The other day I was reading an article on how reporters pry on the privacy of movie stars or other celebrities. The reporters apparently lie in wait for wardrobe malfunction to make it a full blown news. The targets are normally (actually, only) female celebrities. The author of the article was putting across the point that even celebrities have a right to privacy and that, like common people, they should also be given their personal space.
The thought of the author made me thinking. The thinking led me to a discussion with a friend on the topic of privacy. How private is our private lives anyway? At any given point, how many of the people in the world know where we are, who we are with, what we doing, what we are eating, sometimes, what we are talking? Now, most of you would say “how can anyone else know what we are doing? No one knows. Our private life is private.”
Yes, of course you would think like that. Either you don’t know or don’t care how much the technology has developed over the period of time and the era we are living currently has so much technology around us that even the air buzzes of electricity around us. Let us start with a small example. Take a look at your smartphone. Maybe you are reading this blog on your smartphone or maybe it is right next to your laptop/desktop. Take it in your hand and actually look at it. It has a GPS system inbuilt. It is linked to your Facebook and Gmail account. It is linked to Twitter, LinkedIn and all kinds of other social networking apps.
Now just look at the word I just used – Social Networking App. What does the word tell you? It is an app used to network socially – NETWORK being the key word. You are in a network with your friends. You share a lot of things on these networking sites. We are used to updating our location, the people we are with, what we are eating, what we are drinking, now even what we are feeling. We share it all without a second of thought in our mind on all the people who has access to it. “But I have activated all kinds of privacy provided by these apps” you say. “No one except for my friends can see all my activity” you say. Have you read some of the latest articles coming on news these days about internet security and how anything we put on net is not safe anymore?
Every single thing you upload on any of these networking sites is tracked. Not only your friends (or should I say, the people in your friends list), but also anyone else who can hack into the database can get those data. Another fact remains that these days we accept just about anyone into our friends list, thereby giving them access to our private data. Hence, I can safely say that no matter where you are, someone is always watching you – your movements, your friends, your actions, your locations – everything is tracked at any given point of time.
Now that is about the social networking sites. Coming to all the various apps we install in our phones today, if you have noticed, every single one of them shows a “Terms and Conditions” window before or immediately after you log in for the first time. Unless you accept those “Terms and Conditions”, you cannot more forward and work on those apps. Most of us are either very eager or very lazy to read those conditions. I confess, even I don’t read them at all. Among the lot of conditions mentioned there, there is a tiny line saying we are allowing the app to share our location as and when required. Every single app shares our location to the server. Not only our location, but also what we chose in those apps, and hence our preferences on any of the apps we are downloading. Even the apps we are downloading via play store are tracked by Google, apart from our searches on Google. Google maps, Google play store, Gmail, Google+, Google Search Engine and so much more – Google alone has a lot of apps to keep track of every single person in this world.
Every single one of us is profiled up in Google database which is used to track our likes, preferences and choices. The ads that play next to Gmail are reflection of those stored profiles of us. Not only that, some of us have put in our cell numbers in the Gmail account as a backup for password change or for other security purposes. Even those numbers are saved and used for profiling and sending texts to our numbers.
Recently I came across a site that says these profiles can be legally sold off to ad agencies, which can then be used for…. I will leave the rest to your imagination. Everything we do on the internet, every contact we save, every mail we send, every status we upload, every app we download, every YouTube video we watch, every site we view, every key word we searched, everything is stored in Google and can be viewed by anyone LEGALLY. And this is true, no matter which part of the Universe you are. As long as you are connected to World Wide Web (which is the full form of www.), we are tracked, profiled and categorized to be made money out of.
Here I would like to add a small example I came across some time back (I have to mention “some time back” because that is the first time I realized we are being tracked and how far we are being tracked). A lady went to her gynecologist for her regular check-up. Her results were due the next day but due to some reason she couldn’t go to collect the reports. However, since morning of her report due date, she started getting calls, texts, emails and flyers of maternity products, baby products, maternity advices and so on. She was confused as to the sudden appearances of these ads. Later when she went to collect her report, she realized she was pregnant. The results were logged into the hospital system which was connected to the server. The server was tracked by some ad agencies, who managed to get this done. The hospital authorities were notified and necessary actions were “promised to be taken”. But how creepy would that be? The ad agency knowing you are pregnant even before you came to know.
So here, we are under the illusion that our private life is private. We believe that, just because we do not have an account in any networking site we cannot be tracked. But our searches on Google, our smart phones, our apps, and various other things are tracked. No matter how much we try and avoid being under the scanner, the size of the world is shrinking and the range of Uncle Sam’s vision is creeping in the shadows too. There is no such thing as privacy anymore. Gone are the days when things behind closed doors remained behind closed doors. Today doors (even firewall) are just an illusion.
You can take it as the fact that even you are a celebrity now and even you are given your moment of fame by someone being interested in your life at any given point of time. Or you can realize that you are being stalked without your permission. Either way, the fact remains unchanged.
There is not much that can be done now. We are too much dependent on technology that we just cannot live without it, no matter what the difficulties are. But we can surely try to restrict the information we save into the database and avoid the intensity of being profiled. All we can do now is to be careful. Close off the cookies wherever possible. Try downloading only those apps you feel are safe. Search for more methods to keep your life to yourselves (I confess even I do not know much about how to increase our own security)
Be careful of what you log into the server. Be careful of your activities. There is not much to be done now. But you can still be careful. Because LOOK OUT!!! Uncle Sam is Watching!!!
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