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The Unreliable Guide To… Privacy

By Nat Shepherd on March 5, 2019 in Other

Big Brother is watching you, by George Orwell

Look around: who is watching you right now? CCTV, a drone, malware in your phone, a spy camera in the light bulb? George Orwell’s powerful warning against totalitarianism, 1984, has been a best seller since Trump weaseled his way into power, but what amazes me about that book is how accurately Orwell predicted our current state of surveillance. He wrote about “telescreens” that “received and transmitted simultaneously” and snooping, drone-like helicopters that peeped through windows. Sound familiar?

What he didn’t anticipate was that we’d voluntarily post everything about ourselves, from who we love to what we’ve had for lunch. Whether it’s on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram or Snapchat, we’re constantly uploading personal data. This not only allows a bewildering variety of third parties to legitimately profile you, it also enables identity theft, blackmail and online bullying. But fear not, The Unreliable Guide is here with some tricks and tips on how to keep your secrets confidential…

Think Before You Post

Posting everything online makes you incredibly vulnerable to abuse. From blackmailing emails that threaten to send your saucy pictures to all your contacts, to the colleague who point-scores by posting a video of you messy and obnoxious at the office Christmas party, the privacy of anonymity is a thing of the past. You can’t really control what pictures other people take or what they put online, but please think twice before you send anything electronically. Today’s dick-pic to the hot Tinder chick is tomorrow’s awkward situation.

Avoid ‘Reality’ Shows

Why do so many people sign up for these? And why do we watch them? This car-crash television is certainly addictive, but if you think participating will make you a real ‘celebrity’, please think again. All these shows do is cast you in the worst possible light. If you’re ever tempted to go on one just remember this: we’ll be laughing at you, not with you.

Don’t Look Up

We are only at the beginning of the drone revolution. Originally designed for military purposes, camera drones can now be bought for less than $100. Some people hate them so much they use frequency jammers to stop them flying, or even train falcons to catch and destroy the buzzy little snoopers. And they’re right to worry; already some drone cameras can see in the dark using infrared or thermal imaging and they can recognise your face from thousands of feet above. Who’s looking at you, kid?

Lights, Camera, Action

Thinks drones are cheap? A wireless, Wi-Fi spy-camera can be bought online for less than $20. Stayed at a hotel or Airbnb lately? In September last year, Glaswegian Dougie Hamilton found a camera in the bedside clock of his Toronto Airbnb. How many other happy holiday couples have been filmed doing the wild thing? These creepy little bits of tech can be found in light bulbs, photo frames, alarm clocks, taps, power adaptors, smoke detectors – the list goes on. They send quality images, typically via Wi-Fi, to a remote computer. Those with infrared can even watch you in the dark. Be like Dougie and learn to spot them before they record you. He noticed unusual wiring, but LED lights, unexpected glints of light from the lens or strange clicks or buzzes can also indicate a camera. The truly paranoid may wish to invest in a camera-detecting app, or even spend a few hundred dollars on a professional hand-held detector.

Finally, The Unreliable Guide suggests you don’t take your eye off this ball. Like democracy, privacy is a privilege, not a right. Guard yours wisely.