18 May 2014

The Amish are not afraid of the cloud.

Did you know that the United States government knows exactly where you go each and every day? Yes, even if you are a Limey on holiday in Costa del Sol. They know your corner store, cinema, pot shop (if you are so lucky) and the route you take to go to the Thursday night poker game. They know what you spend money on and where, not to mention any bank information that they have an interest in digging up. Frankly, if they cared, they could know more about you than you do.

How is this possible? All thanks to "the cloud" and all of the drops of data it is evaporating from you. That smart phone you carry around everywhere is tracking your every move. The press may talk about the NSA compiling phone records but what they really watch is where everyone is going and who they are seeing. They also track every other electronic transaction happening in the world, and since bank accounts are kept less secure than medical records, you can bet they know every financial nugget there is. How do you think the United States is so good about freezing the finances of their favorite bad guy of the week?

It is not just the feds that play Messiah on the information superhighway, of course. Every corporation out there is keeping every drop of zeros and ones they ever come in contact with. The NSA certainly has built the Himalayan bit bin but Google, Microsoft, Apple and Amazon are creating their own Rocky Mountain range of your personal goodies.

I am not telling you this to pull your fear chain. Quite the opposite. Once we all move past this "oh no, they know everything about me" then we can finally start our pleasure hike on this new electronic frontier.

It is absolutely critical to be concerned about security, but only the security that you have control over. For example, you should not use the same password on every login page and, unlike in bed, length is the most important thing - at least 14 characters to protect anything of importance. Use a password tracker like LastPass or RoboForm so you never have to write a password on a sticky note. If you are particularly concerned then sign up for dual layer authentication with Google or any other major vendor that supports it. (And if they don't then take your business elsewhere.)

Once you have taken these basic steps then you can skip the Xanax pills. Yes, occasionally a hacker will break into a site and cause trouble or a vendor (I'm looking at you, Target) will just drop 100 million of our credit cards in their car park. But why worry? If you are so sensitive about your private information then toss your smart phone in the toilet, bury your money in your mattress, use your computer for target (or Target) shooting and move to Lincoln, Montana. The rest of us need to move on.

Modern life is a trade-off. Unless you are Amish, you need to embrace how wonderful this technology can make our lives. Our entire digital universe can live in the cloud and we can carry around nothing more than a web browser and use free software to be more connected and productive than most everyone. Let the pundits, Microsoft and Edward Snowden shout about how terrifying this technology is while the rest of us enjoy the pleasures of our new cloud universe.