Counterpoint by Scott Freeman My computer is the spy in the room


I have just taken delivery of a new computer. Just as well as it happens – otherwise there may have been no Counterpoint this week.

The new, ludicrously expensive, machine, does everything swiftly, effortlessly, without interrupting my work to inform me that there is an important update to my software that requires I restart now. I don’t mind being kept abreast of the latest technological developments but it took so long to fire up my old laptop that there was time to brew – and drink – a pot of tea.

And no sooner had you reluctantly agreed to an upgrade than you were told you must accept about 10,000 words of ‘terms and conditions’ before you could use it.

If, like me, you are on the computer because you want to DO SOMETHING you have no option but to agree to page after page of tiny scripted legal mumbo-jumbo.

It seems by clicking ‘accept’ you are immediately giving the software firm rights to empty your bank account and sell you daughters into slavery.

Well, you didn’t check did you? No more did I.

It came as no surprise this week to hear that computer users have been unwittingly granting free access to these cyber bullies to all kinds of private information.

What grieves me is that for 20 years I have been steadfastly refusing to carry a supermarket loyalty card because I know what they do with the information collected in return for offering a couple of quids’ worth of vouchers which sit in the back of your wallet until they are out of date.

I don’t want them to know how much I spend each week on red plonk, that my favourite brand of coffee is fairtrade, that the household consumes inordinate amounts of orange juice and has a penchant for a particular brand of relish. And I certainly do not want it to get out that when Mrs F is working late at the office that I treat myself to a beer, pizza and oven chips.

But the game may be up. My first Google search on my shiny new Giga-buster knows where I live, what my taste in music is and the latest addition to my music collection.