Living in the Plastic Age

There is no denying that we live in a culture of consumerism, but is that necessarily a bad thing? While corporate sponsorships can tend to be garish, or even downright baffling, global markets, online shopping, and technology have made life immeasurably convenient. Want a piece of handmade art? Go to Etsy. Need a ride somewhere in a hurry? Check out Lyft. Need just about anything else? Just log in to Amazon and shop away.

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Speaking of Amazon, the online mega-retailer that wants to send your goods via drone has also received a patent to ship items before you order them. Amazon’s “anticipatory shipping” uses a combination of your browsing history, previous orders, and even how much time your mouse cursor hovers over an item.

Once Amazon decides you are likely to purchase something, the item is shuffled between distribution centers to minimize shipping time to the end users. The idea should work in theory and it would be mostly invisible to customers, but what if your correlated data is stolen in a hacking incident? Criminals could have access to your whole life.

If you think you can escape the clutches of hackers by avoiding online shopping, you better start paying in cold hard cash. Target, Neiman Marcus, and craft-store Michael’s have all been recent victims of a sophisticated hacking ring. The hackers used malware embedded in the store’s credit card readers to steal the information of over 100 million customers, and the FBI warns of future attacks.

For the foreseeable future, it seems like any purchases made with credit cards are at risk of identity theft. Have you changed your shopping habits due to recent events?

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