Two years ago, I published a book. Granted, it was a little book. My friends and family seemed to like it and a few folks bought it. While Terribly Strange and Wonderfully Real never made the New York Times best sellers list, it was created with my labor and I paid to publish it. So why is someone offering a free download of my work?
I know this because I received a Google Alert via email that said:
I clicked on it to see what on earth it was and got this page:
[GAzoP.ebook] Terribly Strange and Wonderfully Real On Belonging Loving Evolving Advocating Musing and Letting Go By Laurie Levy
Free Download : Terribly Strange and Wonderfully Real: On Belonging, Loving, Evolving, Advocating, Musing, and Letting Go,Discover “Laura Penn Pens – Terribly Strange and Wonderfully Real: On Belonging, Loving, Evolving, Advocating, Musing,and Letting Go” and download the books in the following form.
Free Download Here
I left the typos in (emphasis mine) because, as you will see later, there is something very fishy/phishy going on here. At this point, I suspected I had already gone a click too far, so I didn’t test the links to see if someone was actually giving away my book as a free download. I googled GAzoP.ebook. Of course, it didn’t exist. When I contacted CreateSpace, my publisher, I was told that they had no affiliation with whatever this entity was. I was advised to contact that website. Hard to do if it isn’t “real.” CreateSpace went on to warn me, “some websites, otherwise known as phishing websites, list content they do not have and offer free downloads as a way to entice customers into providing secure customer information.”
Check out some of the text that followed in the offer of my book for free:
By Mar |Really enjoyed – and related to – this wonderful book of essays. It could also be titled, “Terribly Real and Wonderfully Strange.” There’s something in here foreveryone – life with all its foibles…laughter one minute, tears the next…Young, middle-aged or “senior“, you will lov In 1967, she sang along with Paul McCartney, wondering whatlife would be like when she turned sixty-four. Now, at age seventy, Laurie Levy doesn’t listen to that song anymore. After all, she’s far from the old fogey described in the Beatles’ lyrics. Following a lifetime of experience, she remains aneducator, innovator, and advocate for a variety of causes. But after seventy years of experience on this earth, she knows one thing for sure: Th you can download free book and read [GAzoP.ebook] Terribly Strange and Wonderfully Real On Belonging Loving Evolving Advocating Musing and Letting Go By Laurie Levy for free here. Do you want to search free download [GAzoP.ebook] TerriblyStrange and Wonderfully Real On Belonging Loving Evolving Advocating Musing and Letting Go By Laurie Levy or free read online? If yes you visit a website that really true. If you want to download this ebook, i provide downloads as a pdf, kindle,word, txt, ppt, rar and zip.
What? Once again, emphasis mine. This was definitely written by someone whose first language is not English who cut and pasted from the Amazon description of my book. I now had two explanations for this, both bad. Someone was using my book to entice folks to click on a link that would steal their personal data. Or someone had actually stolen my book.
I’ve been attending lectures at Northwestern University on the media, technology, and social behavior, so I decided to ask one of the lecturers about my small problem. After all, he was young, had worked for Facebook, and had been talking to an audience of seniors about the wild, wild west of the online world. We had just learned about scraping data. It could be done with evil intent – think Cambridge Analytica. Or it could be done by researchers like him trying to understand online social behavior.
All of our personal information is out there. It has happened to every one of us, even those who are not posting on Facebook. If you are “friends” with a Facebook user, they have your personal data. If you search on Google or buy things on Amazon or use a mobile devise, your data is being used to target ads to you, decide what news you read, and shape your “truth.”
In case you are wondering what the lecturer advised about my stolen book, he shrugged as if to say what do you expect? This is today’s world. Could be anything. Call Google. Right. If you can find a way to contact Google, please let me know. My problem is not part of the frequently asked questions on Google’s help section, and there is no one to call or email. I’m left feeling a bit like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz when is realizes there is no real wizard behind that curtain.
There are things we all could do to make our information more private. In Say no to defaults. A clickable guide to fixing the complicated privacy settings from Facebook, Google, Amazon, Microsoft, and Apple, Geoffrey Fowler reminds us, “On the Internet, the devil’s in the defaults.” You know. Those “terms and conditions” we all click “agree” to so we can get where we want to go online. Fowler contends that 95% of us are too busy or confused to enter the world of privacy settings. But he promises that it will only take me 15 minutes to get better control of my data. I was going to give it a whirl this morning, but Comcast is down and I have no access to the Internet and no more time today. Maybe tomorrow?
While I am temporarily deprived of an Internet connection, I can still use Word on my computer. Thus, I am writing this little rant about my book. I wrote Terribly Strange and Wonderfully Real because I had retired, my mother had died, and I was about to turn 70. I wanted to share the thoughts I had about life and my opinions about a wide variety of topics from the perspective of a baby boomer who has been a passionate advocate for many causes throughout her life. My book is a highly personal labor of love. And someone, somewhere is using it as click bait or actually giving it away.