An Unsettling Invasion of Privacy

The Curmudgeon and The Curmudgeonly sister share a minor but annoying little medical malady but she suffers more from it than he does. Recently she decided to consult a doctor and among the things the doctor did for her was to recommend a specific type of over-the-counter medical product that neither brother nor sister even knew existed (or that it might help them).

The following evening The Curmudgeon did a quick web search for this product and made a mental note to buy it the next time he visits a drug store. There was no urgency about it, but he definitely wanted to make the purchase.

Less than a week later he checked the mailbox at his bachelor condo – finally, an agreement to sell it! – and there he found a coupon, addressed to him by name, offering a buy one/get one free deal on a brand of the very product for which he had performed the web search just a few days ago.

Surely that’s not a coincidence (“don’t call me Shirley”). The Curmudgeon has no idea how those folks got his name and address from a routine search.

And he doesn’t like it. He finds the whole thing very unsettling – and potentially dangerous, depending on the circumstances. We talk a lot about our right to privacy but it’s looking more and more as if that right now exists in theory only and that our lives are an open book for all to see.

And that a seemingly harmless thing like a routine web search could end up with someone knocking on your front door. This particular knock was reasonably innocuous: someone trying to sell a tube of a product that probably costs $7.

But what when it’s… not so innocuous? When it’s something more serious – and potentially, more dangerous?

Very unsettling.


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