and misc. other emails like notifications of electronic payments due.

No! I don't see my email diminishing. I am still acclimated to email. I hardly ever use snail mail any longer. l bought 100 Forever stamps a few years ago and I'm finally using them up. I'll buy another hundred before the price goes up again and I'm guessing they may last me 4, 5 or maybe more years. I seldom receive faxes anymore. In a way, that's sad for me. My father was one of the people instrumental in developing the fax machine. There are three patents in his name. I receive faxes by email. I send anything of a fax nature by scanning it and sending it as an email attachment. There are even more efficient ways to accomplish the same thing. I'm not big on texting, at least, not yet. I have several friends my age who text a lot. I can see where there are significant advantages and efficiencies. I'm currently just not ready to make the transition.

I also use Skype more and more. My smart phone serves as my main phone connection to the world as well as my modem for everything I do on line (I'm completely wireless). I have to strike a careful balance. I maintain only a nominal number of "anytime" minutes for phone calls. I have free mobile to mobile time with any other mobile phone on my service providers network. I also have thousands of minutes of night time (9 PM until 6 AM) and weekend minutes. All of my unused "anytime" minutes at the end of a month roll-over for future use.

My Skype calls use bandwidth on my data plan.  I also have a limited amount of that available. Since I use a very current Android Smart Phone, I do most of my Skype calls on the phone as if they were regular wireless phone calls. So, I'm continually monitoring my accounts (which is simple) and perfecting my balancing act. I'm also, always monitoring technology to see when new plans or providers offering better programs become available.

Using the Technology Saves Money and Is More Efficient

The reality is that all of this technology provides me and most other living free individuals with more personal freedom than we've every realized before. For those who have graduated to a smart phone, one little instrument handles a multitude of utilitarian requirements plus provides entertainment from reading books, magazines and newspapers to TV shows, news, weather and movies. Their value multiplies exponentially for those of us who maintain various kinds of small businesses.

Before I left the ranch I had as many as four wired phone lines. I had three toll free numbers. I had a cell phone service with an early smart phone, helpful, but not near as multi-tasking as my current phone. I had a separate flat rate long distance service. Now, I have none of those except the wireless service. My Internet connection was by Hughes satellite. There was no other way to have "high-speed" Internet in that location. My total monthly cost for all of my telecommunication services ran between $450 and $500. Currently, with my smart phone and my current account, my monthly cost is about $100.  I have one phone that does everything I outlined above. It weighs only ounces and I have access to everything I'm doing virtually everywhere I am except for the occasional wireless service "dead zone."

Privacy - An Expectation Lost

Now, privacy is another matter. All our modern technology is susceptible to interception and eavesdropping regardless of whether it's phone conversations, email, texting, surfing the Web, shopping, watching news or a movie. If you have the GPS positioning feature turned on, someone can locate you within a few yards of your specific location. The recent scandal and resignation of David Petraeus, the, now, former Director of the C.I.A., and by fall out, dragging in General John Allen, Director of Military Operations in Afghanistan, makes the point. A wired phone can be wire-tapped with a court order. Supposedly, wireless phones also require a court order to be tapped, however, pretty much anyone with a basic knowledge of the current technology and a digital scanner can listen in.

So, while we are supposed to be living in a "free" society and the land of liberty, no one has any expectation of privacy any longer unless you remove yourself 100% from the grid. Your emails, texts, phone conversations and even the sites you surf on the Web can be intercepted, monitored and, with what appears to be less and less integrity and scrutiny, used against you tosteal your identity, create discord or even destroy your family and a distinguished career.

John Allen will likely be vindicated of any serious improprieties. However, the damage is irrevocable in the case of David Petraeus. Some will say and are saying that due to the positions of importance and national security held by these two men, this invasion of privacy was appropriate. Others will take the opposing view. Personally, under the circumstances that created this firestorm, i.e. a few anonymous emails to a Florida "socialite" who used - and probably abused privilege to bring the F.B.I. into something that likely never would have warranted such an investigation, I personally side with the opposing view.

At least several lives have been painfully damaged, a career and distinguished reputation destroyed and a massive amount of expensive resources (millions of dollars of taxpayers money, when this finally blows over) misappropriated. Seems to me we had a president impeached over a very similar matter in recent history. Yet, neither his career nor his reputation nor his family was destroyed, though the blemish remains.

I guess the question is, are we no longer allowed the freedom to, A. make mistakes in our personal lives and B. keep certain parts of our lives private and, yes, even secret, if we choose to? These invasions of privacy and detrimental outcomes from actions taken due to these invasions have already been happening for quite some time to private citizens like you and me. The major difference is that we aren't newsworthy. We can't sell expensive commercial time on TV, radio and in newspapers. The mainstream news media and tabloids don't have a feeding frenzy over us. Our lives just get destroyed and no one except a few folks close to us knows or cares.

These are all important things to think about, no matter who you are or how you define living free for your life. We are blessed with all this fantastic technology, but just like most of the wonderful, modern prescription drugs, they are all fraught with side effects.

Just my musings on this, now hazy, sunny day here in West Virginia.

No comments: