BY NATALIE LARIMER
Whether we like it or not, we live in an age where there is constant surveillance of everything we do, from what shows we watch to what we Google. Sometimes it is for the better, like when Netflix can suggest shows that we would like to see based on what we have already watched, but the general idea is that it is creepy and wrong.
Morally, I think it is kind of iffy to be watching and taking notes on everything we do, but I generally do not have a problem with it, and I recognize that this level of surveillance can be really beneficial to our society as a whole.
My parents had been in the market for a new TV and we were giving them some suggestions as to what they should buy. My boyfriend offered a type of TV that is really nice and surprisingly cheap for what you get, but it was a smart TV. My dad immediately said something along the lines of “no smart TVs in this house, I don’t want the government spying on me more than they already do.”
This took me by surprise because it had never occurred to me that it would even be an issue. To me, a smart TV would be incredible and I would absolutely jump at the chance to have one. But to my dad, who grew up before the age of smart technology, it was a threat to his privacy.
A really common fear that people have is that the cameras on their laptops and computers are never actually turned off, and the government is watching you constantly. In a general lecture class, you can probably find at least five people with stickers or something covering their laptop cameras so the big bad government can’t see them snoozing in class. The problem here is, not only is it way more difficult for you to use Skype or other video requiring apps, but we took that fear and turned it into a joke.
The thing about privacy and so-called breaches of it is that, being millennials, we tend to take serious matters and turn them into memes. If you are on Twitter or other social media platforms like it, you have probably seen the “FBI agent watching me” meme. It is basically assuming that there is an FBI agent literally sitting there watching a monitor that is showing whatever your laptop or computer camera is picking up, and the meme takes it to the point where you are in contact with this FBI agent and they comment on your life. It is hilarious, but when you think about the real people who actually believe something like this is happening, it becomes pretty scary.
Of course, things have gotten more serious than internet memes, which at the very heart of them are just playing off of serious issues and making insensitive jokes about them (like the whole “Bush did 9/11” thing).
With the Amazon Echo, generally just called Alexa, being a listening device that you literally just put in your house so you can have it do things for you, people have naturally gotten a little bit more scared of government and/or company surveillance.
Is Amazon listening to everything you say? The simple answer is no, of course not. Could you imagine how much memory Alexa would have to have to listen and record every single thing you say? That would be literally insane. No, what Alexa does is listen for the keyword that activates her: “Alexa.” In doing this, she does kind of a “half scan” where she lazily picks up on words but does not save them and only activates after she hears “Alexa.”
The thought that Amazon is listening to every conversation you have in your own home and somehow convinced you to pay them money to get the device that does it is something conspiracy theorists would have a heyday over, and they already are.
The bottom line is that you are not special enough to have the government constantly taking notes on you and that idea is so egotistical that you must be incredibly self-centered. Maybe if you are on a terrorist watch-list or something similar you should be a little worried, but otherwise, you are fine. Buy that smart TV, take that sticky note off your laptop camera, and text back that FBI agent. They are just worried about you.