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The Cost of Convenience

It’s surprising how little I think of my daughter now that she’s living 2,000 miles away at school. We talk on the phone frequently, but since she’s not involved in my daily life anymore, she’s more of an abstraction (when we’re not directly talking), a pleasant thought when she crosses my mind.


I figured she was having the same experience I was when she went off to college. The thought of me made her feel glad (or angry, or… since I’m her mother and that comes with mixed feelings), but I didn’t consider she thought of me often in her busy life. So, when I recently had exploratory surgery looking for cancer, I did not realize she even remembered me mentioning the appointment on the phone a couple of weeks ago.


This morning I’m in my office going through my email. I found one from my husband letting me know he and our daughter signed me up for online notifications of my medical records, including test results, last night while I slept. They gave the MyChart app my husband’s phone number and his email because they both know how much I hate putting my data online, never stopping to consider that my husband would be notified of my test results likely before I would by snail mail.


I’ll be getting my test results by snail mail because I do not want my medical information online. I get that it already is, which my daughter reminded me when I came at her full bore with anger on the phone this morning for signing me up without my permission (after coming unglued on my husband).


It isn’t just my medical records that shouldn’t be online, sitting in a cloud, accessible to everyone from Walgreens to United Health Care [insurance]. It makes my skin crawl that almost every time I want to access anything on the net now, the site attaches ‘cookies’ to my machine that track my usage. Many sites require I fill out forms for entry, collecting, aggregating and categorizing even more of my personal data to sell and/or exploit with targeted marketing.


My daughter is on the medical track studying to become a physician. She works as a scribe in a medical practice, and is an intern at Palomar Medical Center and uses MyChart on the job. So do the patients of the practice and the hospital, she assured me. They all love the convenience of being able to look up their medications and/or test results as soon as they’re posted on their e-chart.


She was trying to sell me on the real world, the one she, and most everyone else lives in daily—perpetually attached to the net via cellphones, laptops, and tablets. Banking to paying bills to shopping, my daughter uses these online ‘services’ (which is kind of an oxymoron since these apps make it self-serve), to ‘keep it simple’ while juggling two internships, a job, and a full course load every quarter, including this summer.

Do you understand there is a cost to convenience? I asked her on the phone after she apologized for setting up the account without my permission and promised to delete it when we disconnected.


She did, she assured me. But she really doesn’t. She’s too young, too many generations removed from WWII.


"The Third Reich was a diagnosis regime, obsessed with sorting the population into categories, cataloging people by race, religion, politics, sexuality, criminality and purported biological, mental and behavioral defects. Nazi officials created massive population indexes that compiled individuals’ medical, financial, educational, criminal and welfare records — even sports club files. By 1942, approx. ten million Reich citizens had been indexed. These files, then, established the grounds for sterilization, deportation and extermination." (https://lnkd.in/d9txaahS)


Nothing to hide? I rhetorically asked my daughter on the phone, still admonishing her for signing me up for an online account of my medical information and then giving access to her dad via email. She placated my perceived conspiracy theory with, I get it, Mom! I do. It’s likely dangerous to have all our personal information online, but it already is, Mom.


1942 may as well be 1642 to my daughter, and [ostensibly] most of her gen— too far back to remember or care.


I didn’t care about using internet-based services either until the ‘cloud.’ It was mid-2000s and we were all on the free and open information highway when Amazon introduced its cloud-based storage service, but I didn’t get its impact until my bank started offering SaaS [self] ‘services,’ like Direct Deposit and online payments ‘for our convenience.’ At first I didn’t care about that either, as I had no intention of banking online since putting my bank account numbers through unsecured servers didn’t, and still doesn’t seem wise to me. Banking security is another oxymoron, and my internet connection through Xfinity isn’t exactly an impenetrable firewall.


By the mid-2010s cloud computing had scaled, especially with the advent of the ‘smart’ phone. Bank of America started making it hard to come into their branches in-person, cutting its staff in half and forcing customers to wait in long lines to talk to a teller. Many young people adapted quickly to avoid the hassle the banks created, which left a lot of older folks, and holdouts with old tech cellphones like me, having to wait sometimes 45 minutes to deposit a check.


