Privacy: Myth or Reality?

Photo by    Glen Carrie    on    Unsplash

Photo by Glen Carrie on Unsplash

I see you… Yeah, I see that, too. You can’t hide, so don’t even try. Resistance is futile.

Maybe I can’t ACTUALLY see you right this second, but if you think that “someone” isn’t keeping an eye on you and your habits, then your head is way too far in the sand. Let’s see if you can answer in the positive to any of the following scenarios in your own life:

  • Do you have a “smart”, internet-connected device anywhere in your house, your office or in your car? Nest, Alexa, Google Home, among others?

  • Do you shop on the internet? Amazon, Walmart, eBay, for example?

  • Do you have at least one social media account that you use to post about your own life or browse the content others post? Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, to name a few?

  • Do you have a smartphone with a camera and/or “Siri” or “Google” listening on it?

All of those things enable lots of different people to cyber-spy on you. The least invasive type of privacy invasion in our world today is advertisers using your browsing habits to promote ads that are more relevant to you. Think of this as “Privacy Invasion Lite”. While it’s annoying, and you can probably avoid much of the invasion by using a browser in private mode and the like, it’s also likely that this type of cyber-spying produces a more interesting and useful web browsing experience for you. So in general people don’t view this type of spying as super problematic, mostly just a minor annoyance.

The other end of the spectrum, also known as “super-freaking-scary-as-heck-full-on-invasion-of-my-whole-life”, is much harder to track down and prevent. In our office at Raika Technologies headquarters, we had a verbal conversation about a product that one of us purchased recently. One of the other people in the room had never heard of this product before, and therefore had never used his computer or phone to search on it. His phone and computer were present in the room while we discussed the product, and a little while later, as he was browsing the web, he started seeing ads for the product we had just been discussing.

Freaky? Yeah, no kidding. Somehow his computer or his phone was literally listening to the conversation we had and that prompted these other channels he was participating on to deliver ads relevant to that conversation. Our colleague was understandably confused, and it led to a discussion about whether we could prove that our computers and cell phones and other “smart” devices absolutely are listening, whether they say they are or not.

The problem with setting up that experiment came down to this: How do you, for certain, remove any device or source that could be “listening”? We would not have thought that just having a computer or phone in the same room would mean someone was able to overhear our conversation, but obviously we were wrong. So would it be enough to lock yourself in a sound-proof booth, without a phone, computer, or anything electronic? And how would you come up with the product or topic you’d discuss? If it’s not something you’ve heard of before, and not something you’ve researched, how can you talk about something that you’re certain won’t show up because of some other method?

We will be posting a podcast on this topic later in the week, and it was a very interesting conversation with lots of little creepy facts and anecdotes brought to light. How much do you feel your privacy is infringed upon in the modern age? Do you think you have a right to privacy that is being violated without your consent? How do younger generations who have grown up with social media view privacy? Do they see it as a right, like past generations, or is that slowly changing? Ask questions and post your thoughts in the comments!

And if you’re feeling wigged out right now, then I’ve done my job well… Boo!