That’s the way the cookie crumbles

The World Wide Web knows everything about you from your computer

Whatever you do on the internet, you leave a trail. And you needn’t be a forensic investigator to follow it.

Exactly how the trail is laid down I’m not sure, but I suspect it involves cookies, markers advertisers use to learn which sites you visit and which products interest you. A modernized Hansel and Gretel ploy.

For example, two weeks ago I read in the news that a store clerk in Zurich had refused to show Oprah a $38,000 John Ford designer handbag when she asked to see it.

The clerk told Oprah, “You wouldn’t be able to afford it.” It tickled my funny bone to think that a European clerk didn’t recognize Oprah who last year earned $77 million.   I sent the news item to my Saskatchewan family.

Next morning a spam email notified me Hermes Shop was having a 24 hours only, 65 percent sale on handbags.

From reading O Magazine I know a Hermes handbag, even with the 65 percent discount, could cost more than my Chev pickup.

Netflix, too, withholds no secrets. I’m one of six allowed to view movies on a single Netflix subscription. Like it or not, the other five can tell what I’ve been watching; my choices are labelled “Recently viewed”. If none of the five watched the movie, they know I must have.

Google almost any topic and your choices are tallied. If I revisit a newspaper, it’s likely to say, “You last visited this site” and it will give a date.

Such was the case while trying to recall the street number of an apartment we rented while living in New York.

I made several visits to the New York Public Library website where they archive telephone and city directories for all of New York City dating back to 1942. The website kept count of my successive visits.

For real fun, let a hacker break into the computer of someone you might have emailed only once. If the hacker sends emails to everyone listed in the person’s hard drive get set to receive emails from every site your acquaintance visited.

Sometimes there’s no explaining why you are getting spam emails. Such as my recent deluge from what must be dating sites.

I’ve gotten spam emails from the likes of Luella, “Hi friend.”; Reba, “I like you.”; Leticia and Nannie, who both wrote, “Waiting for you.” And Tammie whose subject line demonstrates how selective she was choosing my address, “I need a hot guy like you.”

Google for information on any topic and behold! Ads relating to your search will border your screen.

For weeks.

Recently searching for a pattern to sew a shirtwaist dress similar to one I wore in a 1961 photo,. I began at the local fabric store where a clerk helped me find a pattern in Butterick’s Vintage category! To share my finding with a friend, I scouted Butterick catalogues on the internet, and sent it on by email. Now each time I want to read The Terrace Standard or the New York Times, a lineup of six models wearing shirtwaist dresses appears on the right side of the page.

Long before the shirtwaist search, I googled a site to learn more about the Pulse Smartpen. This computerized pen records sounds such as interviews or speeches delivered at a meeting. Later the pen can be plugged into a computer where the speech is transposed into print. I could see the pen being an asset to any freelance writer, reporter, or university student.

For many weeks afterward, an ad for the pen sprawled across the top of every screen.

It may not be censorship, but it makes me choosy about the sites I visit.

Claudette Sandecki watches those watching her from her Thornhill home.

 

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