What happened to our right to privacy?

In the age of big information technology companies, the notion of privacy has become a joke. To name a few (and there are hundreds, if not millions of companies, doing this), Microsoft, Facebook and Google all track your movements, develop a profile on you and use that information to make money. What happened to our right to privacy?

Let’s start with Google. If you have location tracking activated on your smartphone, they track your every move. There is even a Google link you can access that shows a map of every location you’ve ever visited. What else does Google do? They know everything you’ve ever searched (and deleted), have an advertising profile on you, know all the apps you use, track your YouTube history, have literally reams and reams and reams of data on you. Some data analysts claim Google has enough data on you to fill millions of Word documents.

And here’s the kicker. There’s little, if anything, that you can do about it.

Here are some examples of complete invasions of my privacy by Google that irk the hell out of me. They’ve just started sending me news notifications on my smartphone. Every day, based on what they see me searching on the internet and watching on YouTube, I get notifications sent to me. There is some weird disclaimer saying something to the effect that this information may be used to develop a profile of my interests, something along that line.

But, guess what? I didn’t ask for the notifications. I didn’t activate a switch or push a button agreeing to receive them. They just started showing up one day. I also discovered I can’t turn them off. There is no setting to turn them off. Even though they annoy the hell out of me, there isn’t a damn thing I can do about it.

Trust me, that’s the tip of the iceberg.

I inadvertently installed a Google app to send and receive text messages on my smartphone. For a few months it worked fine. Then all of a sudden, I started getting prepared responses to incoming messages. Here’s an example: Let’s say I received a message saying, “Have a great time at the party. Talk to you soon.”

I might get three, maybe more, possible responses from Google. Something like this: “Thanks, will do. Take care.” Or, “Have a great night. I’ll be in touch.” And then there’s always the short and sweet option: “Okay, thanks.” Or, “Sweet!” I can simply click a button to select one of these messages or choose to type my own response.

This new technology is not only on my text messages. It has also recently started appearing on all of my Gmail emails. And, as with the news notifications that suddenly appeared on my smartphone, I didn’t ask Google to give me three pre-selected automated responses to incoming emails or text messages.

I didn’t ask for them and, try as I might, I can’t find settings anywhere that will allow me to deactivate them.

Talk about infuriating. Talk about an unmitigated invasion of privacy.

What does this mean? It means Google is reading all of my emails and all of my text messages without my authorization to do so. I’ve been told it isn’t people reading the texts or emails. Some tech guys have told me it’s some electronic smart software, a bot or something that recognizes speech patterns, words and sentence meanings. Some sort of artificial intelligence.

I might have been born in a day, but it sure as hell wasn’t yesterday. I just don’t buy it. Not now, not ever.

I’m constantly being bombarded by online ads based, not only on my internet search history, but also on the content of my emails.

Google Photos is another one that irritates me. One day my phone was overloaded with photos and I was running out of memory. I made the bad decision to activate Google Photos and back up thousands of images onto the Google cloud, or whatever they call it nowadays. It isn’t enough that I get bombarded with unsolicited news notifications, now Google is regularly doctoring my photos (maybe they call it enhancing) and sending me notifications telling me about it. Or, they’ll select a series of photos of a special moment in history and send me a notification encouraging me to “Rediscover this day,” and take a nostalgic trip down memory lane. We know they’re not doing this out of the goodness of their heart. They want more data for my profile. Thanks but no thanks.

Again, I didn’t ask for it, and I’ve yet to figure out how to turn it off. If I spent all my time trying to figure out how to safeguard my privacy, I’d never get any work done.

Besides, it would be all for not anyway. I’ve already established, as have greater minds than my own, that internet privacy is a fallacy, a joke, an illusion of monumental proportions.

And if you believe Facebook is some kind of a social media saint, guess again. Facebook has tons of data on you, including every message or file you’ve ever sent or ever received; every audio message you’ve sent or received. Based on what you’ve liked and what your friends discuss, Facebook determines, tracks and stores what they think you might be interested in. When you log into Facebook, they track and store log-in location, time, and from which device you logged in.

According to data consultants and analysts, Facebook also tracks, when technologically possible, where you are. At random, they can access your laptop or desktop webcam or microphone, your computer contacts, emails, calendar, call history, files you download, photos, internet search history and more.

Much, much more.

If you have Facebook on your phone, they have access to all of your contacts and photos, in some cases even your text messages.

It doesn’t take an Albert Einstein to figure out all the potential nefarious uses of this information. As a writer, I’m dependent on the internet for my livelihood. If I wasn’t, I’d be awfully tempted to buy a landline to keep in touch with friends and family, and toss my smartphone and laptop into the trash can. Maybe then, I’d reclaim my privacy.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not denying there are good things associated with the internet and social media. But, if you think for a second that Facebook or Google will make (or are making) concerted efforts to protect or safeguard our privacy, think again.

It seems abundantly clear that they’re doing the exact opposite—going to great lengths to invade and exploit our privacy for commercial gain.

What happened to our right to privacy? We forfeited it when we decided to watch cute little cat videos on Facebook or YouTube.

Be careful what you search for. Big Brother is watching.