Declan Dunn, TechViews.org …..
Whether it’s companies tracking your user habits, or the government tracking your calls, chances are you are being tracked one way or another. Here are several common ways we are being tracked every day:
Surveillance Cameras and Closed-Circuit Television (CCTV)
They’re absolutely everywhere. From speeding cameras, red-light cameras at intersections, and even entire surveillance networks dedicated to detecting suspicious activity, monitoring devices are watching us.
In the case of New York City, the surveillance technology is so advanced that abandoned packages and bags are flagged immediately. The technology now even allows the cameras to lock onto particular subjects wearing certain clothing or scan license plates for numbers logged in police databases.
Automatic License Plate Readers, or ALPR
Using high-speed cameras, automatic license plate readers are present on many roadways and municipalities. The readers can snap a picture of your license plate, along with the time and location, retaining the information in databases, sometimes indefinitely.
Regardless of whether the car in question is suspected to be tied to a car theft or other crime, this information is captured and stored, according to the report. People with access to the database could assemble detailed information of where you have ever driven.
This particular technology isn’t limited to law enforcement use. Parking garages, tollways, shopping mall parking lots, and general urban area street corners all combine to track your every move.
Most of the major search engines keep track of trends on a general scale. However, if you search and browse while signed in to your Google or Microsoft accounts, they will tailor their ads to your searches. Between searches and browsing habits, it’s actually kind of scary how much they know about you.
If you want to avoid any tracking, consider using alternative search engines such as DuckDuckGo or at least enabling the “do-not-track” option and disabling third-party cookies through the settings of your browser.
Every smartphone on the market has Global Positioning System, or GPS, technology installed these days. From driving directions, to setting up reminders, there are plenty of legitimate ways to utilize the technology.
While you typically have to opt in to be tracked, it’s quite surprising how much some services rely on GPS to serve you “relevant” content and information. You can control what applications use location services via your phone’s settings, and it will usually prompt you for permission to use location information when you first run an app.
Browser cookies have been around since the early ’90s. When you visit a website, by default the website will set tracking cookies, which aid in compiling long-term records of an individual’s browsing history.
If you’re wondering how those supposedly relevant ads pop up on the pages you tend to visit, it’s the work of tracking cookies.
They might not have humans reading your messages, but they do have computer scanning of the content of your email for purposes that vary from national security, to law enforcement, to simple trends in who you communicate with.
Facebook and Social Networks
Nobody is “asking” to be watched. But we’ve come to the point where we willingly give social media sites a detailed profile of all our habits, interests and likes. Not to mention photos.
Facial recognition on the popular social networking site has improved so much that it can easily spot faces on even untagged photos.
If you’re looking to protect some of your privacy on Facebook, it probably isn’t a good idea to “check in” and share every place you go to during the day. Someone following you can know your location.
Many thieves even follow someone through Facebook and when they announce that they are away at some specific location, they hustle to your home and rob you, knowing you will be gone for a while.
The NSA’s spying program, PRISM, captured the world’s attention when the Guardian published documents detailing the secret surveillance program that has access to several communications platforms including but not limited to Skype, Facebook and Gmail.
While controversy about such spying has been running high since Edward Snowden blew his whistle, some of the first evidence of such a program surfaced in 2006. Former AT&T technician Mark Klein provided evidence to the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Wired of a secret room in an AT&T switching center allegedly used to spy on internet communications traveling through that particular hub.
After taking a step back and realizing how much we are being tracked today, there are many questions to ask. Was all of this inevitable? Is there any way to really take our privacy back in the modern world?
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