Sitting at the dinner table tonight, my wife, my mother, and I were discussing the incredible intrusion into our private lives coming from many different directions. The examples below come from three average middle class people just thinking about the things we have had happen to us or have heard about from close friends. If you think our society is to the point where we have no privacy now, wait until you see the future.
Below are seven different topics we discussed demonstrating uninvited intrusion into our private lives.
7. Hello, Do I know you?
I am sure you have received unsolicited phone calls, even if you are on the Government’s Do-Not-Call-List (https://www.donotcall.gov). In 2015, the scam calls started originating from numbers with a local area code, which ultimately resulted in me no longer answering any calls from people not in my contact list. This year I started noticing something even more intrusive. The calls show as originating from phone numbers just slightly different from the real numbers of people in my contacts list. For example, my boss’ phone number ends in 1509, and I received a call from what looked like his number, only it ended in 1590. This has happened multiple times with variations on different numbers in my contact list.
What does this mean? Out in the world somewhere people are passing out lists of our phone numbers, mine and yours, along with the phone numbers of people on our contact lists. The scammers are then using this information to attempt to trick us into answering their calls. The Future? It won’t be long before they figure out how to make our spouse’s name show up on caller ID when they call.
6. Where did they get my Facebook account information?
Although I have a Facebook page I used many years ago, I don’t even log in any more to see who wishes me happy birthday. I have become much more careful about the browser I use, eliminating Internet Explorer and Chrome altogether, while keeping anti-virus and malware updates current. I have a sticky note over the computer’s camera and sit behind a VPN at all times. I even refuse to upgrade to Windows 10 or provide my location to sites asking for it. I was surprised yesterday when visiting a random website, which I had no account with and had never been to before, to see my Facebook featured photo pop up.
What? How in the world did they know who I am without me being logged in or sharing any information? Where did I authorize the computer I am on to provide any personal information to the site, and how did the site get enough information to find my exact account? That is absurd. Where can I buy a computer that I can depend on not to share my information? The Future? We will start receiving Emails, texts and mail with ads from the sites we visit without ever providing email addresses, street addresses or phone numbers.
5. What do Roomba & Pokemon GO have in common?
I recently thought about buying a Roomba… you know, those little vacuum cleaners that wander around your house sucking up stuff off your floors while you do something more fulfilling. I am glad I did not buy one. It turns out Roomba is collecting more than your dust.
As Roomba Cleans Your Floors, It’s Gathering Maps of Your House (http://www.latimes.com/business/technology/la-fi-tn-roomba-map-20170725-story.html).
That’s right, the wireless versions of the Roomba are mapping your house while they clean it, and the company is selling that information to whoever pays for it.
Last year it was discovered the popular mobile game Pokemon GO was also gathering information about the inside of private residences as players walked around their homes with the cameras on.
If you go to Google Maps today you can already take a virtual trip down your street and see where you live from the outside. I can even see my back yard. The Future? It may already be a reality… people, including thieves and government agencies, will be able to virtually walk into your front door. When you move, if the previous owners had a Roomba, it will already be too late to keep people from entering your home using VR.
4. Lingerie sale on aisle five.
My niece was shopping at a local hobby store a few weeks ago named Michael’s. She left the store without buying anything. When she returned home and got on her computer, not only were the ads being shown to her from Michael’s, the merchandise she was seeing in the ads was the same she had been looking at in the store. That can only mean her phone was reporting her exact location to some unknown application, down to the exact aisle in the store.
I am guessing that is her fault for downloading an application she did not know was tracking her and for providing an email address to that application. We should all be very careful about giving access to the location services on our phone to any application. Why should you be concerned? Do you go to church? How do you feel about people who don’t agree with your beliefs having access to information showing where you worship?
The Future? Your iPhone won’t ask you for permission. It will simply track you and report your whereabouts to whoever pays, even if you don’t turn on your location services.
3. Who is in your car with you?
I am not 100% sure how accurate the scenarios on the recent CBS series ‘Hunted’ (http://www.indiewire.com/2016/12/hunted-cbs-fugitive-competition-series-1201761186/) were, but I can tell you it made time spent in my car a lot less comfortable. In that series, teams of fugitives were sent out to attempt to avoid the hunters. These hunters had access to state-of-the-art tracking data such as cell phone records and private ownership information. What I thought was disturbing was how they were able to use facial recognition from data gathered by the cameras you see on every Stop Light in America to find many of the fugitives. I have not done anything wrong, but I have started riding with my sun visors all the way forward to try to avoid the cameras. It is nobody’s business where I am going.
