Maybe someone is watching me as I type this column, though they’re welcome to, because I’m fully clothed — and so boring even I wouldn’t want to watch me.


"We give companies even more data voluntarily because we like telling them — and the world. They know who we like, date and hate because we shout it on Facebook, Instagram or Whatevergram," writes Josh Freed.


PAU BARRENA / AFP/Getty Images

I was talking to a friend as he typed on his computer, but when he finished, he slammed it shut and said: “I don’t want anyone listening or watching while we talk.”

It turned out he was worried his computer’s camera can be hacked and hijacked to spy on him whenever it’s on.

“Geez!” I thought. How paranoid can you get?

Then I looked it up online and that is remotely possible, if your computer is hacked — Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg often covers his computer’s camera with tape.

So maybe someone is watching me as I type this column, though they’re welcome to, because I’m fully clothed — and so boring even I wouldn’t want to watch me.

It’s just the latest privacy paranoia I’ve heard about that isn’t necessarily paranoid anymore. In recent months Amazon’s Alexa has been caught recording some owners’ conversations — a supposed “glitch” in the system.

Then Apple’s FaceTime app I use for free out-of-country phone calls was hacked and callers could eavesdrop on you, if you didn’t pick up the phone. They could sometimes even see live video of you before you picked up while you were say, taking a bath with your next-door neighbour.

For all I know my TV is watching me as I watch it and my bedroom humidifier is filming me at night and reporting my sleep rhythms to its manufacturers.

“Bald subject still sleeping. Currently in delta-wave sleep state. … Now, theta wave. … Now back to delta. … Now REM. (Yawn.) God, even I’m falling asleep here.”

It’s hard to know what’s spying and what isn’t because no one knows — even the people who make this technology.

If you want proof, look at Amazon owner and tech gazillionaire Jeff Bezos, who’s put eavesdropping Alexa into millions of homes, and who many see as a mastermind of stealing our privacy.

If anyone should know how to protect his privacy it’s Bezos, but recently the National Enquirer got its hands on some embarrassing, flirty sexts he sent to a girlfriend — then splashed them over Enquirer.

Adolescent stuff like: “I love you, alive girl . . . I basically WANT TO BE WITH YOU!!!”

Enquirer also obtained some selfies of Bezos’s lower body, naked, that they threatened to … er, expose, though Bezos is battling them legally. But if Bezos doesn’t know how to protect his privacy, who does?

Maybe the Amazon founder’s password isn’t long enough, or he’s clicked “I agree” too many times like all of us?

The trouble is, like everyone, Bezos partly exposed himself, by assuming no one was watching. He didn’t realize we are all naked on the net (especially when we’re posing naked).

Obviously, the biggest problem is that North American tech companies like Amazon are legally allowed to collect and sell our personal data. It’s hard to say no if we want to use the internet and live in the 21st century.

But another problem is that we give companies even more data voluntarily because we like telling them — and the world. They know who we like, date and hate because we shout it on Facebook, Instagram or Whatevergram.

They know what we buy because we click “LIKE,” then add our five-star ratings. We often want online companies to know our TV and clothing tastes and keep track, so we have the convenience of one-click shopping. Otherwise we complain:

“God, I had to fill out my name and email and then, like, click five times to buy exactly the same underwear again. I’m never online shopping there again.”

We have seen the enemy and it is also us.

In the coming years The Internet of Things will collect data on everything from our 3-D shavers to our cars, coffee-makers, alarm clocks, headphones and toilets.

Soon, your e-toothbrush will report to manufacturers how many strokes you do each morning, your fridge how many calories you eat, your alarm clock how late you wake up — then sell it to your insurance company.

By then you will always wonder if the microwave is listening, or the bathroom light bulb is secretly recording. “Honey, you better turn off that iron — I’d like to talk in private.”

You think I’m kidding? I tried to switch to a bigger phone keyboard several months ago, but glanced at the privacy agreement. It said in order to learn “my preferences”, the keyboard would have “permanent access” to everything I typed from then on, as well as everything I had typed on my phone before.

Yikes! I didn’t take the keyboard, but for all I know it took me — and every email, note-to-self and grocery list I’ve typed is in a file somewhere waiting to be sold, if I ever run for U.S. president.

Big Tech may be the new KGB, so maybe it’s time our governments took action and started to crack down on their spying.

Meanwhile, if you’ve been watching me type this column on my hacked camera, I’ve just finished writing, so I’m shutting my comput-

joshfreed49@gmail.com

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