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CENTRAL VIEW for Monday, July 26, 1999

by William Hamilton, Ph.D.

Big Brother really is watching you

Recently, we went to the expense of hiring a webmeister to create a website so this weekly column can be posted on the Internet. Now that the web page up and running on the internet, I’m beginning to learn there is an Orwellian, Big Brother aspect to web pages.

For example, many websites are backed up with a statistical package designed to tell the owner of the website some pretty amazing things. You are probably already aware most websites have “hit” counters that record how many people have looked in on the website each day, even each hour. That’s a good idea because someone offering products for sale or just doing advertising on a website needs to know if he or she is wasting their money or not. Unfortunately, the technology doesn’t stop there.

For example, the statistical program attached to www.central-view.com reveals who is looking at the columns and for how long. That’s the part that bothers me because I feel like I am, somehow, invading the privacy of my readers.

But other features I like. For example, by telling me how long each column is viewed, the program reflects which columns drew the most interest and which the least. This is not the reason we put up the website; however, I am delighted with this feature because it becomes a guide as to which subjects are of interest to readers and which are not. So, in that context, the program is both helpful and innocuous.

But put this kind of information into the hands of a dirt-digging political consultant and such programs can be abused. By hacking into certain websites (and it can be done) the political hatchet person can find out who is watching pornography on the internet or spending internet time with radical hate-groups or is spending time in sex chat rooms or using the internet for all kinds of nefarious purposes.

This Big Brotherism can even extend into your satellite TV viewing choices The companies that sell programming for your satellite dish can tell what you are watching and how long you watch it. If you’ve ever been on the phone with your satellite program provider adjusting your satellite receiver, you know what I mean.

One might think those who do political “opposition research” wouldn’t stoop so low as to hack into internet viewing statistics or TV satellite records. But if the past is any indication, they will. For example, when Judge Robert Bork was up for Senate confirmation to the U.S. Supreme Court; the liberals went after his video store rental records to see if he had checked out any porno films. He had not. That was low-tech. But it makes the point.

Ever wonder why the sitcoms offered by ABC, CBS, NBC and FOX are so inane? It’s because they are written for a 14-year-old audience. Why 14-year-olds? Because the geniuses in Hollywood and New York have this cockamamie idea that brand-choice loyalty is determined around age 14. Ergo: They must capture the hearts and minds of 14-year-olds so those skulls-full-of-mush will buy Happy Loops cereal for the rest of their lives. Hogwash. But that’s what the TV moguls believe.

And how do the TV moguls know what 14-year-olds are thinking? Evidently, that age group spends a lot of time on the internet visiting websites. From those visits, the TV moguls pick up tons of information about teen preferences. Those preferences are then factored into prime-time TV programming. Duh.

Although 14-year-olds are welcome, Central View is written for a much more sophisticated audience and so I invite you, gentle reader, to look in on: www.central-view.com each week. Stay as long as you wish, I won’t assume you are a slow reader. There will, however, be a test on domestic politics and foreign policy. Just kidding.

William Hamilton is a nationally syndicated columnist and a featured commentator for USA Today.

©1999-2017. American Press Syndicate.

Dr. Hamilton can be contacted at:
P.O. Box 2001
Granby, CO 80446

Email: william@central-view.com

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