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OP-ED: Living in a digitally dangerous world

  • Published at 03:39 am July 31st, 2021
Spyware Pegasus India

Our private lives are no longer private

We’re living in an era of digital spying. There are many authorities, such as the government, the law enforcers, business entities, and organized crime syndicates, who need to run incessant surveillance on the masses.

If you thought you could live a quiet life away from all the hullabaloo, you'd be wrong. If you thought you could hide away in some place after committing a crime, be sure that you’d be brought to book.

You're being watched, whether you like it or not. You can’t hide.

There are technologies that can record all our conversations. When the authorities want the records, the telecommunication providers are bound to provide them. Tech giants like Facebook, Google, and Apple have given away people’s emails, messages, and documents to government agencies

Then, if there are any holes in the devices that we’re using every day, they can be hacked. Hacking the devices has become an art these days. It’s also become the most lucrative business.

We can be tracked wherever we go. The devices and other tech products that we use have made sure of this fact. When we move around, the cell phone towers calculate our location and send that data to their server. That data can be bought by others. We can be spotted even when we’re travelling overseas -- even in the deep forest of Amazon.

Any internet connection can be tapped. And many government agencies are continuously doing so; it’s not news. They know everything that we own and buy through the net. Our credit and debit cards go through networks, gateways, and many other wire traffic facilities around the world which can be tracked and tapped. The newspapers that we read online can spy on us through cookies. They know what you’re reading and are interested in. Our every like, smiley, or thumbs-up are counted and sold to others.

Don’t be surprised to know that your bedrooms are also monitored. The other day, I was watching a promotional video on YouTube that explained how a very small device that contains a SIM-card can relay an entire conversation by calling that SIM number from your phone. For example, you want to know what goes on inside your boss’s room. All you need to do is to leave that device in his/her room and call that number when you want to. There’ll be no ring or any sound on the other side, but you can clearly listen to what is happening in that room.

The old spying wine in a new digital bottle, eh?

Now, who is providing that SIM? The telcos, for God’s sake! They are an active part of the surveillance game. They earn big money from it.

The old style of monitoring and following has become a very complex art of surveillance. Many governments, manually or digitally, follow overseas diplomats, heads of state, journalists, and human rights activists. Previously, say 30 years ago, they required an enormous espionage network to do that, but things have become smooth as butter these days.

All you need to do is to hack their phones with software. No need to place a bug in their offices or residences.

Now the developers such as NSO Group may claim that they sell its spyware to governments for tracking terrorists and criminals, but the tracking is not limited only within the criminals. Interestingly, there is no international law that governs the use of this technology across borders. When you target one individual, that person has no tools to fight back.

Reports suggest that spyware has been aimed at professionals that are considered as the pillars of democratic life. It has been used on journalists and the political opposition.

Please don’t be depressed by thinking that the governments are invading your privacy. They have been doing it for ages; we just didn’t realize it. Our euphoric tipsiness about democracy and individual freedom has kept us from suspecting their actions. You have to remember George Orwell’s quote -- Big Brother is watching you.

The governments have now become experts in that profession in the name of ensuring transparency. It is done to protect us, make our lives safer, as they would say. They are trying to keep us in a peaceful environment by monitoring each and every one of us. 

90% of our posts related to our personal and professional lives online are monitored. Our photos, status updates, tags, and check-ins are vulnerable info. This is the info the hackers use and cwe’ve already been hacked. The process has already begun. You can’t blame anyone if some think that Covid vaccination is the newest way to put a chip in your body.

Well, humans have imaginative powers. And that, imagination, is perhaps something that they still cannot hack. They may not prevent us from imagining, but they have been quite successful in guiding our imaginations to a destiny that they want to reach.

Until we reach that, we, the masses, mustn’t worry about the invasive tools entering into our private lives. Considering that the destination would be quite peaceful, we should keep swimming in an ocean of digital frequencies and get lifted on the highest wave of adrenaline.        

Ekram Kabir is a yogi, a story-teller, and a communications professional. His other works are available on ekramkabir.com.