I had a red slide phone with a real [small] keyboard and no internet connection until 2021 when AT&T switched to 4G and forced me to “upgrade” to a ‘smart’ phone [like the rest of the known universe did a decade earlier]. I’ve yet to enable an internet connection on my new cellphone and don’t use location SaaS apps, ever. I navigate using printed maps or use my memory the second visit to anywhere I’ve been. With my phone offline and not accessing any location services, at least it stops communicating with nearby cell towers so Google and State Farm [car insurance] doesn’t know where I am on the planet (GPS), or how fast I'm driving. They also don’t know whether I’m in my car, or on a plane, through the accelormeter sensor now inside our ‘smart’ phones which detects motion—whether we’re still, walking, biking, driving, flying.


I used to be among the 2+ billion frequent users of Amazon’s marketplace until every bookstore, hardware store, curio, card and gift shop in my neighborhood closed. And while it’s ‘convenient’ to get things delivered to my front door, not so much when it’s snowing out and UPS won’t deliver to our house on the hill and I need a specific tool to fix my irrigation pipe that froze and busted open. I now drive 12 miles, instead of the 3 it used to be before the local hardware store closed. I'm back to buying my tools directly, in-person, as I do for most everything else I shop for now to support the survival of local businesses.


Intellectually, I know I am fighting Goliath with a slingshot trying to retain even a modicum of my privacy from the Content Monster we call the ‘cloud.’ Stalking us everywhere we go IRL, and visit online on our devices, to everything we buy, to our marital status and genetic offspring, corporations have created and continue to create—unobstructed by laws or ethics—“massive population indexes that compiles individuals’ medical, financial, educational, criminal and welfare records — even sports club files,” or lack thereof since most Americans don’t exercise. Insta, Google, FB, TicTok, ChatGPT and every other big data SaaS app out there is “sorting the population into categories, cataloging people by race, religion, politics, sexuality, criminality,” including biological and mental characteristics of behavioral and genetic health.


Many, in fact most large corps these days are marketing us into buying, and believing (religion, politics, social views and values) by targeting their messaging using the very data we give them with every click on a webpage, swipe on a screen, every text or IM, every form we fill out, every poll we take, questionnaire we answer, and every medical exam or procedure we have now is stored on a cloud, and not just one cloud, but many. Redundancy is key in data storage.


I feel like the Borg is trying to assimilate me into submission of my privacy for the convenience of becoming part of the hive—i.e. ‘cloud’[ed] mind, I tried to explain to my daughter on the phone this morning. And the convenience [of self-service] turns out to be for the corps, killing customer service, tying us up in phone loops, and making their mistakes our problems to fix while continually charging our credit cards their monthly fee. So much for the convenience of AutoPay.


Mother, my daughter proclaimed in all seriousness, all our information is already online and in the cloud, or separate clouds that are all connected, or whatever, and there’s nothing any of us can do about it. I signed you up for MyChart last night because I want you to get your test results as soon as they’re posted and then share them with me so I can stop worrying, or, at least know what is going on with you. I love you, Mom, and I feel really scared about your biopsy results.


Heavy sigh. She played the Love card.


Assimilation is hard to resist when delivered by those you love most.

I apologized for making her worry, and again felt surprised that my daughter remembered and was concerned about my biopsy. I promised to tell her the test results as soon as I get them, which is likely a lie, unless they’re good. I’ll need to privately process bad results before making her worry even more.


Regardless of whom I choose to share my biopsy results with, they are mine alone to share, or they should be. The fact is, my insurance company will know if I have cancer before I will. If my doctor prescribes me drugs, Wallgreens will know what kind of cancer before I will by snail mail. Under the Affordable Care Act, my insurance can not charge me more, or exclude coverage for pre-existing conditions, but get another Republican president, and that can change. We’ll go back to leaving diabetics to the disabled uninsured.


My world growing up was much like my parents. In my day, corporations worked for their customers and clients. With the advent of SaaS and the ‘aide’ of apps, we are now all products of these corporations selling us on using technology with the lie of ‘convenience’ while hording our private information to maximize their profits.

Nothing to hide? Nazi Germany won’t ever happen here?

  • Trump, and his millions of minions.

  • Fox ‘News.’ Newsmax. Breitbart...etc.

  • Conservative Christians

  • Catholic Supreme Court (8 out of 9 justices)

  • Neo-Nazis

  • White Nationalists/Supremacists/Warriors

  • ...etc.



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