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Why people are so up in arms over the suddenly-in-the-spotlight lack of privacy on Facebook, I don't know.

Folks, many of you put everything from photos of the dinner you're about to eat to tales of that time you cut your hand on a piece of broken Mason jar (pictures from that too!) on Facebook. Just what secrets do you think you're hiding?

Back when we actually wrote thoughts and info on pieces of paper, my dad said, "If you don't want someone to know something, don't write it down." That applied to passing notes in school, or doodling in a notebook, or even writing in a diary.

And that still sums it up.

But if you're not on Facebook, or you don't even use computers, don't fool yourself into thinking your information isn't online somewhere.

Everyone is online, like it or not.

I mean, I'm no conspiracy theorist -- I think I'm a realist, with a healthy splash of optimism and an occasional dash of pessimism.

But information is kept on computers now -- at the bank, at the grocery store (they don't scan those barcodes into a spiral notebook, now, do they?), in a restaurant and everywhere else you can think of.

And if it's on a computer, and it's connected to the Internet, it can be accessed by anyone -- in theory. It's often unlikely, but it's *possible.*

I mean, I've purchased something as simple as Diet Dr. Pepper using *cash,* for crying out loud, and, next thing I know, I'm seeing advertisements for Dr. Pepper on my Facebook feed.

Tell me that's a coincidence.

A friend and I noticed this kind of thing and decided to test it. We began talking about a topic that neither of us would normally discuss, with our smartphones within "hearing" distance.

He soon got advertisements related to that topic on his Facebook feed.

Privacy? No such thing.

The only privacy we have left is inside our own consciousness -- unspoken thoughts -- that's it.

You could say it's our own fault. Most of us have fallen head over heels for all this technology -- the computers with the webcams, the smartphones with voice recognition capability and now with facial recognition technology, the electronic tablets that you "open" via a fingerprint the computer scans in.

We photograph our own department store receipts and they go into a system to give us a tiny bit of money back over time -- now that retailer knows everything we buy, if they didn't already. We use cards that get us discounts at the grocery store -- and show the store our spending habits.

Just think about this the next time you Google something and then suddenly ads for related items show up on websites you visit, your Facebook feed and more.

Some of this isn't mysterious. Computers store "cookies" or bits of information from the sites we visit, which makes the operating system "remember" where we've gone before online, but it also gives other sites the ability to mine our data for information.

And, voluntarily, we give Facebook all kinds of information. We innocently want to connect with family members, post photos of days gone by, let others know that we saw the coolest thing while walking out along the lake, or celebrate "friend-versaries."

So anyone who pays attention can know our mother's maiden name, the name of our first pet, the street where we lived as children ... a lot of answers to those security questions you fill out on supposedly secure sites.

Don't get me wrong -- I think most sites such as those for banking or purchasing remain relatively secure. But I don't understand why people are so surprised when it's "revealed" that their personal information has been accessed by an entity such as Facebook or someone going through such social media.

You put it on the computer -- in theory, anyone can access it then.

A skilled hacker can get into a computer that's linked to the Internet -- and that's practically all computers now -- and see what's on your hard drive. I don't know how probable it is -- but it's possible.

"If you don't want someone to know something, don't write it down."

These days, you're better off to take a pen and paper and write information down and hide it in a shoebox if you want it to stay safe and secure.

I think creativity is the best way to beat the snoops in this modern age.

Maybe I'll put a list of my passwords for various websites inside a large bobber in my fishing tackle bag. I could tape all my usernames, written in old-fashioned pencil on notebook paper, behind the toilet tank. No one ever looks there.

Perhaps I could keep a small notebook of my secret information -- pet names for friends, location of the key to my old-fashioned handwritten diary, code to my combination lock on the chain that holds my 1950s-era patio furniture on my front porch -- hidden inside a shoe. No one would ever think of looking there.

Or, I'll keep my family jewels (spoiler alert: I have none) in the flour canister in the kitchen (another spoiler alert: I don't have one of those anymore, either).

Of course, since I'm writing a column about it, I won't do any of the above things, but you get my point.

Who would have thought that going old-fashioned would be safer than the latest in technology?

I guess we should have learned this lesson in other ways. They started making automobiles out of plastic, for crying out loud, and now we wonder why a simple fender bender turns into a totaled vehicle. I know it's not good for gas mileage, but I remember when good old sturdy metal was used for things like bumpers, hence the very term "fender bender."

Maybe we were safer then than now with all the "smart" safety technology like side airbags, lane departure warning lights and beeps, etc. Now we're getting dumbed down by devices seemingly smarter than we are that do so much for us that we don't remember the basics like turning your darn head to check your blind spot before changing lanes on the interstate.

Luckily for me, I have no secrets, so I'm not worried about all this privacy stuff. Slippery slope? Problematic exposing of our personal information to others? Nah.

Like I said, I have no fear. I have no secrets -- none whatsoever (cough). And neither do you, hm?

Yeah. Right.

Penny Weaver is the general manager and editor of the JG-TC. Her columns include her own opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinion or editorial position of the JG-TC. Contact her at or 217-238-6863, and follow her on Twitter @PennyWeaver.


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