Last weekend I had a conversation with an old friend and we were discussing all the computer hacking and spying and surveillance that goes on these days. He asked a simple question. “Who is not spying on you?”
Good question. The answer is based on the reverse of the question, “Who is spying on you?” The answer? Everybody.
Wait. Does Apple spy on Mac, iPhone, and iPad customers? Yes, in a manner of sorts. Apple tracks what we do with our devices, attempts to anonymize the data, and that helps them build better products. What about iTunes, Apple Music, and third party apps vs. App Store apps? Only Apple knows for sure, but if we have an account we can be sure Apple tracks some of our behavior, music choices, viewing habits, and application usage.
What we don’t know is ‘How much?‘
The question ‘Who is not spying on you?‘ is a good one because if we start to look around just for a few moments we see that we’re being tracked, viewed, and, well, for lack of a better term, spied upon by entities we may not have suspected yesterday. News reports tell us our televisions have been tracking us– Visio, Samsung, and LG are among the most notable culprits. They have been tracking our content viewing habits. Why? Money.
From that you can surmise that Neflix tracks subscribers. Ditto for what you search for on Amazon. Amazon? Oh, yeah. I’ve searched for items on Amazon, even to the point of putting some into my shopping cart with the intention of getting back to it in a few days. Then, over the course of the next few days, while browsing through various websites, I’ve been greeted by Amazon advertisements which promote those same items I viewed just days earlier. Amazon tracked my shopping, and Amazon gave me reminders about the products I viewed and saved, on websites Amazon knew I was visiting. Scary, no?
How is that not spying? How is all that tracking not an invasion of privacy?
Well, first, it’s not an invasion as much as it might be a surprise to the great unwashed masses of consumers who do not fully comprehend what rights they’ve given away to shopping sites and advertisers. When you visit a website that has advertising, are you giving consent for those advertisers– or the website– to track your visit?
No. It’s an implied relationship, though– free content is paid for by advertisers– and advertisers and online stores take advantage of that little loophole in the relationship between reader and viewer– remember, everyone is out to make a buck. Most people just don’t know what is doing on in the background and how they’ve become part of a monetizing scheme that relies on the techniques spies use to track their prey.
Take a look at this one. It uses inaudible and high pitched sound to track your online behavior whether Mac, iPhone, iPad, or TV. Dan Goodin explains:
The ultrasonic pitches are embedded into TV commercials or are played when a user encounters an ad displayed in a computer browser. While the sound can’t be heard by the human ear, nearby tablets and smartphones can detect it. When they do, browser cookies can now pair a single user to multiple devices and keep track of what TV commercials the person sees, how long the person watches the ads, and whether the person acts on the ads by doing a Web search or buying a product.
Whoa. How is that not spying on you? Where is the consent to allow such hidden shenanigans?
Why are people who use such devices not completely outraged? Why is the government doing to help reduce or prevent such obvious surveillance without personal permission? Why doesn’t Apple rise to the occasion here and become the champion of personal security and privacy?
Money. That’s why there is no champion to help curtail, manage, or even delete such obviously immoral tracking, spying, surveillance. Money talks. Money makes the world go round. Money buys politicians. Money controls the government. Money is used to track us to the point where we don’t even know it’s happening.
Why hasn’t Apple taken the lead to help customers maintain personal security and privacy?
This is a serious issue and helps to explain what I did to NoodleMac about a year ago. No trackers. No cookies. No advertising trackers. A few advertisements, yes. But no tracking. Newspapers, magazines, radio stations and TV stations didn’t track their readers, listeners, and viewers until the internet age. So, consider me something of a throwback to a simpler age, but all this tracking, spying, and surveillance has gone out of control.