In 2018, the Internet saw an odd explosion in what has since been known as the ‘FBI Webcam Surveillance’ meme. For those unfamiliar, the meme basically saw people poking fun and making humorous jabs at the possibility of the government spying on us through our gadget webcams; with every person on the globe (or at least in the USA) being assigned a personal ‘FBI Agent’ to watch over us and monitor our every move. Like most things on the Internet, the otherwise frightening possibility made increasing turns for the humorous every time it was propagated; eventually devolving into little more than a funny meme to be shared and laughed at by the online masses. But what if there was evidence that this ‘meme’ may be truer than you think?
In a world increasingly saturated by digital devices, it’s difficult not to feel as though our private lives are constantly being pervaded by surveillance. We spend most of our time on the Internet or surrounded by technology; watching television or browsing web pages or using mobile apps created by a mobile app developer in Malaysia. However, we never really spend time interrogating some crucially important things – just who are we sending our data to every time we visit a webpage, or talk to Google Alexa, or play our favorite mobile apps? Is it a famous mobile app developer in Malaysia? A top mobile app developer in Malaysia who we know and trust? Or is it someone more unknown and more nefarious? And who exactly might be using this information without our knowing, or spying at us through our phones and laptops?
So while the internet may scoff and laugh at the possibility now, here are some scary truths that lend formidable evidence that someone, somewhere, may be spying at us through our webcams and devices.
The Popularity Of The ‘Tape-Over’ Method
Even before the ‘FBI Webcam Surveillance’ meme first began permeating the Internet in 2018, people have been long suspicious of their own digital devices. This paranoia is made pretty evident with the long-standing popularity of the webcam ‘tape-over’ method – in which, as it says on the tin, a person tapes over their (usually laptop) webcam with a piece of non-clear tape; usually to obstruct any potential ‘watchers’. It’s a pretty commonplace thing to do, nowadays, but evidently harmless. After all, people are just paranoid…right?
It’s easy to wave off this ‘taping’ act as simply the result of a widespread, yet unfounded, paranoia. But in as early as 2016, it was found out that people as high up the security radar as the founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, and even then FBI Director James Comey, were taping over their laptop webcams – which really does lend this otherwise fruitless act some unsettling credence. After all, if even the Facebook founder and FBI Director themselves, who are top guns in the security world, were sharing in this surveillance paranoia, is it really as unfounded as we may think?
Yes – Technology Can Spy On You
It was a pretty shocking realization for some, and a much less surprising one for others. But yes – recently, it was found out that applications like Alexa, Siri, and Google Home can, and in fact do, spy on people.
Around 2019, people were roused by the disconcerting discovery that Alexa, Siri, Google Home, and other similar applications would sometimes be ‘awake’ even when owners believed they were asleep; and that they would even ‘record conversations’ without them knowing. This is apparently meant only for the purpose of data collection – in that these devices may record our conversations so as to better streamline our user experience (i.e. Alexa overhearing a conversation about how you want sweatpants can lead to her giving you options for sweatpants in the future). Still, regardless of the motives, it’s still very uncomfortable to think that your private conversations may be recorded somewhere in an unknown database – for god knows what reason.
For those still in disbelief about the likelihood of people spying via our digital devices, there’s more bad evidence to come – it’s been proven that the government can, in fact, spy on your private digital data at any time, anywhere. The question really just lies with when.
This primarily has to do with Section 702 which, for those unfamiliar, is a surveillance authority that practically enables the US government to collect the digital data and communications from any American they want, even without a warrant for search. It’s allegedly used to collect foreign intelligence, but loopholes do give the government the ability to essentially spy on it’s own citizens – and that’s a frightening concept.
When the ‘FBI Webcam Surveillance’ meme first started circulating around 2018, people jumped on the bandwagon for many a reason – some saw it as simply a funny meme to propagate, while others knowingly indulged in what seemed an almost nihilistic mockery of our current state of life; wherein privacy is increasingly being invaded by digital surveillance. Regardless of the reason, it’s clear that the meme isn’t just a humorous but fictional internet joke as we may think – and that the reality of the situation is a lot truer, and a lot scarier, for us all.