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Somebody's Watching Me

In his 1984 song "Somebody's Watching Me", Rockwell sings about his paranoia regarding being watched.  I've always liked the song for its catchy lyrics and sound.  Of course, when you have Michael Jackson singing backup for you it's tough to have a bad song!  I don't know if it was coincidence that it was released in 1984 since a lot of people believe that as we charge into the digital age the world is heading towards an Orwellian-like dystopia.  Of course, in some ways the world today (2017) does have some elements of 1984 (and a little "Brave New World" tossed in on the side).  We don't have government installed telescreens in our homes; no, we go out and buy them ourselves in the form of tablets, laptops, mobile devices (we used to call them "cell phones) and other electronic devices that make tracking us quite easy for all sorts of people.

Of course, what if you don't mind being tracked?  My observation is that the vast majority of "tracking" is used in an effort to sell us something.  Frankly I don't mind that much and am often amused.  I am particularly amused at people who "score" me or my family that really get it wrong (like sending me coupons for baby stuff when we certainly have no babies in the house).

If there is one operation that I know that I am providing a ton of great data to it has to be my former main grocery store, Kroger (there are no Kroger's in central Florida).  Every time I scanned my "Kroger Plus Shopper's Card" I am quite certain that everything from the time of day to what I bought to how I paid for it is going into a giant database.  My guess is that someone looking at that 10+ years of data (I've been a Kroger shopper since I moved to Milton, WA in 2003) could probably paint a pretty good picture of my family.  So what do I get in return for this?  Well, in the nearly four years between 2011 and 2014 (when I moved away from central Kentucky), I saved over 3500 dollars using my card.  What's funny here is that I can safely say that 90% of the purchases were on items I would have bought anyway.  Additionally, Kroger regularly sent me "customized" coupons for things that I really use.  I probably got another 100 bucks in these in the course of a year.  I wonder how long it will take Kroger to attempt to reach out to me about why I no longer shop there.

I also participate in a similar program with Dick's Sporting Goods.  It is no secret that both my spouse and I are avid golfers.  I'm sure Dick's know's a lot about our games by what we've bought there over the past several years.  Again, in exchange for providing this information, I routine receive some pretty decent offers from them including "store checks" that are generally for 10 or 20 bucks and are good for anything in the store.

I buy a fair amount of stuff from Amazon including all kinds of books for our Kindles but I also buy gifts.  I'm sure I have quite a profile there.  I know that Auto Zone knows what cars I own (since I voluntarily entered them into "My Auto Zone".  In return for this they give me a 20 dollar credit for every five purchases over 20 bucks.  If you do a lot of your own auto maintenance that adds up to a sizable sum over the course of a year.  I could go on and on about this.

In the 1987 film "Wall Street", Gordon Gekko (expertly played by Michael Douglas)  tells a young Bud Fox (again, expertly played by a young pre-flake out Charlie Sheen) that "the most important commodity is information."  That was true then and still holds true today.  If there is one concern that I can understand it is the possibility of all these bits of (often self provided) information being blended together.  I tend to think that is already happening.  One thing to consider is that in say in the case of Kroger, they have "invested" a lot to collect the data they have on me and I seriously doubt they want to share it with a competitor who could then barrage me with offers in an attempt to sway my shopping choices.  I have to believe the same is true for most operations.

Do you post pictures of your cat on social media sites?  Don't be too surprised when ads for cat products show up.  Of course, sometimes they "take a shot" and totally miss.  We routinely receive coupons for diapers.  Why I have no idea.  Perhaps since we have kids that are 24 and 21 the marketers think we may be grandparents.  Who knows?

Back in the day you actually had to physically track someone if you were interested in their whereabouts, today you can sit at home and just wait for them to update their status on Facebook!  Is it possible to go "off the grid"?  Sure it is but in reality I generally want people to be able to find me. Over time I have lost track of a number of people I wouldn't mind reconnecting with.

Reviewed June 27, 2017
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