On Privacy and Surveillance-05

I’ve written on this topic, here, here, here and here. And here is a play I wrote long time back which typifies an office environment.

After writing some on “manual surveillance” I’m veering towards surveillance of the “Tech-Kind.” These are not opinions only but my experiences too; things that happened to me. And if you are not careful, it’ll happen to you, too.

Recently, Apple launched “Airtag” and (frankly) I did not have a clue of what it is. Then when I knew it, after watching YouTube videos, I found Apple is not the first one to make such a device and there are others in the market, and these are pretty popular – “in the western world.”

But who the hell will buy “Airtag” or other “tag” like devices in India?

Imagine, losing your bag and with an airtag attached to it. I’m hundred percent sure, in India, your phone “may” guide you to the “tag” sans the “bag.” Besides, I still doubt you’ll get the “Airtag” too.

Here is my story about “tagging” of another kind.

A decade back (2011), after a drinking binge I walked up to my car and before opening the door I decided to have a smoke. I deposited my iPad and iPhone on the roof of my car. Having finished smoking, I entered the car and drove off. The devices on the roof may have clattered and clanged on the road near my usual bar.

Upon realising what I had done, I went to icloud.com/find to locate my devices. Obviously, anyone who may have picked my phone and pad, did the first important thing. They switched it off. On the browser, I put both my Apple devices on “Lost Mode,” and “Erase Mode,” with message and phone number for any generous angels. I had also remotely password locked those devices so that if any one even tries a password for once, the device will self erase and me getting an SMS with location. Or so I believed.

Then I did the next best thing ever expected out of only me in this world. Next day I went back to the bar and told everyone what all I have done to trap the person who, by now, was my culprit.

A guy like me, in that bar, and who tips pretty good left, right and centre, is always trailed and watched. I know this for sure. I’m pretty certain that many known eyes would have seen me take off and also seen those devices fall of the car-roof. And my next days idiotic brag would have tipped off the culprit for certain.

My two devices probably was never switched on, or, if its SIMs were removed, never got a whiff of any Wi-Fi. Well, why would anyone interested to steal would enter a Wifi password. Yes, the SIM’s were blocked later when no angels showed up.

It must be added here (and it must not be missed) that on the day, or rather the night, when I lost my devices by placing it atop my car, I was not alone. I was with my colleagues, one of them was from my previous company. This “previous-company colleague” had made a career out of “Khabaree-giri,” (snooping and informing higher management). I know this guy since the day I started my career.

After the above incident, only a day or two may have passed, and I was standing beside my car on my office parking – with my “new iPad and iPhone” atop my car roof. At the same time, another car rolled in and stopped beside me, and out peeked a Higher Management and remarked – “Don’t put it on the roof, you’ll again lose it.” I was struck; I literally had my mouth wide open. I immediately knew who reported it and the utter shamelessness of it all. It had not taken him much time to let the news to flow; I can imagine him not sleeping the night and divulge it to the management “first thing next morning.”

So, some tagging don’t work. But some do. Tagging literally means Labelling, for identification. And in this world, this #tag, is an important function.

“Airtag” as is feared, can be used as surveillance. This has been disputed as “Airtag” cannot be used as tracking device on others as their iPhone will alert them. What’s been left unsaid is that if the technology is there, who prevents a third party to devise such a useful device?

In these days of smart devices, there are many more ways to know what people are doing with their time. Such information is important. If you are not doing the work of the company, you are doing the work against the company and this information in your colleagues hands will be used against you in the first meeting everyday with higher management. Any crap information will do. The higher management love entourage, a crowd of yapping sycophants in their cabin, to feel important. In this world, sycophancy to any power is free because it feeds on scraps of promises. Even the bosses smile will do for that day.

In the beginning of my career, I used to go to work with a book in my hands. I realised after a few days, that this was one undesirable behaviour in the world of corporate illiterates. “You know, he reads books,” such expressions started to make rounds till I stopped carrying it. But by that time my reputation was tainted.

In my last company too, there has been numerous occasions when, with my attention is engaged elsewhere, I’ve noticed colleagues fiddling with my iPad. Many of them act ignorant of the device but they exactly know where to go in the ipad and which options to click to know the history of your net-whereabouts.

Smart Devices these days have made it very easy to get information on anyones engagement of his days. Take iDevices. Screen Time has made it easy for anyone to know how the owner of the device is spending his days. And if you cannot access Screen Time, if it’s turned off, then GOTO>Setting>Battery. You’ll get all information at a glance with statistics.

What one does with his days, what app one is accessing, what website one is exploring, what is posted on ones Facebook and Twitter etc., are precious raw metals for adversaries. Picture a run-down African country and their run-down hungry looking kids with porus baskets filtering muck and dirt. They are looking for diamonds and gold. They do it all day looking for just a speck to sell. Your colleagues will scour your life the same way for what you have, and what you consider dirt, is diamond and gold for them.

Along with smartphone, start carrying a Basic Phone too. If anyone asks for your phone, for whatever reasons, give them the Basic Phone. And see the fun!