Fear in an Online Age

Today was a day for errands. My toddler is recovering from a cold, and with her fussiness this morning, I knew she would benefit from some rest in the van and the distraction of being out of the house. As she napped in her car seat, I listened to a radio program about tech companies and American privacy. This is an issue I usually choose to ignore. I feel so powerless to control how my behavior is monitored online, and—the question that constantly nags me—what if, once upon a time, I clicked that little “accept” button? How do I take it back? Even if I’m able to track down every website that is collecting my data and “un-accept,” what about the information that’s already out there?

This email I received from Target has been on my mind constantly:
Dear Target Guest,
As you may have heard or read, Target learned in mid-December that criminals forced their way into our systems and took guest information, including debit and credit card data. Late last week, as part of our ongoing investigation, we learned that additional information, including name, mailing address, phone number or email address, was also taken. I am writing to make you aware that your name, mailing address, phone number or email address may have been taken during the intrusion.

…To guard against possible scams, always be cautious about sharing personal information, such as Social Security numbers, passwords, user IDs and financial account information. Here are some tips that will help protect you:
•    Never share information with anyone over the phone, email or text, even if they claim to be someone you know or do business with. Instead, ask for a call-back number.
•    Delete texts immediately from numbers or names you don’t recognize.
•    Be wary of emails that ask for money or send you to suspicious websites. Don’t click links within emails you don’t recognize.

Even if I follow all their “tips” (which I do, and more)—even if I stop using the internet altogether—the businesses where I shop take my data through my debit card. And it gets hacked! And I’m not safe!

Then on my way here, I listened to another radio program, this time on online female discrimination. Ugh. It’s enough to make a person go off the grid.

That’s what I dream about: abandoning this nation of gadgets and keypads and magnetic strips for some little cabin way up on the mountainside where I get solar power and grow my own food and keep a goat…and somehow keep my house off Google maps…. But I don’t have the guts. I don’t even have the guts to throw my laptop out of our second-story apartment window, though perhaps I’d be better off if I did.

And then I remember: there is no hiding from corruption. Even in my mountain home, I would not be freed from humanity’s sins because I’d still be human myself. Our tech age brings with it some new fears and new crimes, but there is nowhere and no time free from fear and crime.

There is no escape. But there is this:
In God, whose word I praise, 
    in the Lord, whose word I praise— 
in God I trust and am not afraid.
    What can man do to me?

Amen.