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A Night Off Line


Thanks to BT cocking things up and turning off my broadband connection I spent last night completely disconnected from the internet. It was an interesting experience and made me think about how the march of web-based software is making me change where I store my data.

Take Gmail. I love Gmail. Aside from John’s Background Switcher it’s my favourite piece of software and being a heavy emailer I use it extensively. I also store contact details, recipes and all sorts of things on there knowing no matter where I am I can always get at my information. Contrast this with a couple of years ago where I’d have my inbox stored on my computer at home – my contacts in there too, maybe I’d copy them to my work machine or onto a flash drive so I could get to them elsewhere. Hell, maybe I’d print them out and put them in my wallet!

But now Google hosts all this information. A software company. If I’d thought about this possibility a few years ago I’d have been a bit concerned at what they might do with it, whether they’d decide to delete it all on a whim or release all my dodgy conversations with other women to my girlfriend – or blackmail me with that threat. But now it comes to it, I’m strangely indifferent. I don’t subscribe to the “Google can do no wrong” mentality, but by the same token I don’t have a problem with them storing so much personal information. And now I think about it, that’s quite unsettling.

When I read 1984 at school I dreaded the thought of a world where your every action, every move is tracked and scrutinised. I couldn’t imagine how people could live like that. And yet here I am in 2006 in a world much like the one imagined by Orwell. On any given day I’m filmed around 30 times, my every movement is tracked and logged through the mobile phone in my pocket, every call I make is logged and potentially monitored, every credit card transaction I make is recorded. Every email I send, every web page I visit is logged. With access to all that information and more any government agency could virtually get inside my head. And yet none of that bothers me, I just accept it and carry on my life.

Have I been brainwashed into accepting such a scrutinised life? Have I become an automaton who just accept the erosion of his freedom in the name of technological progress and a safer world? Or should I try not to get so paranoid when my net connection is down and enjoy the World Cup instead? I think I should, but maybe that’s what they want me to do… Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you! 😉

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Creator of John's Background Switcher. Scotsman, footballer, photographer, dog owner, risk taker, heart breaker, nice guy. Some of those are lies.

2 Comments Join the Conversation

  1. I must admit that I’m moving more and more to managing my life online following various computer hardware problems. I use Internet banking, Gmail, Google Calendar, Backpack, Basecamp, Flickr and I’ve just signed up for Stongspace too.

    It’s just so convenient being able to access stuff from any computer with an Internet connection, but it is a bit scary to think about what happens if it suddenly wasn’t there any more!


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