Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Keeping tabs on me

For many years I have been using the free version of a photo/video storage program. It serves my purpose well enough and they don't often pester me to pay for the upgrade, but every few months they do send me a friendly but extraordinarily ill-conceived message. It is always the same: the subject line is "Someone's been busy!", it addresses me with "Hi!" and my name and then:

"We bet you've been busy: spending time with friends and family, jetting off to foreign locales, perhaps even trying out a new activity. Now it's time to upload to your account and share all the great photos and videos you've taken...."

Their suppositions are laughably wide of the mark: it is true that I do have some friends and a family with whom I spend time occasionally, but otherwise there is nothing there that suggests they have found out anything whatsoever about me during all those years. What makes them think I have been busy, for example? And are their airport watchers confusing me with some tycoon frequently spotted at the first class check-in for flights to Ulan Bator?

None of this has any relevance to my life style: they might just as well have enquired how I am enjoying my job as equerry to the Prince of Wales, or whether my new interest in pole-vaulting has proved rewarding.

But my friend Grumio has pointed out that such inaccurate profiling is rather re-assuring. If their data collection technique is so poor that they can only make wild guesses about what I am up to, then any attempt by them or anyone who hacks into their website to steal my identity is bound to end in failure.

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