Birthdays, Big Brother, and a Blast from the Past

Carol A. Hand

Do you notice the images when you sign onto Google? I often do, but I don’t often click on them. When I first signed on this morning to check the weather and the news, I really didn’t pay attention. But when I signed on again later, I was intrigued by the birthday cake and cupcakes. “Hmm,” I thought. “I wonder – What famous person was born on the same day as me?” When I ran my curser over the image, a message appeared “Happy Birthday Carol!” When I clicked on the image it took me to a page with information about me, including the two videos I posted on Youtube a while ago.


Photo Credit: Google Image – February 20, 2015

On one level, I’m amused. My granddaughter, Ava, and I laughed about the messages and watched one of the videos – a “blast from the past.” But on another level, I find it creepy that the date of my birth that wasn’t shared with Facebook triggered a personal message on Google. It’s the principle, really. I don’t feel a need to be invisible or hide what I think or what I’ve done in my life.

Here’s a link to the video in case you’re curious.

I do wonder how many others have received a birthday greeting from Google…

42 thoughts on “Birthdays, Big Brother, and a Blast from the Past

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    1. Thank you for your comments, Barbara. It does put US surveillance of ordinary citizens in a whole new light for me. But I’m more amused than concerned at the moment. At least the page I found about myself said most of the information was private, whatever that means…


  1. Happy Birthday Carol!

    It always amazes me that how people think it is okay to verbally abuse someone else ínstead of having a open dialogue about an issue. I am always appauled when I hear women being called phyche cases, whores and worse. It doesn’t matter if it is over seeking medical attention. I applaude that you calmly stick to your convictions. That is the only way to create change.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for watching the video, Honey, and for your important comments. I’m grateful for the reporter who dared shared the voice messages on prime-time news. It made a huge difference in terms of raising the awareness of state decision makers and legislators about the importance of the issue.


      1. We have a weekly program that finds internets trolls and confronts them on their voice messages, texts or post. It is a good way to shame them or in extreme cases it leads to arrests. I think it is a good message that those types of behavior is not socially acceptable.
        You made progress by getting them school to change the native american emblem to a more appropriate picture.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Your internet program sounds useful!

          (One thing I find interesting about the backlash for women who are assertive is the use of epithets like “bitch” or “whore.” I honestly can’t think of any male equivalents…)

          Liked by 1 person

        2. I know what you mean. I don’t know how many times I have had this conversation with my husband. I have pointed this out to him, when he reads such post from his facebook page.

          Character assasinations are the tactic used often to dismiss the voice of reason. I just wish people would see how transparent this tactic is and actually listen to the persons message that is being attacked.

          Liked by 1 person

        3. Honey, thank you for sharing such important insights about the use of ad hominem attacks in place of rationality for those who are not willing (or able) to think clearly enough and present their point of view based on credible evidence and well-reasoned arguments.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. I can see how you feel. I think you can contact them online and request that your info be sort of archived or backed further away from the search engines, you can remove yourself from google circles if you are in them, etc.
    I don’t see google as handmaidens for spying, but I could be wrong. They have software programs that are there to serve you and search for media messages about you, birthdays etc. They don’t need your birthday data for nefarious purposes. Google CEO didn’t meet with Obama in San Fran a few days ago because of his administration’s mining of citizen’s online data. Plus google makes me so much smarter everyday. I no longer have to drive to a library and search card catalogues! They took a stand against China and it’s online censorshop. , I like the google guys. I use thier tools for eveything from cooking, to trip planning, to bird identification. That said I fully respect your different feelings, and your right to try and exert some control of the info you put out into the world wide web.
    Oh, and Happy Birthday!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I so appreciate your thoughtful comments, Cindy. I also appreciate learning more about the ethical stance of Google executives.

      I too appreciate Google – I must use it hundreds of times every day to research everything from definitions to translations to specific topics like child welfare or Catholic boarding schools. I’m not concerned personally as much as I am on the principle of collecting (and sharing) information that really has no purpose other than more tightly targeted marketing. (I’m also concerned about shifts in leadership. Benign, well-intentioned executives who have access to so much information can always be replaced by those who are not so benign.)


  3. Happy Birthday. But I didn’t click on the video. I’ll respect your privacy! This really does creep me out. Even more than the ads — often entirely and amusingly inappropriate — that pop up on my screen based on keywords from emails and posts I’ve written.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Happy Happy Birthday to you! I noticed that items I’m watching on Ebay are showing up in google ads on my teaching blog too – the google spies are friggin’ everywhere! Let’s keep them busy reading with good writing!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dear Lara/Trace, thank you so much for your lovely birthday greeting. And I like your suggestion for dealing with “spies” – keep writing things that may raise their awareness 🙂


  5. As for myself, I don’t use Google. Nope. I sold my soul to Bing. They have prettier pictures and pay better. It’s how I buy my ebooks you know.

    In any regard, privacy is an illusion. A dossier is maintained on everyone, everywhere. But of course you know this.


