Somebody Is Always Watching · 21 October 2017

Rockwell with Michael Jackson and George Orwell were right. Somebody (maybe Big Brother) is watching me. Always.

I wonder at computers these days. There are so many things going on behind the scenes. Not only that, there are surely entities watching (maybe even Big Brother). It is creepy.

If you have been reading my blog for very long, you know about our internet woes. It is most likely just that we have too many machines using the internet all the time. Computers, phones, iPad, Roku, AppleTV, and of course, the video game systems all use the internet. Sometimes without us even knowing it. The poor performance that brings is the cause of much grief and disappointment. But it can also be an opportunity.

We have looked into what could be causing the internet grief. One of the things that I already did was to turn off the automatic updates for windows. It is not too tough to do as there are multiple posts on the interweb to tell you that this is not necessarily what you want running in the background all the time. But one thing I did not know was that there is such a thing as automatic updating of applications too.

There is a strange and annoying thing in Windows 10. The store. It is there checking to make sure all your applications are up to date all the time. Unless you tell it not to do so. One of my sons told me about this annoyance and he showed me how to fix it. You just go to the store (that paper bag icon on the bottom of the screen), press those three dots on the right side, go to settings, then tell it not to update all the apps. I was actually amazed that there were apps there that had been updated that I have never even used. I was incensed that my internet usage was being hogged by something I did not even know was using my bandwidth.

I found another possible bandwidth hog culprit as I dug farther into the matter.

There is a service called Background Intelligent Transfer Service. Apparently, it is part of the whole update scheme. And like the update scheme, it is not necessary to be running all the time. So I turned it off. (Run MSConfig. Go to services and turn it off. Restart.) I have no idea what it does and have not had it off long enough to know if it being off will help the interweb situation, but I suppose time will tell.

The scary thing about computers though is not that there are these strange monsters hogging the internet (and other computer resources) without our knowledge. The scary thing is actually on the web itself.

Believe it or not, there is always somebody watching you surf the web. Big Brother (if you do not know who that is, read 1984 by George Orwell) is undoubtedly keeping the world safe from cyberterrorists and electronic goblins. But seriously, Big Brother is watching and listening. With eyes in the sky and ears on the interweb. You just cannot get away from the watching.

Not to be paranoid, but there are other people watching too. Marketers.

I am not sure which is scarier. Knowing that Big Brother is watching (and listening) or knowing that there are marketers stalking us. No matter where you go on the internet, you can see those marketers hiding in the bushes. They are putting ads on your social media. They are targeting your kids on YouTube. These ads are much more directed than the ads pushed out on traditional media like TV. Everybody sees those when they watch broadcast or cable or satellite television. But when you watch stuff on the internet, you get ads just for you.

If you doubt the veracity of this statement, think about the last time you were on Facebook. What ads did you see? Probably ads for the last thing you shopped for. Did you see that ad for shoes? That was because you were on Amazon looking for shoes. And just think. The ads you saw were not just for any shoes but for the exact shoes you were looking at. I do not begrudge Facebook or Amazon their sources of revenue, but I do think it is creepy. Nowadays, anybody who is singing Rockwell’s song, Somebody’s Watching Me, is not paranoid. He or she is just surfing the internet.

But the craziest thing about marketers watching us is that we are even encouraged to invite said marketers into our homes to listen to us twenty-four seven.

“Hey Alexa, why don’t you tell Amazon what ads to put on the websites I go to based on the conversations you listened to all day yesterday? Maybe you can even tell me what I ought to buy today based on the things I said over the course of the week? Or even better, just order stuff based on what you heard over the last month. Can you do that Alexa?”

Ah well, marketing and spying are probably one and the same when it comes down to it. Big Brother and Big Business are probably sharing secrets on how to see all your secrets. I am sure Big Business is instructing Big Brother in some ways and Big Brother is instructing Big Business in other ways. In reality, they both do the same thing. They just gather data by listening. To everything.

It is a strange world we live in. Computers are dependent on the internet and arcane processes that access it without our knowledge. Some of those processes can be maddening in the unintended (or maybe intended) havoc they wreak on our systems. Regardless, computers and the internet are a wonder. And they are part of the spy systems we have put into all of our homes.

I know it is not really funny, but it is at least amusing to think that Rockwell with Michael Jackson and George Orwell were right. Somebody is always watching.

© 2017 Michael T. Miyoshi

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