Facing up to our data leaks

April 06, 2018

Someone, somewhere is watching and collecting your data - or your poo..

In the end, it’s the flotsam of life that sends lofty empires crashing to earth.

This week it’s been corellas chewing the new law courts and Facebook staggering under the weight of its recycled data — now it’s scientists sifting through sewerage to discover the drug habits of entire towns.

I’m digging my shelter right now.

I am going to pack it with smoked almonds and baked beans and dog biscuits and the novels of Haruki Murakami and a vat of 2014 Spatburgunder Blanc du Noir.

I’ll take Prince Finski with me for conversation.

I already have a little critter that lives in the bedroom wall and wakes up in the wee hours to remind me the world is a crowded, noisy place.

This is a sign they know where I am and they are watching.

I thought my critter might be a mouse that’s gorged for years on strawberry pink bats and is now the size of a small angry dog.

But now I’m not so sure.

I think it might be a piece of loose Facebook data, or a tiny bot scientist measuring my Spatburgunder intake.

If they can tell an amphetamine habit from a sewerage pipe then anything’s possible.

The world already knows I have a Beatles fetish and that my best friends are dogs and that I pretend to know a lot about black holes and astrophysics because my Facebook data has been stolen by Cambridge Analytica and used to persuade Americans that Donald Trump is sane by comparison.

If government scientists can get a ‘‘clearer picture’’ of a town’s drug habits by sifting through poo, then anything is possible.

Facebook has already admitted more than 300000 Australians may have had their private data used without their knowledge.

Who would have thought this quirky thing called the internet that began with people staring at their navels or watching snow falling on a New York street at night would one day be used to threaten democracy.

Now we know that every little thing we cherish, as well as all our nasty habits and beliefs are mined, herded and stored somewhere to be bought and sold like recyclable waste.

We thought it was all just fun sharing pictures of newborn Jade and Tommy or videos of dancing cats, and having the occasional harmless rant about immigrants or gay people or greenies and lefty politicians.

It was all just secret under the bedsheets fun among friends, wasn’t it?


Everything counts for something in a world that is watched, measured and bartered.

I always thought civil libertarians were hysterical — if I did nothing wrong, I should have nothing to fear from authority.

Now I’m not so sure.

I’ll keep digging the shelter.

Prince Finski is watching me.

He’s panting and smiling.

He knows a lot of things I don’t.

But he doesn’t know he was registered last week.

The authorities have his number, they know where he lives and what colour he is.

That’s why he’s coming into the shelter with me and going off grid.

Over and out.

John Lewis is chief of staff at The News.

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