Editorial 008

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What If This Was Real Life?

I don't want to become tiresome with my concern for things I see happening in the computer industry or trends I see developing for the internet, but at risk of sounding like a zealot, when in reality I'm just the opposite, I feel it my duty to point out things that could effect ALL of us detrimentally.
    In some of my past commentaries I've cautioned about the potential privacy and security risks with using the latest and upcoming Microsoft software, in particular anything requiring the use of their .NET or PASSPORT initiatives (not only XP products, but even MSN and HotMail). Nothing has changed regarding this, but I shouldn't single out only Microsoft when it appears that other major computer companies (AOL and Sun to name but two) are looking to move their software products in the same direction. Click here for more information.
    And what direction is that, you ask? It is the accumulation of your personal data and complete loss of anonymity during your travels on the internet. Wherever you go and whatever you do on the internet, they want you to leave a record of it. This can happen without you even being aware of it. With you doing nothing more than installing Windows XP, it assigns a unique number to your computer that identifies that machine just as surely as your fingerprint identifies you. So, even if you never enter a single letter of personal data, this number can leave a trail wherever you have been and whatever you have done on the internet with that machine!
    But beyond simply visiting websites, it is impossible to do things on the internet without having to reveal personal data at some point, like setting up ISP and email accounts, registering software, or any number of other things. This data can then be associated with your machine's unique number which then immediately ties you to that number from then on. And the more information you provide to sites on the internet, the more of your personal data it is that will end up in a central database, located with Microsoft if they have their way, which is quite likely due the lemming nature of humanity.
    Why am I so concerned about this, you ask? You might be thinking that only someone with something to hide would be concerned about this. Well, I have nothing to hide but I'm certainly not going to go through life with my name, address, phone number, credit card numbers, and bank account numbers tattooed on my forehead for all to see wherever I go and a tracking device embedded in my body that gives my location wherever I am, neither of which being something anyone but a certified moron would do in real life.
    Yet this is essentially what these software companies will have you doing in your cyber life. It just amazes me that they feel they have the right to gather and disseminate this information of anyone who uses the internet.
    Microsoft says they will not release personal data they acquire from their customers, EXCEPT to their partners! This could be just about anyone and none of Microsoft's partners are legally bound to Microsoft's privacy agreements. A Microsoft partner can do whatever they want with this data.
    Nice, ay?
    And who gains from this?
    Certainly not. In fact, it puts you and your finances in great jeopardy. Imagine just how many people there are out in the cold cruel world who would love to get their hands on your financial data and your credit card numbers. I am not blowing this out of proportion. Windows XP had hardly been released before someone, fortunately an honorable person, breached Microsoft's highest 'security'
with about 30 minutes of effort just to show how easily it could be done and ONCE AGAIN Microsoft had to scurry to plug yet ANOTHER security hole in their software. THIS is the company that expects you to trust them with your most vital personal data? Give me a break. How in the world did a company this incompetent ever become a monopoly?
    Not to mention that Microsoft as a corporation is a convicted criminal and yet they still expect you to trust them! Uh, what am I missing here?
    None of these computer companies are trying to move the internet in this direction because of their charitable altruistic natures. They are trying to do this for no other reason than make more money off of you while offering almost nothing in return that wasn't available a year or two ago. They are, of course, trying to put a positive spin on this, as if we, their customers, will benefit greatly by all this, when in reality the only real benefit to anyone is to these corporations, or to the unscrupulous malicious hackers who manage to steal your data from them. hmmph!

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Copyright © 2001 by Gordon L Wolford.
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