    Liked by 3 people

    1. I appreciate birthday wishes from friends like you a great deal, Peter! (but Google?) I don’t know much about Bing – I’m a bit of a techno dinosaur. If I knew more I’m sure I would be far more concerned about my dossier – so here’s to overcoming whatever weaknesses and fears that can be exploited 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. To me, this goes way beyond creepy. It is symptomatic of the all-too-real era of Big Brother where corporatism reigns supreme and individuality is subordinated. But, perhaps we Americans deserve this because not enough of us are standing up against it (where are you, Millennials?). The NSA, CIA, and the rest of the military-industrial complex is literally exercising the power of life and death over us. Massive globalized corporations have reduced human beings to mindless automatons who work and consume for only one purpose – to enrich and empower their masters. It’s sickening.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Such important observations, Robert. I do agree that ordinary citizens are not valued for anything other than what they buy or produce that’s of value to corporations, or as cannon fodder to fight endless wars to secure new resources and peoples to exploit. Yet within that oppressive context, we can still say what we think for what it’s worth, try to raise awareness, and create a kinder local space in our virtual and “real” communities. Of course, this could just be me seeing the world through foggy vision…

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Jeff. I appreciate your kind words. The Google greeting actually made my granddaughter, Ava, laugh with delight – so in the moment, it had a positive impact in the short-term. It also made me realize just how pervasive (invasive) the corporate reach really is – a longer term gift of sorts. I do appreciate the new (to me) search engine you shared 🙂


  7. Happy birthday, Carol, and many happy returns. Hopefully without google’s unsolicited messages.
    I wish you a lovely day with your loved ones.

    This was a big surprise to me. I know that even when we set for privacy on social media, there is no such thing as total privacy, as we are connected with the algorithms that record our ‘fingerprints’ in the internet highway. To make use of it, is scary.
    On another note I learnt yesterday that NSA together with the British GCHQ have stollen from a Dutch company called GEMALTO the decryption keys that give access to all SIM cards in the world.
    Talking about privacy!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for the lovely birthday wishes, Lucile 🙂

      The information about cell phone and social media vulnerability is serious – thank you for sharing it! Dr. Bramhall’s comment also mentioned other projects to mine data from many sources, including blog posts: I honestly didn’t realize how widespread this breech of privacy is when I wrote this post. Still, I doubt that this knowledge will change what I post, and I know it won’t affect who I count among my friends…


    1. Thank you for the birthday wishes, Carol. It seems that most of the friends who commented on this post found Google’s birthday message creepy. Perhaps it was intended to either foster arrogance or fear – or maybe it was just an attempt to make someone’s day. I may never know…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m sure it was meant to be positive & perhaps to the permanently connected younger generations, it is. I feel like Google, Amazon, Facebook, etc all overreach a bit in their quest to perfect their customization

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Stuart, these are such important resources! Thank you for sharing them. I suppose it’s possible that I’m on a watch list given some of my friends and my political views, but I doubt that Google’s birthday wish will make me afraid or change what I decide to write or post. (I hope they enjoyed the story about my horseback riding experiences… )


  8. I didn’t receive one for my last birthday, but should I expect one this year? It’s true we have here, so maybe that’s the difference (for now). Creepy… I don’t like it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for sharing your perspective, Shery. Interesting that Canada has a different version of Google. Because my granddaughter was with me on my birthday and was so delighted with the message on my computer, I decided it was probably benign. Yet two of the people who commented on this post shared links about internet surveillance. Who knows? If it really is a warning, it’s too later for me now, so why worry? Anyway, what I write and who I am are so unimportant in the larger scheme of things I can’t imagine why anyone would bother spying on me…


      1. Well, I’m pretty sure that there is surveillance going on. Like you though, I figure out they already know what they know about me, so I’ll keep on sharing my musings!

        Liked by 2 people

  9. Your birthday didn’t come up on my google Carol, so I missed it. 🙂 Belated regards. On a more serious note, I am saddened and angered by the racism that is so prevalent, denied and lied about. Thank you for your speaking out against this colonial attitude. Sometimes I feel ashamed when I hear people talk about “Indians”, and as many times that I say to people I’m offended by what they say, as many times I stay silent. I live on Vancouver Island, and the City of Nanaimo still celebrates an annual holiday weekend they still call Empire Days. They refuse to change the name to Commonwealth Days. Within this folly, leaders from First Nations who are speaking out with truth and clarity are called ‘poor sports” at best, and much worse, as you were. One thing for sure – it must have been very wonderful for your grand child to see you speak out with such courage. Whom would have thunk Big Brother could do us such favours? Take good care Carol… peace and love to you – Bruce

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for your thoughtful comments, Bruce. I appreciate your compassion for First Nations Peoples. It’s hard to know when speaking out will make a positive difference, and when it will only strengthen prejudice and anger. I’m grateful to know that there are amazing people like you who are caring, respectful and supportive.


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