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Can You Shield Yourself In This Smartphone-Owned World?

Two men talking serious matter

Read this very carefully and remember: from now on you are being watched. It sounds fantastic or creepy to you? Just look closely at the stranger, sitting in the other end of the hall. Although it seems like he is talking via his smartphone, he is actually shooting pictures of you with the help of special app. And this is only the beginning. At that morning meeting last Tuesday, when you made that insolent joke about your new boss, the smartphone of your co-worker, quietly lying at the table, was recording every word you said. Later that evening when you were at the restaurant and made a flirty but innocent joke to the waitress, someone was recording video of the whole interaction.

From the first sight it seems that you can do nothing to stop any of such things from happening again and again. Millions of operating smartphones around the world mean millions of active recording devices which ready to quickly capture your every word or move. And when those records are made, it is not a big deal to throw any pictures, videos or audios into the Internet and share with everyone. Maybe there is a way to prevent all of it? Let’s see. Maybe someone smart enough will create an invisibility cloak like those in fantasy movies, or maybe companies will use hints from James Bond movies and create some hi-tech counter-surveillance devices which will allow us to move in public without worrying about possible privacy issues.

In fact, it might be the companies that we already know well, the more so, because there is already some sort of technologies I am talking about. For example, Apple patented new technology late last year that can simply disable the camera of an iPhone with the help of infrared sensors pointed at the camera. It was developed to prevent movie piracy. Yet ordinary people can use such device in their advance too. Founder and chief executive of surveillance and counter-surveillance company BrickHouse Security, Todd Morris, said some early technologies already exist to help secure people from being intentionally recorded. For example, any woman can use wireless camera detector inside the dressing room to find out if a hidden camera is installed among her clothes. Yep, that happens, and quite a lot.

Spy camera hidden inside the dressing room

But there are some limits because dressing room or business office is completely different to the large and crowded public place. For example, if you use that Apple camera-disabling device there you will definitely make lots of people to feel nuisance if they wanted just to picture some sights or make photos to remember friends by. The same is partially applies to GSM jammers but it may vary from place to place (for example, movie theater is definitely must have such devices to make the visitor’s experience uninterrupted and thus even more great).

“While you are not wearing a fake mustache or stocking over your head, there is no way for anyone in a huge crowd to prevent being secretly pictured,” Todd Morris claimed. “In these cases we’ll have to use our technology to combat technology only at the server level with the help of algorithms which say “Don’t post this photo of me on the web.”” If those companies can tag anyone on the Internet simply by recognizing their voice or even face, they should be capable of un-tagging them in the same way, too. Yet when everyone starts using those Google glasses and other augmented reality eyewear we will face the new kind of surveillance because they will probably record all they see.

Founder and chief executive of Nest Labs (company that makes smart thermostats) Tony Fadell said that cloaking devices would definitely become available to common people for they to be able to protect their privacy. What he calls audio cloaks would be a high-tech hat that pours flat noise from above and prevents any possibility of someone records your chatter. Yet cloaking images will be much more difficult task to achieve, he added. Among other possible counter-recording technologies there is necklace that emits infrared light and simply blurs all pictures made in your direction or radar-like watch that vibrates every moment an audio recorder went active in its vicinity not far from you.

Two men sitting on the bench

“Most of the surveillance is organized by the governments which want to lower the percentage of criminal activity in their countries by watching all of us simultaneously”, says David D. Cole, who is a professor of law at the Georgetown University that specializes in national security and constitutional law. “Government sees earthshaking possibilities in technologies of the nearest future”, said Mr. Cole, “because they allow it to detect many crimes and wrongdoings more quickly and effectively.” Though companies like Jammer Store Inc. will continue to create technologies which help citizens to protect themselves from their own government and prevent authorities from recording every movement and word of yours.

“If you remember the speed guns placed on the highways of the country, there are detectors developed for you to put them in your vehicle and detect patrolmen with those radars,” Mr. Cole added. Those detectors are illegal to use in many states though people still use them. So other technologies of the same kind are popular and new ones will be popular as well. Mr. Cole said: “I think that probably the biggest problem of our time is about how our privacy rights which are the part and parcel of our democracy are maintained in the face of technological progress?” I guess that if the governments could not handle this in the right way then people will use the similar technologies to protect their privacy as it should be protected. And if you are one of them, you can shield yourself from smartphone-owned world as well.

How do you like the current state of things? What do you think about technological development in the future and possible privacy issues? Speak your mind in the comments!

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