How hard is it to spy electronically on someone? Snoop on everything they do, track where he or she goes, see everywhere they go on the Internet, who they dial on the phone, etc.?
Well, obviously the government has the resources to do that, legally or not. The NSA and FBI have super-tech wizards and literally billions of dollars invested in equipment to allow them to deprive you of every bit of privacy you thought you had. And unless you’re one of my more unusual readers :-), you’re probably not one of those super-tech wizards or own any such exotic gear. (Confession: I used to make my living from information security in the high-tech world, but I was certainly not of those NSA-level wizards or ever had access to their kind of gear.)
But in the world of high tech there’s always an inexorable march to make gadgets both cheaper and more powerful (see Moore’s Law), and that includes the gadgets needed for us to spy on each other. And so it is that it’s now not only cheap but relatively easy for just about anyone to spy on just about anybody else — see how easily the folks at Ars Technica were able to uncover more info about an NPR reporter than he even knew about himself.
Fun, eh? What a cute little gadget, and so powerful, too. But it should frighten you a little bit: When the ability to spirit anyone’s secrets so easily, it becomes ever-easier and -cheaper for anyone to turn such things against you. Do you really want to be so exposed to your neighbor, your ex (or girlfriend, or spouse), your business rivals, or just your garden-variety twisted-noodle stalker? If you don’t see the potential problems with that, think about it a bit more. Use your imagination.
And no, I’m not suggesting you go fold yourself a tin-foil hat and go all clinical paranoid. But do give at least a little bit of thought to what things might be smart for you to do to protect yourself, and a good start would be to do a better job with your passwords.