LARSON: Big Brother, are you reading this?

Susan Larson

Susan Larson

With all this talk about Big Brother, you really wonder if anything is safe in cyberspace. I realize when I engage in any Internet activity, I am inviting spam. So I maintain a public email address through a free carrier and pay for a personal one to keep from being bombarded with press releases and promotions.

Actually, some are rather amusing like the ones that periodically come from a hotel in central Pennsylvania. They always start like: “Your readers would be interested to know that Emil Schmuckraker has been promoted from desk clerk to assistant night manager.” (Hope y’all aren’t upset that I keep such valuable information from you.)

I understand when I window shop online, even if I don’t buy anything, that I will be blitzed with pop-up ads from here ‘til eternity. Every time I browse for books on Amazon, they display every book I ever looked at for the past 10 years and recommend books they think I should buy, which actually has been helpful. And I’m OK with it since I don’t surf for dirty books.

But sometimes it can be downright invasive. For years, when I’ve researched online, I’ve just emailed the link to myself and slipped it into in a “saved” folder. Friends have suggested using Pinterest to organize these things for me. It seemed to make sense, so I opened a Pinterest account with a token item to get started. When I got to the end of the setup instructions, the directions said to check my inbox so I could confirm my email address.

When I opened my email account, I was totally flabbergasted. Looking at the “sent” times on four emails, three people had already been following my account before Pinterest even sent the email asking me to confirm! And then, several minutes later, an email came in informing me someone I’d never ever heard of was following me. If I have something I want everyone in the world to follow, I’m going to write about it in my column. And if there’s anything there that might interest someone else, a search engine will pick up key words and link it to other websites. In fact, I love that!

But something really blew me away a few weeks ago when a reader who recalled a column about my son’s wedding asked where I’d bought my mother of the groom dress. All I did was send her the name of the store. The next day, my inbox displayed a pop-up that read “Mother of the groom dresses. Plan you wedding with (store name.)” I couldn’t believe it! I sent them a customer and they sent me spam!

My advice to everyone is when you’re sending e-mails to watch those free carriers. Privacy is worth paying for. Of course, if you get promoted from desk clerk to assistant night manager, then by all means, let Big Brother know about it.

Susan Larson is a writer from Lilburn. Email her at your own risk at susanlarson79@gmail.com.