When Prime Minister Justin Trudeau did his town hall session in Regina on Jan. 10, you could expect there would be a few nutbar questions, and, indeed, there were. One of the most outlandish was this:
“What year are you going to remove your dad’s microphones and cameras out of our electronics that are all throughout our homes, our offices and our bedrooms? The second question is, are you going to shut down the Crown organization called CSIS, who is using these microphones and cameras to stalk, harass, bully, terrorize, drug and poison and kill Canadians?”
The room scoffed and laughed, and the prime minister brushed it off and kept going. He did, however, acknowledge issues around Amazon’s Alexa and privacy issues.
The man was a loon, right? Thinking the government is spying on us with microphones everywhere?
Maybe not the government directly, but surely our own technology that we have bought and paid for is indeed spying on us, and I can prove it.
My Ford Expedition is overdue for a transmission fluid change. I’ve been thinking about it for a while, but didn’t have the $400 or so to pay for it. I will have that money soon, however.
So on the way to McDonald’s, I told my wife that I plan on doing a transmission fluid change on the Expedition likely next week.
We stopped and parked. I looked at my phone, and the very first thing to pop up on my Facebook on my iPhone is a post from AMSOIL, saying, “Should I change fluid in a filled-for-life transmission? – AMSOIL Blog.”
I had not done any searches online for this, at all, period. There is zero online presence indicating my intention to change transmission fluid. No related cookies. Nothing. The only way the Facebook advertising engine could know I was interested in doing this was if it heard my conversation, through my phone.
I took a screenshot, and shared the suggested blog post, naturally, on Facebook. Very soon I got posts sharing similar experiences. One person said, “The phones listen. We have had multiple occasions where we were chatting while driving and all of a sudden articles and pages that we have never searched come up.”
Another replied, “I saw dragon fruit in our restaurant last week. We never have dragon fruit, and I never ever speak of dragon fruit. It was a one-time thing that the chef ordered in on special. I remarked that the fruit was pretty, a cook told me that it is dragon fruit. I told her that I hadn't eaten or seen dragon fruit in years.
“A few minutes later, I sat down to eat my lunch, I opened my phone for the first time since the conversation, read a news article, and at the bottom of the article was an ad for a sponsored site listing the top foods best for health, and the fruit that they had pictured was... a dragon fruit!
“The original article that I was reading had nothing to do with health. It was a political article. The dragon fruit thing was a sponsored story after the article.”
We are freely allowing our technology to listen in on our everyday conversations. Some of the biggest sellers on Amazon these days are “smart speakers.” They are, in essence, listening devices that report back what you are saying and try to fulfill your needs, hopefully with something they can sell you.
Do you think they are only listening when you say, “Alexa?” or “OK, Google?”
As for “Hey, Siri?” I have that turned off on my phone, and the same with “OK, Google?” At least I think they are turned off. So it seems to me Facebook was listening.
It is not CSIS, sneaking around at night, placing bugs in our homes. I have seen the enemy, and it is us. We, the consumers, are buying the Amazon Echo and Google Home speakers. We are the ones with “smart” Android and iOS phones which listen to us constantly, whether we realize it or not.
We are the ones spending hundreds of dollars on these phones and their accompanying data plans. We are the ones who are freely, willingly, giving up our innermost thoughts and conversations. I could have taken my iPhone and put it behind the wheel of my truck when I left McDonalds, but I didn’t. I still want that phone. I still need that phone.
This is not a government conspiracy. It is us giving into to corporate business plans to sell us more things, like transmission fluid.
That, and Skynet (Google/Amazon/Apple/Facebook) taking over the world. Keep an eye out for inbound missiles. The closest silo to Estevan is precisely 50 kilometres southeast of my front door.
I know that because I measured it on Google Maps. Go figure.
Brian Zinchuk is editor of Pipeline News. He can be reached at email@example.com