Creepy Connections

For several weeks I kept seeing this woman’s profile appearing as a suggested connection on LinkedIn.  Her face seemed familiar to me and I felt certain I did know her, but how? We didn’t have anything in common, including connections, employment, or schools, etc. And we’d never lived in any of the same places, so why did she keep appearing?  What was the connection?

One day I realized we had both been on a week long kayaking trip in 2012! On the trip we used nicknames so we didn’t know anybody’s real name until the last day.  This was why her face, but not her name, looked familiar.  After the trip, we emailed a couple of times, but other than that there was no contact.  No links on Facebook, Twitter, or any other social media.  Almost all of the communication happened in 2012 or 2013, so what is LinkedIn’s suggestion based on?  What dots are being connected?

I just finished reading Technocreep: The Surrender of Privacy and the Capitalization of Intimacy by Thomas P. Keenan.  Each chapter covers some form of technology and how it is used, or could be used, in a creepy way.  For example one chapter discusses the abundant use of surveillance cameras, and how these cameras, combined with facial recognition software, could create creepy scenarios by offering new ways to track and identify people for targeted advertising and profiling.  One chapter discusses the use of implanted medical devices, such as pace makers or insulin pumps, and points out how easy it is to hack and manipulate these devices.

Reading this book reawakened my awareness and unease with many of things that just seem to happen on my laptop or devices.  It was the kind of thing I used to be hyperaware about, and then kind of stopped noticing because it was happening all the time, like the kayak-trip LinkedIn connection. Or when I search for flights, travel advertisements start appearing in the sidebars of my email and webpages.

Sometimes the links seem somewhat explainable and I can understand how they happen, but I do start to wonder about the connections happening behind the scenes between my devices and laptop that I’m not aware of.  How are these connections happening?  What are the implications?  Will we have to wait to find out?  Will it be too late by then?

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