And it doesn’t bother me since I live a rather quiet life and do no harm to any living soul. I’m absolutely certain that the government isn’t the least bit interested in my innocuous messages to my friends and relatives.
I would be concerned if I were in a position to run for some sort of political office, however. If that were the case, then I would be extremely careful about what I might say to anyone. I would also be very careful if I were young, for electronic messages may last forever and one never knows what one may do in the future.
What does concern me is the number of businesses, agencies and individuals who know the most intimate details of my private life.
We have been giving little bits of our private lives with each invention of electronic communication. This has been going on for about 200 years. It began with the invention of the telegraph in the early 19th century.
It has become more and more dangerous to reveal intimate details with each subsequent invention. Elaborate codes had to be invented during the second world war in order to keep things secret. Indeed, the Germans thought they had a perfect code that required an Enigma machine to interpret. Unbeknownst to them, an Enigma machine was captured together with a U-boat, which enabled the Allies to interpret all radio messages sent by the Germans and was instrumental in our winning the war.
If you have ever called a cable company to have your signal cleared up, you have probably been amazed at what the cable company is capable of doing. A person, probably somewhere in India or Pakistan, asks you if certain lights are flashing, and when you respond they do something and then tell you that it should work now. And it does.
It makes you wonder how much information is sent back to them through your television set. I’m sure they know what I’m watching all the time. Yet, at the same time, you can’t help providing them with that information unless you are willing to live under a rock.
I own a computer and communicate with the Internet through Google, and in so doing I’m sure Google is capable of determining a lot about me. I’m sure they don’t, but it disturbs me somewhat that they can.
So can you! All you have to do is type your name in Google and you can find several people with that name. There are at least 11 people in the United States by the name of Ralph Wiltse and you can find information on any of them. If it is that easy for a next-to-computer-illiterate like me, just think what a computer hacker can do.
If you use Wi-Fi to communicate with the Internet, then everything you do on your computer can be intercepted by someone sitting outside your house in a car at the curb. It is very unlikely that it will be done, but it is scary to think that it can be done.
Then there are the so-called smartphones. They are essentially a computer with a built-in Wi-Fi. Maybe they aren’t so smart after all.
It’s scary to think who can be sharing your conversations — not who is, but who can be.
It seems that the more sophisticated the communication devices, the easier it is to be snooped upon. For this reason, I won’t join Twitter or Facebook or any of the popular social media. I’m not eager to be "in the loop," as the young people say.
Yet, with each new device, the more eagerly we want to use them. Just witness the recent clamor over the new iPhone.
Like Pogo says, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”
— By Ralph Wiltse, Tribune community columnist