Kage Baker was barely aware of the current modern sturm und drang over privacy. She never indulged in social media, she never owned a smart phone, and she seldom used wi-fi anywhere but at home.
However, she was well aware that everywhere she went online was tracked avidly by strangers. She thought of the Internet as a physical landscape, and so it only made sense that someone out there was watching. She kept an eye on her tracks, as much as she could; or, rather, she knew I was doing it – and that was only common sense. Although the dangers of spying, hacking, malware and the like were only beginning – and horrors like ransomware were barely known in the civilian world yet – she nonetheless expected the worst of anyone who wanted her money.
Which was everyone online, actually. For a certain enormous portion of the users, that is all the internet is for – to fleece the vast population of shills, marks and sheep which is, Dear Readers, the rest of us. So she wasn’t surprised when a casual Google search fetched days and days of related ads out of the aether; or when one of her rare comments on a public site solicited sudden offers from firms of which she had never heard.
What goes on nowadays would amaze her, though. Not surprise her – Kage would have gone into full-bore “I told you so!” paranoia over the antics of Alexi and the other electronic “assistants”. She would have seen at once the extreme perils of having an electronic auditor in any household with a parrot or a toddler – I certainly did, and am never letting one in ear-shot of my evil Harry. That way lies the delivery of a metric ton of popcorn to my living room …
The uncontrolled proliferation of “targeted” ads is now just something that happens on a daily basis. The most casual search for, say, Oxford loafers, will get you an avalanche of offers for shoes of all sorts, two-toned shoes of all colours and shades, lace ups of every description, and scholarships to Oxford University. That is illustrative of how the damned ads interact and breed carelessly with one another – it’s an infinite daisy chain of connections and vague correlations, colliding and bouncing off one another like sentient balls on an enormous pool table.
I can understand why I get ads for things I have purchased – though not too much, because when I have already bought some specific thing, why would I want 8 more? I understand many of the comments I get here on the blog, as many of them are for promotional services, writing software, and advertising schemes. And I assume the sex-related spam is simply like mosquitoes: they’re just natural denizens of the aether, trying for a blood meal from anything that moves in their environment. I don’t like it, but I do understand how it works.
However, the last week or so I have been inundated with ads for termite extermination: we don’t have termites in our household, and no one has been inquiring about them. I have also been getting ridiculous amounts of ads for wedding planning, wedding gowns, and bridesmaids dresses. Now, I know it’s almost June, but I myself am nearly 66; there is no newlywed-wannabe in the household, nor have I been researching anything like that. And tonight, I actually had one entry in my spam queue for wedding-related pornography … the damned ads are breeding among themselves and producing chimeras and mutants.
The gods only know what I’m going to find in my comments after this entry. Now they will know I am aware of them. This may be fatal.
If I disappear again, Dear Readers, I may have been kidnapped by the growing civilization of memes that are reproducing in our electronic aether. Or, more likely, if I begin to try and sell you flood insurance, or to promote a paleo diet, or just to espouse some crack-brained political position – you can bet I have been taken over by the Electronic Illuminati.
Please send malware solutions, and hard drive bleach!