Does Privacy Exist Anymore?

Please allow me to slip on a tinfoil hat for a moment. I’ve always questioned whether or not to carry a cell phone. To anyone keeping up with the world, we’re all aware that our devices, such as cellphones, are gathering data from us. Tech companies like Google and Facebook make their money by exploiting our privacy. And don’t forget what Edward Snowden shared with us just a few years back! That’s terrifying. This web goes deeper than most of us can imagine!

I quit carrying cell phones a long time ago, but it wasn’t for privacy reasons. When I ran my software business, I had too many people calling me. I’d go to spend time with friends and get call after call. It was driving me nuts. But in recent years I’ve changed.  Since I’m now a professor, I don’t have as many people calling me, so now it’s convenient to have one. I can text my friends, make calls, it’s pretty great actually. But let me tell you all what happened yesterday.

With a lot of our S&T physics faculty retiring, I’ve been asked to teach a different course. So the other day I met with my new boss who is head of the program. He’s a newer faculty member and I haven’t had a chance to meet him. We’re sitting in his office and he’s telling me about his days at Texas A&M, how things were taught there, he compared their program to ours at Missouri S&T, etc. So over and over he’s saying “Texas A&M”, “Texas A&M”, “Texas A&M”. Now I go home, log into Facebook, and my entire feed is filled with Texas A&M stuff. Facebook is trying to sell me Texas A&M merchandise, they’re showing me Texas A&M sports highlight clips, and pushing Texas A&M sales material. Out of nowhere. I’ve NEVER searched for Texas A&M on Facebook, Google, or anything like that. I don’t even keep up with college sports, in any way, shape, or form. Then I pulled my cell phone out of my pocket, stared at it a moment, and wondered, “Have you been listening in on every conversation I’ve ever had over the past several years?” Probably. Everything it ever hears is sent to some server at Google, with AI systems transcribing every word. I bet there’s a giant log somewhere with every private conversation I’ve ever had. But my phone is from AT&T and runs Android. Isn’t that Google? How did this conversation end up with Facebook? *sigh* I don’t know anymore.

I don’t have anything to hide, but I still value my privacy. But maybe that’s an illusion in today’s world? My television is a smart tv, connected to WiFi, so it could just as easily be doing the same thing. My Windows 10 PC surely does this stuff for Microsoft. I use Chrome so Google’s A.I. programs likely know me better than I know myself. Even my truck has a computer system which handles mp3s, ties into my phone, and has all this smart stuff built into it. At any given time, I don’t know who or what is watching me and it makes me uncomfortable.

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