Living in a World Bereft of Privacy – Consortiumnews

As Edward Snowden confirmed beyond doubt, we live in a world where our most intimate moments can be seen by would-be extortioners and, more alarmingly, by our governments, says Annie Machon.

By Annie Machon
in Brussels
Special to Consortium News

A few days ago I first received a menacing email from someone calling herself Susana Peritz. She told me “she” had hacked my email, planted malware on my computer, and had then filmed me getting my jollies while watching “interesting” porn online. Her email had caught my attention because it mentioned in the subject line a very old password, attached to a very old email address I had not used for over a decade. The malware must have been planted on a defunct computer.

Putting aside the fact that I am far more concerned about GCHQ or the NSA hacking my computer (as should we all be), this did rather amuse me.

Apparently, I must pay this “Susana” $1000 via Bitcoin or, shock, have my alleged pleasures shared with my acquaintances. And just last night I received another courteous request for cash from someone calling themselves Jillie Abdulrazak, but the price has now been inflated to $3000.

Why am I not concerned? Well, I can safely say – hand on heart – that I have never watched online porn. But this got me thinking about how or why I could have been singled out for this mark of a blackmailer’s esteem, and that brings me on to some rather dark thoughts.

It is perfectly possible that a rare, unguarded moment of long-distance online love might have been captured (but by whom?). That would probably be over a decade ago and would certainly have been using the old email account which was attached to the particular password at the time. Anything that could possibly have been recorded could only be audio – a saucy phone call at most. There can be no video of my younger self, alas.

However, even those memories have been denied me – I distinctly remember that I have been too paranoid for too long and have always covered the built-in computer camera lens.

I have had good reason to be paranoid. In the late 1990s I supported my former partner and fellow MI5 intelligence officer, David Shalyer, in his…

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