December 22, 2017
Do you ever feel like you’re being watched when there’s nobody else around?
Decades ago, if the answer to that question was ‘yes’, doctors might’ve advised you to see what they called a headshrinker. But technological progress has a funny way of turning situations on their head. For example, at the turn of the 20th century, everybody had horses – but only the wealthy had cars.
Today, everybody has a car: but only rich people have horses.
The same principle applies to surveillance: If you don’t believe you’re being spied on constantly, then you should probably have your head examined.
As advertisers hone increasingly sophisticated microtargeting techniques, ordinary social media users are reporting disturbing coincidences like the one Jen Lewis recounted to the Daily Mail.
While out shopping, Lewis and a friend discussed purchasing a film camera. Not 20 minutes later, Lewis’s friend checked Facebook on her phone and discovered, to her alarm, a targeted advertisement for the very same camera she had just considered purchasing.
Then, less than 20 minutes later, an advert popped up on Lois’s phone, for the exact same product. Same colour, same model, same everything.
‘They’re listening, they’re watching,’ she said.
‘Oh don’t be daft,’ I replied. ‘Who’s listening? Who’d want to listen to us?’
‘I’m serious,’ said Lois. ‘This keeps happening. This is no coincidence. Someone is listening to our conversations. Advertisers. They’re listening via our phones’ microphones.’
At first, Lewis didn’t understand what her friend was getting at. But it quickly dawned on her: Was Facebook recording their conversation and converting its content into fodder for targeted advertisements – all in real time?
‘Look at this,’ said Lois, presenting me with her smartphone, where an advert for a snazzy little instamatic…