The Spy In our Technology: When Online Activity Tracking Becomes Invasive

Spy Technology

“I’m a spy…I know everything you do, everywhere you go, everyone you know,Jim Morrison croons in the Doors’ song “The Spy.”

Using “smart” technology in our daily lives means trading some privacy in exchange for use of apps, GPS, search engines, gaming systems, and a host of communications devices. It enriches our lives, helps us connect, share, and search for information quickly, easily, and conveniently.  We can sync our private information between iPhones, iPads, and desktop computers, and automatically back up data so that we never lose a photo, text, email or contact.  However, technological advancements can also inadvertently create more vulnerability.

With every click, search, “like,” location check-in, quiz, survey, website visited, photo shared, and online transaction, companies gather our information in real time.  You just typed in a Yahoo or Google search for alternatives to Botox.  Facebook immediately started tailoring your ads and sending suggestions for skincare products.  You shared a vacation photo.  Facebook automatically “tagged” you.  You took a quick and fun quiz to find out your “rapper” name – and unknowlingly gave a third party access to your friends list, likes, and other personal information in exchange.

As your online presence and activity is built, social media habits, music choices, political and religious views, shopping habits, medical conditions, and more are tracked. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram have privacy settings that help users control who can see what is shared and how the information is used.  But many users fail to update their settings … until they are hacked.