Free Wi-Fi, other invasions of privacy: Better latte than never | Marcel Strigberger
Friday, August 27, 2021 @ 3:46 PM | By Marcel Strigberger
I called my home insurance company recently to discuss a minor matter — like if I had coverage for a flood. A recording announced something like, “By proceeding with this call, you confirm that you agree to our privacy terms and conditions. To find out more, visit our website and click on ‘Privacy terms and conditions.’ Estimated read time, four hours and thirty-four minutes.’’
OK I exaggerate slightly. But I did take a peek and, I can say that this read makes Tolstoy’s War and Peace look like a pamphlet. I can’t think of any mortal with time on his hands who would read it, outside of a guy in a penitentiary.
You get this everywhere.
I was at a coffee chain place (pre-COVID-19 of course). To access their free Wi-Fi you have to agree to their terms and conditions. I am probably the only person who opened the link and ever read this stuff, other than maybe the lawyer who drafted it after graduating from Attila the Hun Law School. Draconian? You decide. They go something like this:
- Ha, ha, ha! We have the right to share all your user information with necessary third parties. Necessary third parties may include Google, Apple and Amazon. As well, your personal information may find itself all over Facebook. If you see it there, you hereby agree to like it.
- We have the right to install cookies of our choice on your device. Today we are installing blueberry scones.
Improper use of Wi-Fi
- You agree not to use your device for any improper purposes including spam, copyright infringement or defamatory postings. If you burn yourself on hot coffee, you agree to limit your reactions to saying “ouch.”
- You may not transmit viruses, worms or Trojan horses. You agree to clean up any mess made by such horses.
- You will not use offensive terms, phrases, or language, including Canadian. These include but are not limited to the words “Timbits,” “double-double” or “zed.”
- We are not responsible for damages, injuries or traumas, however caused, other than those governed by the 2013 Sumatran Java Convention. In such case, damages will be limited to one medium cappuccino (275 calories). For strawberry or vanilla extract please add 50 cents.
As the old adage says, “There is no such thing as a free latte.” Is there anybody who doesn’t click “agree”?
And do you sometimes get the feeling we are constantly being watched and listened to?
There are cameras everywhere, including dash cams, in malls, and just people with their iPhones ready to shoot and record. Many places have devices enabling facial recognition. If authorities ever look for you, they’ll find you in 15 minutes, even if you’re scuba diving in the ocean. I’m sure even their fish are equipped with cameras.
Most of us shrug it all off, saying, “I have nothing to hide.” Then again, what will we say? I have yet to hear anyone declare, “I’m not sure I want cameras watching me. After all, I’m a serial killer. My hero is Hannibal Lecter.”
I was on a cruise once (pre-COVID again) and I noticed that the dining hall closed down different stations periodically. For example, they might cover the dessert area with a drape and hang a subtle sign reading “closed!”
At the end of the cruise they showed a film depicting cruise highlights, and this video included a clip of two guests approaching the dessert area, looking around, lifting the drape, grabbing a muffin and darting away. The man even had his spouse standing behind him as a lookout while he committed the heist. She was blond and the scene reminded me of Bonnie and Clyde. The video did not show a getaway driver resembling Michael J. Pollard. Protecting his privacy no doubt. Fortunately for them the sheriff did not show up.
I suspect we are also being listened to via our cell phones. Do you think Siri answers all our questions out of the kindness of her heart? I wouldn’t nominate her for the Mother Teresa Humanitarian Award. I’m sure if you’d ask her what she thought about this honour, she’d probably say: “Oh, I do deserve this award. Now please let me get back to my work in Calcutta?”
And let’s not forget Alexa. You ask Echo Alexa to play some Mozart and you get the best of Wolfgang Amadeus piped into your room for free. But is she listening to our conversations? I once chatted with my wife about El Paso and within minutes when we Googled something unrelated there were ads about where to get the best deals on 10-gallon hats in El Paso. I suspected mischief and so I immediately unplugged Alexa. Had I not done so, I’m certain Alexa would have interrupted Mozart’s “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik and hit us with a rendition of “The Yellow Rose of Texas.”
Is our privacy being eroded or am I suffering from boomer paranoia? Maybe on the flip side Google et al. will spread the word about my new book, Boomers, Zoomers, and Other Oomers: A Boomer-biased Irreverent Perspective on Aging. It’s much shorter and a more fun read than Tolstoy.
Marcel Strigberger retired from his Greater Toronto Area litigation practice and continues the more serious business of humorous author and speaker. His just launched book is now available on Amazon, (e-book) and paper version by pre-release sale order. Visit www.marcelshumour.com. Follow him @MarcelsHumour.
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