Saturday, December 4, 2021

Your actions can be tracked with technology

April 12, 2001

Are they all watching you?

If you are one of those paranoid types - who thinks that if people are laughing when you enter a room, it is you who is the brunt of their joke - then stop reading.

Put down the paper and crawl back under the rock you use for shelter from the spooky world.

We, as independent college students, are particularly cautious when giving out personal information, but the simple fact is if someone was determined enough to gather information on us, they probably could do it relatively easily.

Credit card receipts can track anything purchased with the plastic. Sites we have visited on the Internet are traceable when one is connected to a server such as MSU’s network. Conversations had using outdated cordless or cell phones can be heard by anyone who happens to be listening. Virtually everything we do or say can be eventually linked to us.

We can either fight with technology, or we can embrace both its positives and negatives, because all in all it makes our lives a whole lot easier.

I must admit, when I was a freshman, I was slightly surprised to see there was an entire student directory, which listed student’s school and permanent addresses, then even more so when another one followed with solely those who lived in residence halls.

I initially thought it as strange for anyone to have access to this relatively personal information, but soon found it helpful when I needed to contact members of my advertising group, and when I wanted to wish the girl down the hall - who was at home for the weekend - a happy birthday.

Those in the greek system are also familiar with the greek directory, or the so-called “Greek Stalker.” It lists, house by house, the names, telephone numbers and e-mail addresses of members. In actuality, it is genuinely a useful tool to get in contact with other greek leaders.

But, it also unfortunately provides easy access to undesired corporate solicitation from T-shirt producers, or in some cases might give a member incentive to contact someone they met the previous weekend, hence the “stalker” element.

So although I was skeptical at first, the small intrusions on my personal privacy were a trade-off I was willing to accept for the convenience. After all, one does have the option of not being included in these directories. And, worse-case scenario, you can use caller ID or have a roommate screen your calls to help you avoid these types of situations.

Because the capacities to contact anyone at any time have advanced beyond the simple “snail mail” and the local telephone book, it is easier to just go with the flow, rather than swim against the stream, in this respect. Like it or not, the induction of the era of the Internet, with such superior technology, has made it possible to communicate with any and all.

When you do or say something that puts yourself in the public’s eye, it is at first a different experience like none other. When I went to my large lecture class the day my first column ran, I saw people in front of me reading my personal thoughts. It felt like the nightmare - or dream, for some - when all of a sudden you are naked in a very public place. My words were printed for all to see, complete with the terrible photo that accompanied it.

Although it was initially shocking, the first responses made me content to know readers were thinking about the issues I raised, even if they did not always agree with me.

So for all those who have given me constructive criticism - from the two students in Brazil, to the knowledgeable professors here, to my dear friends at Wabash College - thank you.

Although the encroachments on personal privacy we experience by living in such a technological age may seem like annoying nuisances, they really only make our lives easier.

Just use caution, because one can never know who is watching.

Jessica Meyers, a political theory and constitutional democracy senior, can be reached at meyersj5@msu.edu.

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