We’ve all grown frighteningly accustomed to proving to our personal computers that we are not a robot. Every time we fill out a web form or accidentally forget our webmail password a little box shows up with a series of letters and numbers that are increasingly difficult to read. As the years have flown by, the secret codes have gotten childishly easy to read to completely and utterly indecipherable. For a brief moment I often doubt myself “Is this really what this program is expecting me to type”. If I was any more unreasonable of a man I might even have lingering doubts about whether I might be a robot myself.
So how did we get to this place where people write programs to test other people to see if they are programs? Everyone knows it’s to protect us from spammers and hackers. It’s those ‘really smart computer nerds’ that are keeping those other ‘really Bad (with a capital B) computer nerds’ at bay. So we go to bed at night feelings safe. But so much of it is like watching our grandma getting felt up by TSA security at the airport. It’s all about the illusion of safety, sadly you and I are often not even protected from the people who are supposed to protect us.
Google used their Google Maps cars to drive around neighborhoods automatically logging into people’s unsecured wi-fi and collecting personal information on their computers all over the world. They were fined paltry sums by many government agencies and they apologized profusely but this was the first time something like this was done on a wide scale. I’ve slowly moved most of my digital life into the cloud. At this point most of the virtual information I care about is stored somewhere other than my personal computer.