The unbearable lightness of a free copy of USA Today

A couple of weeks ago I travelled for work. One evening I found myself in the lobby of the hotel reading a free copy of USA Today left on a chair. I started thinking how rarely I read a true paper copy of a newspaper nowadays. Flipping through the pages of the newspaper, I also realized that, unless there were video-cameras in the hotel lobby, nobody would ever know what I was reading. Nobody would be able to reconstruct my behavior (which articles I read, how long did I spend on each page, which pictures I looked at). Then the thought hit me of how unusual this freedom is in our cyberconnected world.

From my site logs, I can learn a lot about people who visit my blog. I know which page they hit first, how long they stay, which pages they visit, an where they are coming from. I know their IP addresses, their geographical location, which words they entered in which search engine before coming to my site. Often I can even piece together who they are (“Hey, my friend Joy visited my site today. How nice of her!”)

Which means that when I surf the web, my behavior is recorded with the same frightening level of detail. Even the books I read can be connected to me, if I bought them on Amazon or at a physical store with my credit card. At work, most of what I do on my computer is logged and my e-mails must be stored for 7 years.

Nothing new here, of course. But for some reason that evening the true significance of our constantly logged life became very real to me. Reading that copy of USA Today seemed the lightest thing I have done in a long long time (light as in Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being; that book is haunting me in this period.)

I felt free. I felt anonymous. I felt happy.

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6 thoughts on “The unbearable lightness of a free copy of USA Today

  1. WOW Antonella. I never actually put it together until you put it into words…right here. There’s something very scary about some of this, don’t you think? I’m being recorded as we speak….HELLO! -Joy

  2. I am optimistic about the future of technology. Information is no longer private, and yes, I do think that lack of privacy opens doors for exploitation. On the other hand, look at this huge network of human thought that’s unfolding! Hasn’t your life been enriched by the Internet?

    Have you read about Google’s business practices? A friend of mine co-wrote a book on Google. They are true revolutionaries.

    One issue that came up recently is how Google refused to hand over search data to the government. The government wanted statistics on how many people surf p-rn so they could use that data to support new legislation. Google said no because it’s obvious they would spin the statistics to support their legislative agenda — whatever it may have been.

  3. and the newspaper aldo involves physical contact with the paper and you fingers get ink stains…

  4. Anto, you just convinced me to get off this website immediately!! Just kidding, I hope to see you soon. Love the site.

    Love, Jan

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