We have, in this new collection within the EXPOSED! series, a guide on how to worry less about the man in-front of your house and the guys who follow you home from the supermarket. This EXPOSED! mini-series is more of a mix between the Privacy Cookbook and the EXPOSED! series proper, a totally new approach, complete with illustrations and solutions.
Between 1950 and 1989 the Staatssicherheitsdienst, SSD, commonly known as the Stasi in East German employed 274000 people. Their mission was to spy on everyone who lived in the country. Family members sometimes even reported other family members. Nearly every move anyone made was reported. It was something that the rest of the world struggled to comprehend. It sounded like a bad novel, perhaps closer to 'The Blueprint' Orwell was presenting to us in the book 1984.
In 1984, Apple released the legendary Macintosh and claimed this was why 1984 would never be like 1984.
Fast-forward to 2021 and I want you to imagine a world…
…where you need to record your name, address, telephone number, photograph and date of birth before you're allowed to enter a shopping mall or a restaurant. Perhaps, for convenience, you have all of this in a little QR code hanging around your neck, or on a bracelet, maybe just scannable on your phone, government sanctioned, of course!. Not the phone but the app you need to show to enter a mall or to go shopping.
Yes, I hear you! Thanks to COVID-19 and contact tracing that is exactly what is in place in many countries.
So imagine now that there are cameras mounted everywhere that monitor every step you take, record every product you touch and even analyze your feelings when you touch a shirt or a packet of instant noodles in the supermarket. Perhaps also how you feel when you pass the alcohol section in the store, or that there is an employee who follows you close by with a clipboard to record how fast you walk, what products you touch and anything the cameras might have missed. Like the smile you give the clerk or the old lady in the vegetable section. Before you arrive at the checkout counter one of the employees might approach you and advise you that the products you've chosen are great, but that they have a similar product that is basically the same but cheaper. It could even be that they are not even telling you but simply exchanging the products you've got with the ones that suit the shop best. The ones that make them the most profit and have you coming back sooner for more because they didn’t last as long as you had hoped.
After leaving the store someone follows you and write down the car you get into, plate, color, year. Perhaps someone follows the car, just to make sure they have that on file as well. You went thru 1 amber traffic light, perhaps it was just switching to red? You stopped at the local butcher, and got 2 steaks, even though you live alone! The butcher informs the local liquor store because if you pass, you might get a nicely pairing red wine to go with your steaks. Once you've picked up the wine, and perhaps also a bottle of scotch, and a couple of six packs as the football at the weekend is coming, and you might have some friends over.
The shop informs your health care provider about what you just bought, and since it wasn’t exactly healthy maybe, who knows, that company will increase your monthly premiums, because, hey, you're at risk…after all you just got steaks, red wine, some beer plus some scotch! Lucky you didn’t grab a pack of chips as well!
At the same time the store starts trading information with other stores where you have been, restaurants where you've eaten and with other people who've been following you around. They also inform other shops nearby as well as their retail partners, just in case you come in. They have already your picture, name, date of birth and know you eat steaks, drink beer and have the occasional scotch.
So now you've finally made it home with your red wine and your steaks and there is someone standing outside your house, taking pictures, looking at everything you're doing, asking every visitor about their QR code, to know their name, address, age and of course if they drink scotch and eat steaks. They also want to know why they're visiting you. Perhaps, if they have sexual relationships with you? Moreover, they need to see their cellphone and all their chats with you, perhaps even copying the entire contents of their SIM and the data on the phone.
A little later the postman arrives, just minutes before you receive a FedEx you have been expecting. The person in front of your house, opens both your letters, takes pictures and makes notes on all of this including the time stamp on each. This data is then synced with the guys at the local shop and all the other shops and restaurants and all the people who followed you around all day.
They log what time you turn on your lights in the evening, when you close your blinds, what time you turn on the TV and, since he has access to your internet, he also knows what you are watching. He records all your texts in and out, regardless of whether they are via a regular SMS or encrypted messaging (which even though they can’t read still has the time received, from whom, where you received it and of course from where the other side send it logged). During this time another person goes through your trash, writes down everything in there and sends that information to everyone you have just had contact with.
Sounds creepy, doesn’t it? Well, just reread the previous text but bear in mind that all of this and more happens each and every day - online!
Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Facebook and so many other companies are looking at you constantly and sharing your information. They're also recommending you to not buy the products you wanted because they (Amazon, you listening?) have a ripoff product that's just as good.
If this sounds a little like the Stasi in East Germany, don’t worry, this information is all obtained legally and only shared with companies! Yeah, right! but it might be stored on poorly encrypted servers or even in plain sight. And if it makes you feel better, the governments have legal access to most of this data (alongside their own databases on you).
Now think about it, you accept this behavior from Amazon, Google, Facebook and co because you didn't even realize that it was happening
And now you know, you're pretty freaked out that this stuff is happening to you in real life, aren't you?
Amazon has been featured on EXPOSED! before and it's worth reading over it again:
The issues compound...it's not just that these companies collect vast amounts of data on you, it's also how they store and secure it. Data leaks out everywhere (or is 'liberated') in hundreds of thousands of failures or breeches. And not just from Facebook, where you expect that to happen, but also from many other companies 'tech security' giants including Microsoft et al.
This was a large part of why we started the Privacy Cookbook, and our entire team hopes you use it from time to time. Every single bit helps to protect you and your data from the big corporations, and governments and law enforcement around the world. Remember you are not a criminal, you don’t wear an ankle bracelet, and yet you carry one with you most of the time. Your cellphone!
The problem with your cellphone is it collects and sends data about you every minute, regardless of whether you switch off location services and don’t even use a signed in account. Google on Android, but also Apple on iOS, they all send data, all day, every day!
Sure you might say, it's just Google or Apple, but that is not true. Google is an advertising and data collecting monster, and it sells and shares your data with many companies. Facebook is another data collecting giant and many people use the products of both of these companies daily, without even being aware what they are linked in to.
And believe it or not, even if you don’t use Facebook, and perhaps maybe never have, they still have a shadow profile on you.
Apple is a bit better as it is not an advertising company as such, and lately, in fairness, it seems to be implementing some nice privacy-focused features. But just don’t be blinded to the fact that they can and do collect your data and your location at any given time! Apple also has another flow, they do not have their OS open-source. So, whatever they say, we need to believe.
We can’t give you a blueprint on how to escape these Stasi like companies, but we can illustrate and guide you to giving them less power so this is what we will do! Because privacy is a human right. I don’t want to live in a world where I need to think twice about if my butcher is just about to sell my data. He probably will, but it will be less data than he has on my neighbor! If everyone gives up less data, then that gives the cooperations less power and ultimately returns more freedom to you.