This New York Times article on Internet Privacy made me realize the very subtle things that happen online that make me feel like Big Brother is really watching me through my computer screen, even when I’m alone in my room.

The article explores how you can update your Facebook status to something such as “I have such a headache!” and on the side bar for advertisements, a bunch of sites selling painkillers might come up. Any time I am on Facebook I am usually so enveloped in whomever I am Facebook-stalking through the new Timeline application that I don’t even think about how easily marketers can target me to buy their products. I most notably experienced this over spring break when I was working for a freelance article writing company and wrote articles on mold remediation, something I had never searched before on my computer. Immediately on my Gmail account popped up five different advertisements regarding mold, and my co-extern who also never had experience searching for mold on Google made a comment about how “creepy it was to see that Google is watching us” but I still took that very light-heartedly.

I have some worries that one day online advertising will be smart enough to study my shopping habits on Amazon or eBay and figure out what kinds of products I am susceptible to buying with 1-click purchasing and what kind of price range I tend to stay within. It would be impressive to study the kind of work that goes into analyzing Google users’ textbox input (whether it be through search engines or emails) and seeing how quickly/accurately relevant advertisements come up on the sidebars. I feel a bit like my privacy was a little violated when I saw that the advertisements on the side of my Gmail inbox had to do with mold remediation before I even searched the first keyword in the actual Google search bar. How public are the messages I think I am privately sending to others?

Hearing news about personal and financial information leaking from online sites because hackers are smart enough to get through security measures makes me feel very uncomfortable, especially because I rely on these sites a lot to make easy purchases and/or pay my bills. I would hate to feel so overly paranoid each time I use a site starting with “https” and not really feel like it has an actual secure connection. I think it is important to release information to all computer users on how to look for secure sites and how to ensure sensitive information staying in the correct hands in cyberspace.