They can put your picture into their software and watch everywhere you go. Better not take your female coworker to lunch if your spouse’s sister works at the police station. Planning to attend the local gun show? The cameras are outside the doors recording pictures of everyone going in. ATMs are recording you as well.
The Future? If it is not already a reality, everywhere everyone goes will be recorded based on their facial features, and simply putting in a name will show everywhere you have ever been.
2. Who is in your Hotel Room with you?
I live in an American city known for its large National Security Agency presence. Thousands of military intelligence personnel have moved here in the last five years, and I have gotten to know some of them quite well. On a long car ride a couple months ago I asked one of these gentleman what he was working on. He claimed to have an entire team whose job was working with many hotel chains across the country so each of their rooms can be identified. Do you know the pictures above the bed you never look at twice in your room? Those pictures are used to actually make millions of rooms unique across the country. Using these pictures, videos or photos from within the rooms posted to Facebook or Instagram can quickly be tied to the exact location.
In addition, a separate team on the same floor is working on software which can try millions of combinations for passwords within seconds. Are you using something like Q1w2e3r4 as a password (take a look at your keyboard to see the pattern)? These password patterns are high on their list to be tried.
The Future? A database of high-definition pictures of every public wall, ceiling or sidewalk in the world will make finding the location where a photograph was taken as simple as matching the small pit marks and swirls with their online archive.
1. Government Intervention into my Finances
Nothing makes me more irritated and concerned than knowing the United States Government tracks and monitors every financial transaction. I can’t believe most people do not have a problem with this. We live in a land once synonymous with freedom and known for open markets, yet if we deposit or withdraw a few thousand dollars in cash to buy an old used car, the bank is required to notify the federal government. Our only opportunity to remain anonymous when making a purchase is to use cash since all credit card and online transactions are kept where they can be inspected.
If the government and bankers have their way though, cash will soon be a thing of the past. We would be forced to make purchases electronically for everything, which means every cent we make and spend would be traceable. They claim banning cash will keep people from money laundering or buying drugs. That’s ridiculous. People will find a way around it. The only reason to get rid of cash is to be able to monitor you and me, the rule following, tax paying people… and in a cashless society, if the people in charge for the next four years don’t like what we are saying about them? Our financial assets could be reduced to zero with the push of a computer key.
You may disagree, but in my opinion, what I am buying to eat is none of their business. If I choose to spend my money on solar panels, it is none of their business. If I choose to sell a cow to my neighbor or hold a yard sale, it is none of their business. If I choose to buy Bitcoin or gold, it is none of their business. If I choose to take my dollars and leave the country, it is none of their business.
In other words, leave me alone. Get your own financial problems in order before worrying about mine. Me, and ninety-five percent of the tax paying public, will play by your rules as long as they are not overly burdensome and we choose to live here, but we are not your servants. The more restrictions you place on us, the more likely we are going to fight back or find ways around them.
The Future: Each person will have an account tied to a microchip implant. Wave your hand in front of a sensor at any store, and the transaction will be completed instantly, and saved in a database for others to see. This data will be sold to marketing firms and stolen by hackers.
We are living in a time where we have less and less freedom, even in the land of the free. Ten years ago if you talked about the government taking your picture every mile as you drove or mapping the inside of your house you would have been labeled a conspiracy theorist. Not today. As concerning as they are, these are only a few of the ways we are being watched, and this is only the beginning. In the near future quantum computers will make it possible to process data thousands of times more quickly than today, and there will be no restrictions on how much data can be collected and analyzed. In other words, things are not going to get any better while the powers-that-be continue to increase the amount of funding spent tracking our every move.
Sadly, there is little we can do. Things are too far advanced, and the President we-the-people elected to change the direction this country is going in does not appear as concerned as he was on the campaign trail.
I would love to hear your guesses as to what the future holds. Today’s conspiracy theories are tomorrow’s reality. Also, how have you seen your personal privacy violated? Please comment below.