Mary Beth Writes

We watched the Nova special about Jeff Bezos and Amazon this week.  Boy, there’s a way to be depressed at our old white men elected officials who are totally NOT up to the challenges of the society in which we live.

 Len sat next to Bezos at a business event in 1997. They talked about my frugality newsletter. Apparently his wealth didn’t rub off on Len and our frugality didn’t rub off on him.

The documentary illustrated and explained how Bezos made most of his incredible wealth.  The most innovative thing he and his team did was gather, save, store, and then sell back to others – information about us.

He and his team were among the first to track what we bought, when we bought it, where we were when we bought it. They invented computer programs to record our shopping patterns and purchases.  Then when other businesses wanted to sell more toothpaste or washing machines or action figures or dog food – those companies would pay Amazon to buy our information.

You’ve noticed it yourself. Ask about heart attack symptoms, suddenly you are getting ads and coupons for statins and supplements. Look at underwear on Amazon, suddenly Facebook is telling the world that you like a certain brand of bra. 

We all know this. It’s our privacy - collected, collated, bought and sold - that is making millionaires into billionaires.

Yet how do we live our lives without using the internet? It’s possible, but I don’t want to live without access to information or the convenience to order in two minutes items that would take me two hours to shop for. 

And then I thought - what if we OVERLOAD the algorithm? What if we start spinning what’s real and what’s true with what’s ridiculous?

Usually I use as my search engine “Duck Duck Go.”  It’s free. Download it from apps; use it when you want to look up anything. Duck Duck Go doesn’t store info. The ads one receives while perusing the internet via Duck Duck Go will pertain to whatever you are looking up RIGHT THEN. 

But, as we all know, Google comes built into our phones.  Google, like Amazon, like Facebook, DOES save all our searches … that is how they figure out what we are interested in and how to sell that info to others.

So instead of hiding away from Google – I am now looking up wacky things on Google several times per day. Flights to Hong Kong. Size 13, triple wide Stiletto heels. Sock monkeys.

Am I going to Hong Kong? Nope.  Are my feet that big and will I ever wear a high-heeled shoe again? Nope. But now that info is out there in the algorithms.  Everyday, for a minute here or there, I am looking up things I am not seriously interested in. 

This morning Len was ordering toothbrush heads when he called from the other room, “Why are we buying a $500 security system and a sock monkey?”  

Our lives and our privacy have been put up for sale. They are ways to make that invasion collapse with fierce whimsicality.

You do your part and I will do mine.

 

…..

Len and I talked. This is what he wrote:

If you use the browser "Chrome," you know that everything you do on the Internet is saved to your computer, and, in addition, websites that you visit are able to recognize you, so they know if you are a new visitor or whether you've visited them before. 

 You can disable this part of Chrome, that is, you can keep Chrome from saving information about you in cookies.  It also keeps websites from knowing who you are when you visit.  It's called "Incognito Window," and it's easy to turn on or off.  It doesn't delete any of the information that you've already saved to your computer or screw up anything else about your computer and it's simple to use.

 1) Open Chrome.  It doesn't matter what page you're on (you can be on the Google page or Mary Beth's home page or anywhere).

2) On a PC, hit "Ctrl-Shift-n" (That's the control key, at the lower left, either shift key, and the lower-case letter "n").  Mac: Press ⌘ + Shift + n.

3) The black screen that opens is the incognito window.  Anything you enter won't be saved to your computer and the website won't know who you are.

 Note:  If you go to a site, like Facebook, that requires a login, it won't work unless you manually enter that login (in which case, the website will then know who you are).  But Google will work and most websites will work.

Comments

It makes my head ache ——- jeez
Leonard's picture

Facebook quizzes are an even more insidious way of letting big companies steal our private information. It's what was behind much of the 2016 skullduggery, and it's continuing today. There is a good article about it from the ACLU here: https://www.aclu.org/blog/national-security/quiz-what-do-facebook-quizzes-know-about-you

lov'n your subversive side; )

Thanks for the information about overloading Google. I plan to search extensively for Russian brides, underwater gas lines and perhaps land for sale in the Ukraine. Great idea.
Mary Beth's picture

Laughed out loud! Also laughed this afternoon when FB showed me ads for sock monkeys. It's working....

I looked up bras for Macaws, The elephant in the room. and How to milk e grasshopper... I'm going to enjoy doing this every so often and I don't use Amazon because I'm still willing to take the time to physically shop... I watched that program also and the insanity of it all freaked me out,..
Mary Beth's picture

Milk a grasshopper --- with a low stool...

Viva the resistance! :D Patricia/Fl

This artist used salt -- and knowing that you're not supposed to cross a dotted line with a solid line next to it (like a no-passing zone) -- to trap robots. https://vimeo.com/208642358
Mary Beth's picture

This is weird and funny!

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Quarantine Diary #17 3/30/2020

Why are people (lots of them) on Facebook posting photos of landscapes? The instructions say one should post a picture of a landscape one took somewhere, one should not say where that place is, and no people should be included, especially not the posting-person.  

Why? I don’t get it. I don’t mind but I really don’t get how this connects to anything.

A friend’s husband’s company had a virtual meeting this morning about the future of their company. Things are changing but not shutting down. They will still have income and insurance.  Thought you might like to know.  

Quarantine Diary #16 3/29/2020

I’ve been busy today so I’m a little late getting to this diary. Doing what, you ask? Oh, brilliant things like washing the bathroom and doing laundry and going for a blustery walk. Took the plastic off the particular windows we wrap in the fall.

Spent a chunk of the morning reading about the lead-up to the Revolutionary War battles at Saratoga. More about that later.  Reading about brave and canny, stupid and ego-centric politicians of an entirely different era is part of my coping strategy for life in the US. We aren’t the first to live in fraught times. Not by a long shot.

Quarantine Diary #15 3/28/2020

The Long-Awaited Groceries (The hymn “Come Thou Long Expected Jesus” is in my brain right now) came last night at 9PM – when it was raining. A woman named Sarah, late 30’s, brown ponytail, not-posh sweatpants and hoodie – carried ALL our groceries across the street from her car to our porch. This included 8-packs of Gatorade plus boxes of seltzer water, plus lots of other heavy stuff. Did I mention it was raining?

Quarantine #14 3/27/2020

Last night we did another wild and crazy thing. We got in our car and went for a drive! The first thing we remarked to each other was that we had not been in the car together in weeks.  It felt a little odd to be in there, next to each other, about to GO SOMEPLACE! Maybe this is the way it feels to be the family dog when they let you sit in the front seat and EVERYTHING IS SO AMAZING!

We drove west into the rosy sunset, filled with excitement to, um, see the sky.  Quarantines are easiest on people who have a low bar for excitement.

Quarantine Diary #13 3/26/2020

What do you miss?  What, in our new pandemical world do you miss most from our pre-pandemical world?You know, the one we lived in till two weeks ago?

I don’t mean the heartbreaking realities such as safe medical care providers and enough places to go should one become ill and the loved ones that we are losing.

I just mean, what are we getting used to? Or trying to get used to. What might we never go back to?

Quarantine Diary #12 3/25/2020

Right now it is 11:00AM.  Got up this morning at the regular time. Did regular things. Came to the office to write. Worked (hardly at all) on a project, wrapped an item for eBay. Announced to Len at 10:30 that I was sleepy and going to take a nap.

You know what he said?  He said, “Me, too.”

The following half hour he took the sofa and I took our bed and both of us slept like toddlers on cots.

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