#023–How are we supposed to realistically protect ourselves & our identities online?

I guess this weekend’s events are still taking up space in my noggin (see yesterday’s post), because I know I had other questions I could’ve asked today. But damn it–with our everyday lives being forced online, how the hell are we realistically supposed to be protected and protect ourselves?

Now, some might be of the impression that they can just cut the cords and live in a shack away from all the tech, or the “luddites” I know just say “disconnect, no big deal.”

I find that funny because though they can’t seem to use e-mail or a computer, they make me do it. And if I disconnect, how will they get done what they need to get done, huh?–Yeah, doesn’t make much sense.

However, I believe that in 21st century America, we ARE being forced to be more of a cyberspace culture. I could bemoan the demise of good old fashioned conversation face-to-face, or regular phone calls, or reading actual books with paper instead of downloading them onto a tablet, or going to the movies instead of straining eyes to see a 2 hour flick on a phone screen (and I’m getting a migraine just thinking about that one).

But that’s not what I’m talking about today.

I’m talking about how everything we do–banking, business communication, job searches, scientific breakthroughs, patent submissions, academic journals, income taxes, and basic purchases–are largely online. I agree in theory with the sentiments of the “paperless” society, but it sucks for accountability when I can’t get a basic financial statement in the mail or bill.

“Paper” presupposes a tangible record of events that can’t be tampered with then presented as proof down the road. It’s there, it’s printed, and we’re moving along. That’s how I see it, especially with banks and other businesses (and the government) desperate to squeeze every drop out of the peons that depend on them.


Now I know how my dog feels when I keep her frisbee from her.

Besides, I hate automatic bill pay because I’m paid sporadically, so it doesn’t make sense to reserve a day for my bank to let this company have my money, when I might need to wait 2 or 3 days for that next check. Thankfully, most of the necessities I do business with are okay with paper…for now.

These companies, like the bank and such, are pressuring me to go “paperless.” For me, a bill on my kitchen counter is a much better reminder than a damned scratched note in my planner (and what if I forget to write down the due date–I’m screwed!).

But with all this pressure to go fully electronic, we’re exposed more than ever before in this country. Hell, how many sites are out there collecting our info and selling it to businesses and advertisers? There is no true privacy, and there are thousands of ways people can do damage to us with a few keystrokes, within and without.

A few months ago, I nearly had a panic attack when I got a notice that my account was overdrawn by $180. I’ve never made a gaff that big before in my accounting–turns out some asshole out there got my debit card info somehow and tried to charge about $500 worth of gas at two stations (we still never found out who, but I’d prosecute in a damned second if it ever came to light). Took me weeks of biting my nails and using credit cards to get by (which made even more debt) because I couldn’t use my accounts before it all got straightened out and the money was put back.

If that incident taught me anything, it was to update my checkbook every day and get alerts in case my balance dipped to a certain point. I know people who just keep making purchases and then wonder why they have overdrafts all the time–even when they check their banking online on the phone. I will NEVER check my bank account on my phone. Not enough security.people-apple-iphone-writing

It’s a bit like testing for performance enhancing drugs in sports: there’s more money to be made in learning how to get around it than in developing better security/tests. So, we little peons are at the mercy of a helluva lot of people that don’t have a problem with picking on other poor people (seriously, when’s the last time you heard about a millionaire getting hacked?).

So, again, how the hell are we supposed to protect ourselves while so much of who and what we are is online, too? I can’t fill out a paper application for a job anymore–I have to go online. And if it starts out as paper, it has to be sent elsewhere electronically (because, you know, I love having my social security number flying around).

I can’t keep in touch with friends as much as I’d like with Facebook Seeing how often security settings seem to change on a whim (and certain stupid-ass stalkers can find a way to look at my stuff even without my “friending” them–how the hell they can do that is beyond me), yeah, not secure. I’m tempted to drop Facebook entirely, because what’s the point of privacy settings if anybody and their dog can look me up despite me specifying only “Friends” can see my stuff?!

I can’t shop around as much as I’d like online because so many companies want you to get an account and password and keep them (and your bank card) handy, then will sell your info to advertisers.

I’m sick of this crap, and have been systematically trying to take down my info everywhere I can find it. But it keeps popping up in more places. Who the hell wants my info and why? All I know is it can’t be for anything good for me.

And I can’t even put my proper name on my blog and will probably have to resort to a pen name when I get to writing and publishing elsewhere. When you’re the only person with your first and last name out of 360 million-and-change in the U.S., you’re-really-freaking easy to find).

My name’s tough for most people to pronounce correctly, but dammit, it’s mine and I kinda like it…but for my own safety (as I get more outspoken in Dump’s America), I don’t think I’d be able to use it because some hater would suddenly be calling me up and threatening me.

Other than money, why do hackers decide to target specific people, after all?

I don’t think I’m off base saying we naive and stupid Americans are at the mercy of a socio-economic system that’s pulling us into cyberspace. We are NOT in control.

..insert your favorite Skynet reference here, I’ll wait…

easter-2065160_1280Didn’t some dozens of wise people over thousands of years tell us “never to put all our eggs in one basket?”

Cyberspace is a huge basket, an Easter hoard full of bank accounts, passwords, political secrets, security memos, purchasing habits, background info, tax info, PIN numbers, business practices, videos, pictures, etc.

And as the rest of the world flexes their digital muscles, it’s all up for grabs.

5 thoughts on “#023–How are we supposed to realistically protect ourselves & our identities online?

  1. Xena says:

    Last year, I had interesting conversations with a legislative aide for a state senator. It was about privacy and having one’s personal information on the internet without consent. I was curious as to how “background” sites get personal information, and how liable are they when they have people associated with strangers and previously living in cities that they never drove through much less lived in.

    These were his suggestions; get a pre-paid cell phone and use that number when applying for credit or making purchases online. Instead of using your residential address online, rent a PO box and if you can, rent it at a post office in a neighboring town or city. Don’t ever open accounts with Facebook or Linkedin. Linkedin sells information to other sites that post it even after you have discontinued your account.

    In other words, spend more money and go through inconveniences. Oh — and when I suggested that he Google his own name, he was shocked to find that his personal information was public and things he would like to keep private can be purchased for a fee.

    I spoke to him about legislating “right to disappear” law that they currently have in the UK. He said that he would check on that.


    • TheChattyIntrovert says:

      Good for you. I’ve been looking into ways to be safer and got the new edition of “how to be invisible” just a week ago (good timing, I guess). I’ll be reading through it and some other books written by cops in the next few weeks. But yeah, LinkedIn hasn’t done much for me so I’m gonna end up deleting it, and I’ll probably get off Facebook pretty soon. Just gonna let a handful of people know and give a farewell. Maybe we can go back to the days of pen and paper letters (shocker!) if they really wanna communicate.


      • Xena says:

        Good for you too! Other than Word Press and Twitter, I don’t do other social media. Based on some of the horror stories I’ve read and experience of friends, I am very happy to have avoided Facebook.


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