Complex Made Simple

The spy who loved me! 5 ways you are being watched

Take note of the cameras that we see in airports, banks and office buildings. Even though they are there for security purposes, they fill us with creepy thoughts that we are being watched, listened to, documented and filed away for future reference.

In 2017, the Washington post reported that the US government has powerful hacking tools that “potentially take surveillance right into the homes and hip pockets of billions of users worldwide.”

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Televisions, smartphones and even anti-virus software are all vulnerable to CIA hacking, according to the WikiLeaks documents released in March 2017.

However, governments are not the only body watching every step you take and listening to every word you speak. We live in a highly artificially intelligent and connected world, in which almost everyone with a Wi-Fi connection is able to track you down. Here are 5 ways they can.

 1- Voice assistant records

 The Guardian recently wrote an article on how Google is “spying” on you: it said that the Firm’s voice assistant recorded and kept the conversations that you’re having around your phone when you least expect it. “Google keeps copies of clips made each time you activate it, and background chatter (pictured) could be enough to trigger this.”

A spokesman for the Firm told the paper: “Audio snippets are used by Google to improve the quality of speech recognition across Search.”

Amazon’s voice assistant devices Echo doesn’t record until you address it with an appropriate wake word, after which whatever you say is then processed and stored.

2- An educated guess

For an indication of what can be inferred from your online habits, Cambridge Psychometrics Centre’s “Apply Magic Sauce” tool, a personalisation engine that accurately predicts psychological traits from digital footprints of human behaviour, produces a profile of your personality based on Facebook and Twitter data.

3- Abused user profiles

Internet giants are compiling profiles on you as we speak. For now, they are using it to sell you what they think you need and sharing that information with the highest bidder. If you are identified as a high spender, then high-end ads will chase you anytime you browse, chat or listen to music online. On a more serious note, these techniques were in evident use (by unknowns) during the US elections. Allegedly, Russian operatives manipulated online ads based on target group sentiments about those running for office. Similar analytic techniques were used in a recent EU referendum to persuade voters based on obtained psychological insights.

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4- Smart surveillance

Say hello to the end of privacy, because your smartphones, tabs and pads are tirelessly collecting information on you and sharing access to third-party players. It might sound cool to advertise your presence and location on your travels and during expensive culinary habits, but someone is always watching and saving your conversations on the cloud.

5- Smile for the webcam!

Hackers have a way of finding you via your webcam or built-in camera and the microphone to boot. This is no candid camera prank to which you are unwittingly subjected, but rather a fully illegal operation aimed at using your face, your friends and your private pictures on the information superhighway. So if the Interpol knocks on your door one day, know that your face has broken international law somewhere.