Number 3A, Facebook
This might seem like a rather strange thing to be grateful for, but I actually really like Facebook. I can hear my cousin laughing at me as I say this, since for years I was a Facebook refusenik, determined not to sign up on principle because I distrusted their attitude to privacy. I have to say that I still don’t trust them, but I also feel that ship has kind of sailed, with dozens of organisations collecting data on us all of the time, so that it’s virtually impossible to live your life without Big Data knowing a heck of a lot about you.
And to be fair to Facebook, the data-leaking thing that has most annoyed me over the last couple of years since I got on Facebook, is nothing to do with Facebook. Around two years ago I was in a minor car accident when I was rear-ended while turning right at some lights. Minor damage to the car, no damage to me, his insurers eventually admitted liability and coughed up, very little harm done. But since then, I’ve had several hundred phone calls (I do not exaggerate) from various organisations with names such as “Motor Claims Bureau”, Claims Adjusting Office” and “Outstanding Claims Advisors”, all telling me that there is a payout of around three thousand pounds waiting for me if I claim for whiplash damage.
I can usually recognise these calls, partly by the way they begin (“Hello, am I speaking to Miss Jennings?”), and partly, I regret to say, because the person speaking normally has an accent which is from outside the South East of England. This is indicative I suspect of the fact that people in the South East normally have sufficient choice of employment not to have to take such a soul-destroying job as pestering people to put in fraudulent personal injury claims so that the organisation which is exploiting them can take a cut.
I usually just put the phone down on these poor souls but on occasion when feeling frisky I have engaged them in conversation. My best attempt was a sort of Fenella Fielding-esque seductive purr along the lines of “Oooh, it sounds WONDERFUL! What a nice young man you are to telephone and tell me about it. Do tell me how you know? Oh, it sounds VERY complicated! What a CLEVER young man you must be to know all this. Do tell me your name. Ooooh, Adrian. Oh, that’s a VERY nice name!” I was in the office at the time, and by time he twigged that he was being wound up and put the phone down, poor thing, I had a small audience of colleagues, all mildly hysterical.
The good thing about that particular episode was that after it the calls stopped completely for about two months and have never attained their old frequency, presumably because my details now have “Warning! Nutter!” next to them in large letters. My point, however, is that this really monstrous breach of my privacy (I may have handed over my telephone number to my motor insurers but I certainly never gave them or anyone else permission to sell it on to a variegated bunch of shysters operating on the grey fringes of both legal and moral acceptability) came about without any activity on my part and not because I had a Facebook account but because I took out motor insurance with that famously dodgy outfit, the Cooperative Society. In the light of this it really seemed a bit daft to continue worrying about Facebook since the privacy horse had, to mangle a metaphor, already sailed.