The Sony hack is mythic in scope and form: Unlike the hundreds of “data breaches” that have cycled through the news over the last five years, this one is complete, and happened all at once. This has resulted in notable and delicious news and will result in more. But, also:
The most painful stuff in the Sony cache is a doctor shopping for Ritalin. It’s an email about trying to get pregnant. It’s shit-talking coworkers behind their backs, and people’s credit card log-ins. It’s literally thousands of Social Security numbers laid bare. It’s even the harmless, mundane, trivial stuff that makes up any day’s email load that suddenly feels ugly and raw out in the open, a digital Babadook brought to life by a scorched earth cyberattack.
Yes! Every computer comprises a hideous dossier. Look at your laptop: It could destroy you, even if you’ve done nothing wrong.
This realization should be compounded by the knowledge that most of what’s “on” your computer actually lives somewhere else, too, in the servers of companies that are interested in protecting your data only insofar as it preserves their business interests, which are, generally, variations on data marketing and the sale of advertising, to which appearances of privacy and security are helpful. Modern life is a digital nesting doll of latent blackmail opportunities and neglected, decaying data warheads.
In one view, we are conditioned to ignore this; in another, we’ve simply learned to cope. Maybe we’ve become more cautious about what we email? Certainly people are savvier — or at least, more conscious — about their social media posts than they were half a decade ago. We’ve gotten better at controlling the things that we obviously control. We have become, perhaps, SLIGHTLY COMPLACENT. Which is why this page is useful:
Visit it yourself:
At the top of the page, as if to acknowledge the universal unease felt by viewers, is an assurance from Google:
Only you can see your history
Sure! You, or anyone who finds your password, or anyone you allow to use your computer for a few minutes while you’re still logged in. Are you unsure if you have a sexually transmitted disease? Did you do some panicked research? It’s there! Are you attempting to figure out if your depression matches a pathology or if it’s just some kind of mood? That’s there too. Things that are not bad become bad by virtue of their recording and display on this very creepy website. In a vacuum, this page is an interesting read: It’s a more honest assessment of your online activities than perhaps anything else. But we don’t live in a vacuum! We live in an accelerating data-commerce cyber-hell.