Why we can’t have nice things on Internet

October 5, 2013

The combination of hackers and radically invasive online advertising will eventually destroy Facebook and the Internet as we know it.

I didn’t attribute that claim to anyone because it’s my own prediction. I’ve been saying that for a while to anyone who will listen.

Several friends of mine have indicated that their Facebook account was hacked. In some of those cases, a post would show up on the Facebook “news feed” that offered something enticing. One friend appeared to be sending out invitations to receive a free airplane trip or cruise, as I recall. Several days later she posted something stating that her account had been hacked and the posts were bogus.

I’ve heard that some of the links on Facebook asking you to click “like” can actually make your computer vulnerable – or at the very least expose you to annoying ads you don’t want to see. Some are advertising legitimate products, but it seems more and more are using questionable methods.

It’s all about numbers of online hits they can show – getting more eyes on the merchandise, so to speak.

I experienced two separate examples of intrusive contact recently that jolted me out of my usual Internet surfing fog.

One involved a major online news source, The Drudge Report. I normally try to ignore online ads, but I caught a glimpse of a company name in a box to one side because it “just happened” to be an electronics company named Tascam.

The reason this disturbed me is that the night before, I had been searching online for a particular product – one that Tascam offers.

I’ll be danged if Tascam didn’t track me down while I was trying to read articles about good, wholesome political corruption.

A couple of days later, a dreaded “popup” ad suddenly covered my screen saying that I needed to contact my television provider – the same company that delivers my Internet connection – about my bill. (Never mind the details).

I actually wondered if that could have been a fake warning about a due payment, posted by a hacker. The popup featured what appeared to be a one-click connection to the TV provider’s website to make a payment.

Some of the more sophisticated hackers have been creating fake website pages – even claiming to be federal authorities – that look amazingly like the real thing.

I didn’t trust the popup I saw, so I opted to call the contact number on my billing statement instead.

I found an online story on www.forbes.com warning that the next step would be for advertisers to target people for specific ads based on their “emotional state.” It stated that Geekwire drew attention to a patent application filed by Microsoft that would be adjusted using “contents of emails and instant messages” and “tracking of movements and facial expressions” obtained from either videos or webcams. I assume that would include things such as “private” Skype video calls.

You may think that kind of technology is just dandy, but I consider it an invasion of privacy. It seems more and more people are having that reaction, and there could be a backlash.

I’ve seen predictions that it’s going to get worse. Some say facial recognition technology will enable businesses to identify individual customers the minute they walk in the store. So, based on your personal purchase history or other unique tendencies, the radical Internet-based advertisers can stalk you and probe many aspects of your world with no fear of legal ramifications.

I’m not in favor of creating more laws for every problem that comes along, but maybe we can come up with another solution. I’d love to see the hackers and those who generate the individually targeted ads be required to register their own personal email address in a database.

Then, the millions of consumers who receive the unwanted ads and messages can bombard them with their response: “Hack this!”

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