Most people probably don’t buy more than about one refrigerator every decade or so. This past summer, for reasons too long to explain, I bought a couple of big ones within a couple days of each other. It was after that I began noticing that advertisements for refrigerators were popping up on just about everything coming over the Internet. Same thing now. Earlier this month, I flew to Seoul via Tokyo for the first time in my life. Now I get digital advertising for flights to Seoul and Tokyo showing up all over the place, including emails. I’m noticing it, but I don’t get it. In these instances, I am being subjected to advertising aimed at my past actions. Yet the smarty pants who write code for algorithms and analytics or whatever – don’t go getting too technical on me – are doing a good job tracking my past behavior, but not in predicting it. The same thing applies to many of the incoming emails here. Not a day goes past that I do not at some point say to myself: “What part of ‘Food Safety News’ do they not understand?” You see, as best as I can tell, many people in the public relations game are also using smarty pants algorithms and analytics to choose their email targets. So we get as many “food” and “safety” pitches as we do proposals about “food safety.” That means I spend a growing part of every day sorting through emails about new foods, chefs trying to be relevant, or the latest on Greek olives or trends that food critics should watch for in the new year. We hear a lot from the TSA and OSHA, safety agencies that rarely have anything to do with food. I could go on and on with examples. We get daily updates from the rebels in Syria, the unions protesting at fast food outlets, and whatever latest thing the vegans are up to. As I hit the delete button over and over every day, I wonder if I should be trying to get off more email distribution lists. By staying on their lists, they might start thinking we are interested and we aren’t. I opt out of an email list once or twice a week, but end up being added to 10 others. As much as I don’t like it, Google and the National Security Agency (NSA) are tracking my purchases and travels. I don’t really think about it much, mostly because it would make my head explode. With Google, my mindset is to just not take it personally. I use it to compare a couple of products or check a flight schedule, and those specific ads begin to roll in. It’s all just about those algorithms and analytics working, not some real person somewhere specifically looking at my information. Still, it’s creepy and more disturbing when it’s the NSA. My New Year’s resolution is to carve out some time to implement some security protocols in 2014. I think we should all resolve not to make it so easy for them. We give up too much without a fight. At the same time, I don’t have high expectations. One of the first computer consultants I ever used told me to say nothing in an email that I would not write on a postcard because anyone along the line can read it. Having grown up in a small town, I know there is a limit to privacy. In that small town, nobody ever locked their doors, but we did close shades. Like I said, we don’t need to make it easy for them.