The Washington Post newspaper has of late become very intimate with me. Where before I was subjected to short Geico or Progressive car insurance ads before I could read my article, I am now being reminded that I am a late middle-aged male who might be prone to erectile dysfunction. The Post is interested in how my body operates on such a personal level that even my internist has yet to make this same inquiry. God bless ’em, the Post is letting me know that they are concerned about my sex life.
For the past 48 hours every single Post article that I’ve read, and I do mean every one, features ads for Cialis. I’m not just talking about one measly advertisement somewhere at the top, side, or bottom of the screen. Nope, I counted SIX different Cialis ads all strategically placed within the body of any article I read. It does give me pause in trying to ascertain just who might be suffering from impotence: me or the financial system in Greece. Leave it to the Greeks to screw up any confidence I have left in my manhood.
Up until now I haven’t really been too concerned about privacy issues intersecting with my online viewing habits. For instance, back when so many people were complaining about Gmail ads appearing based on the content of one’s messages, I was never really all that freaked about it. Yes, I understood that it meant a Silicon Valley server was keeping track of my life. But somehow I found it comforting to see the links for Szeged Hungarian paprika during a period when I was trading old family recipes with a cousin. Likewise, it was actually fun to see opportunities to buy vintage Brian Eno album t-shirts back when I was contributing to an ambient music discussion board.
Perhaps we all have our breaking point, though. In the last year I am in solidarity with millions of other people who are “collateral damage” from online hacks into corporate and government databases. First there was the attack on Target’s system that resulted in its customer’s debit and credit card information being compromised. From this travesty came a new debit card for me courtesy of my bank. Then I was informed that my health insurance provider, Blue Cross Anthem, had been breached by what appears to have been Chinese military computers, and that my own personal information may have been included in whatever was stolen. Finally, in recent weeks I was officially contacted by the federal Office of Personnel Management and told that yet another Chinese military intrusion had taken place, this time affecting millions of current and retired federal employees, myself included.
As posted earlier, I am pretty sure that China is not interested in the affairs of a retired federal law librarian. Still, I might be royally pissed if Beijing doesn’t recognize me in some fashion next January when I begin to receive the next phase of my pension annuity. At the very least, one of those online e-cards would be nice (“With best wishes and congratulations from the boys at PLA Unit 61398 in Shanghai!”).
Of course, identity theft is nothing to laugh at if you are a victim of it. I personally know several people who have gone through the terrible anxiety of learning that their credit history has been at least temporarily ruined by a person or groups of individuals using their identity to open charge accounts, applying for mortgages, etc. It not only can become a full-time job restoring your good name, but the emotional toll of sleepless nights and phone calls from creditors has got to be an absolute nightmare.
Recently Gorgeous and I began a half-hearted attempt to buy a home. We knew when we began the process that it would still be another year at least before we were ready to purchase, but we were curious to at least see how much we might qualify for on a mortgage. The findings of the lender’s credit check were shocking to say the least. I learned about some credit cards under my ex-wife’s name for which I was still listed as an authorized user. She had apparently missed a payment or two over three years ago, and that action made an impact on my personal score. One of the cards was for Macy’s. For two beats I did think about ordering a couple of shirts for myself before removing myself from the card. Oh, the fantasies…
Gorgeous in turn learned that the electric bill at her former home was still in her name, but with fortunately no negative repercussion on her credit score. It took some time, but we both were able to extricate ourselves from these obligations. That this mortgage broker had information which exceeded what just one of the three major credit bureaus had been telling me earlier was both alarming and helpful. I am now going to make sure to request the complimentary credit report from each credit service every four months during the year to stay current. Still, the amount of information that they are able to collect is staggering when you stop to think about it. No wonder the Chinese are working so feverishly at gaining access on Americans — it’s probably rooted in jealousy at what Equifax, Experian and TransUnion already have!
I assume that the Washington Post is not an enterprise for which I need to be wary or fearful. I understand that Jeff Bezos now owns that paper, and any online visitor tracking they are doing is probably inspired from the sharp skills he’s honed by running his own enormously successful Amazon.com.
There was a bit of a buzz several weeks ago about a so-called “Female Viagra” drug being developed. I was alerted to this by reading a thoughtful post on the topic by a doctor blogger who I regularly follow here on WordPress. I definitely recall reading more about this after the good doctor’s post appeared, and it would seem that the Washington Post is more than happy to oblige what they think is a hot topic for me. Given the rapid decline of newspapers in this country, they are merely doing what they can to survive.
With all of the other e-hazards out there, I’m not going to sweat a major American newspaper’s tracking of my reading habits. I will, however, switch gears and perhaps start reading more about the Rolling Stones’ current tour. I sadly can’t afford tickets to any of their shows, but ads for their tour merchandise such as a sweatshirt might be nicer to see as I surf into the Washington Post’s pages.
Got that, Beijing? Size medium, please.