Americans love their privacy. But what if the privacy that still exists is more shadow than substance? In this mishmash, we look at the state of privacy starting with Facebook Chairman and CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s masking tape.
Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? - Who will watch the watchers? -Juvenal, the Sixteen Satires
Mark Zuckerberg’s Masking Tape
In 2010, there was a brief flurry of media attention when Facebook head Mark Zuckerberg stated, “Privacy is no longer a social norm” and unilaterally changed the privacy settings on more than 350 million user accounts.1
Despite his public statements, Zuckerberg fears for his own privacy. In this photo from his Facebook page, you can see Zuckerberg uses masking tape to block his computer’s webcam and microphone.
...the posted photo highlighted to many that even the technically-savvy Facebook boss faces worries about being spied on. Hacking into a laptop’s webcam is not particularly difficult business...Most times, the user may not even be aware that their cameras have been hacked and are being watched. Often, hackers would tap into a target’s camera to secretly record a victim during compromising moments, and could then later threaten for a blackmail payment in order to refrain them from posting the footage publicly. Some hackers are known to remotely hack baby monitors merely for the sake of tormenting children and babies in these rather chilling cases).
Amazon says - you don’t own your books. We do
Private property ownership is one of the fundamental marks of a free people. If you live in the US or Britain, you probably assume that those ebooks you’ve been purchasing belong to you. Think again. Amazon reserves the right to delete them from your devices and account with no warning and little recourse.
An Amazon Kindle user has had her account wiped and all her paid-for books deleted by Amazon without warning or explanation. The Norwegian woman, identified only as Linn on media commentator Martin Bekkelund's blog, approached Amazon when she realised her Kindle had been wiped. She was informed by a customer relations executive that her account had been closed, all open orders had been cancelled and all her content had been removed, but has been unable to find out why.
What exactly was Linn’s crime?
Linn stands accused of is using a friend's UK address to buy Amazon UK English Kindle books from Norway". Under Amazon's rules, this type of action is barred, as the publisher seeks to control what content is read in which territory of the world.
This is a perfect example of the reality of neo-feudal life across the globe. Very often legal structures protect corporate practices which treat citizens as serfs. Instead of rights, customers have privileges. Without the knowledge, money and time to defend themselves, people are effectively disenfranchised.
If loud enough, public outcry can cause a temporary success, as happened against Amazon seven years ago:
In 2009, Amazon was forced to apologise for deleting books written by George Orwell from customers' Kindle devices without their knowledge following a rights issue (the books were added to its Kindle store by a third-party who did not have the rights to them). Company founder Jeff Bezos said the move was "stupid" and "thoughtless".
Whatever your 16 year old posts on twitter or Facebook will be used forever to screen her applications for housing, credit, and work
Personality profile from social media
It is probably not news that many landlords, hiring managers or college admissions counselors scope out our social media accounts to perform background checks on an individual. However, one start-up company is now taking this one step further by making use of algorithmic models to carry out social media audits of our networking accounts, with aims to **“take a deep dive into private social media profiles”.** The UK start-up, Score Assured, has recently launched its first product; Tenant Assured, a software capable of combing through your social media profiles on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn to produce a report to unearth details on a potential tenant’s credit-worthiness. The **‘personality reports’** aims to give insights into an applicant’s five main personality traits: **extraversion, neuroticism, openness, agreeableness and conscientiousness.**
And what happens when Christianity may be considered a mental illness?
Use emojis? They are now being used to monitor your emotional state
Emojis target ads
Emoji-targeted advertising could turn out to be a great cash cow for the company, as Twitter believes that marketers will be able to use the emoji activity as a way to determine a person’s mood and then “connect” with them, in turn driving “deep engagement and better performance for brands”. Basically **any time an emoji is tweeted out, it could be used by brands to target you with specific products**. While the company uses food emojis as a target example for now, it could well move on to other options such as adverts from a sports brand when a user tweets a soccer ball emoji during a Euro 2016 match. Or if a user tends to tweet the emoji of a particular flag frequently, it could be an indication to advertisers on a person’s nationality and country preferences. **The possibilities are truly limitless.**
All a hacker needs is your phone number to unlock your calls, your location and your email
Phone number hacking
The thought of your calls being eavesdropped on, or your location and emails being invaded by anyone who had your phone number alone is indeed a terrifying one. However, it is a very real one as **US Congressman Ted Lieu** in California experienced first-hand. **CBS News’ ‘60 Minutes’ segment demonstrated just how easy it is for hackers to access vulnerable phones once a hacker has learned a target’s phone number.** The results of the investigations are unsettling. All it took was Lieu’s phone number and the researchers were able to successfully listen to and record all his phone calls, to read his text messages, view his contacts and to track his location. Unsurprisingly, the experience was unnerving for Lieu as he claimed that when he arrived to tape the segment in Washington, **the hackers had even told the producers which hotel he was staying at albeit his GPS was turned off and he regularly uses encrypted messaging systems**.
What to do?
Knowing these things can strengthen you. If you are aware of the true circumstances you’re living under, you can make better decisions than those people who pretend that things are different than they are.
The Bible tells us that in the last days of apostasy evil men shall wax worse and worse (2 Tim 3.13). There’s only one thing that such people long for: power. Psychology calls them psychopaths. They truly believe they are the gods of this world.
The Masters of the Universe were a set of lurid, rapacious plastic dolls that his otherwise perfect daughter liked to play with. They looked like Norse gods who lifted weights, and they had names such as Dracon, Ahor, Mangelred, and Blutong. They were unusually vulgar, even for plastic toys. Yet one fine day, in a fit of euphoria, after he had picked up the telephone and taken an order for zero-coupon bonds that had brought him a $50,000 commission, just like that, this very phrase had bubbled up into his brain. On Wall Street he and a few others — how many? — three hundred, four hundred, five hundred? — had become precisely that ... Masters of the Universe. There was ... no limit whatsoever! Naturally he had never so much as whispered this phrase to a living soul. He was no fool. Yet he couldn't get it out of his head. -Tom Wolfe, _Bonfire of the vanities_
All of these technological innovations are being used to tighten the surveillance, tighten the control, and increase the gap between them, and you.
The erosion of basic privacy rights is but one more indication of the lateness of the hour.
And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares. For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth. (Luke 21:34-35)
The days of any illusion of privacy for the average person are now over. Your best protection is to act as if everything you say or do is open to all. For it is.
But never forget that God watches the watchers. There is a day coming when the deeds of everyone will be revealed.
And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear? (1 Peter 4:18) Fear them not therefore: for there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; and hid, that shall not be known. (Matthew 10:26)
Dear Lord, save us from the schemes and snares of wicked men. Guard your people with an outstretched arm. Teach us to rest peacefully in you. For we are your people, and the sheep of your pasture. Through the one-time sacrifice of Jesus Christ, clothed in his righteousness, and in his name we pray. Amen