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Terms and Conditions May Apply

I'll admit (with some embarrassment) that I've always been one of those people unworried about my communication habits being watched. My actions online are extremely dull and I often told myself "why does the government care if I binge watch Criminal Minds on Netflix? Or play 23 rounds of 2048 in a row? I'm not doing anything illegal so it doesn't matter". What Terms and Conditions May Apply did, beside send me into a casual panic, was make it abundantly clear that this mentality is exactly what "they" ("they" being Google, Facebook, the NSA, anyone and everyone who has the capability to connect my activities to my identity) approve of. 

I've often quipped (quoting comedian Pete Holmes in doing so) that the internet has made privacy uncool. But even the handing over of your information - full name, names of your friends, hometown, birthdate, etc - doesn't feel like an invasion. Yes, Facebook asks you for your cellphone number and you feel some strange obligation to give it to them, but the choice was still yours. Terms and Conditions points out what sites you join or use can do with that information - and it's ultimately pretty insidious. Thousands of pages of records of every search term you've ever typed and every Facebook status you've ever posted. Information that can be used things as seemingly innocent as market research to something as shocking as preemptively arresting someone for a crime they had discussed possibly committing. 

The danger here is that using the internet feels private. Sitting alone, in a darkened room, the glow of your laptop bleaching away even more color from your skin (wait, is that just me?) is a private activity. You don't feel the electronic eye watching you. We can "erase" our search histories or browse in "incognito" mode inevitably this only keeps our actions private from anyone who wants to look at your individual computer. But the sense of privacy is there, because the theft of it is kept so quiet, hidden deep in pages and pages of barely legible terms and conditions. 

If the mentality ought to be "well, I have nothing to hide" then why hide the fact we're being watched? It seems lie hypocrisy for mega-corporations like Google and Facebook to expect their users to live up to a certain standard that they don't themselves subscribe to. Color me terrified. 

If you want me, I'll be the one wearing the tinfoil hat in the underground bunker muttering about conspiracy theories. 

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