Real privacy vs. nonsense

I noticed a short but amusing discussion the other day on the Altamont Facebook page. It seems somebody was flying a drone around the village and some folks got a bit flustered about the possible invasion of privacy from above.

I guess our local nude backyard sunbathers, recently legal pot growers, or maybe just the normal folks burying the odd body in the backyard got a little paranoid. Understandable I suppose.

But step back a moment and think about your privacy in our little village of 1,700 people. What really poses a threat to you? A random drone that some kid was noodling around with, that may not even have had a camera? Or maybe you should look a little more carefully.

For instance, what about the fact that almost every person in this village is carrying a cell phone that is camera equipped, and can be tracked by law enforcement or commercial interests with access to cell location data?

What about the comically common home-security cameras that everyone is throwing up on their houses to protect against the hordes of porch pirates, roving gangs, wild bands of feral teenagers, and packs of dangerous free-range Chihuahuas? Those cameras are Wi-Fi based and feed into corporate data banks that can be hacked or tapped by law-enforcement or government agents if they so choose.

How about the built-in cameras on your laptops?

How about the video security systems that consist of six to 12 cameras linked to a central recording unit that you can pick up at BJs for a few hundred dollars? Folks can point those cameras anywhere they like, and you’ll never know it. That footage can be easily downloaded and shared, uploaded to the web, or turned into a TikTok if one is so inclined.

Beyond the home-based technical spying that’s going on every hour of every day, what about the professionals in our midst?

As we all know, our little village is probably the most policed area in the Capital Region. At any given moment, we have the fine officers of the Altamont Police Department cruising about, the folks from the Guilderland Police Department backing them up, the New York State Troopers making a regular foray through, and even officers of the Department of Environmental Conservation stopping by when the friendly deputies from the Albany County Sheriff’s Office aren’t having a look-see.

That’s a lot of police presence for 1,700 people. And they’re all trained observers, taking notes.

Keep in mind that those patrol units, in some cases, also sport license-plate scanners that, if they’re turned on, record every plate they pass by. So, you have law enforcement knowing the location of your car anytime it’s out in public.

Granted, it really doesn’t matter for most people who take care of their cars, keep up on inspections, have current registrations and licenses. But still, do you really want to be tracked that often? What if you just happen to have a body in the trunk or are smuggling arms on an international basis?

But you know the worst spies of all? They’re hidden in your phones, computers, and digital speakers.

The tech bros behind Amazon, Facebook, and other social-media companies literally spy on every post you make or read, every request you voice, every search, and every order you place. Facebook in particular, is a data-mining company, not a communications company.

Facebook exists to collect every shred of our lives and then sell that data to the highest bidder so we can be targeted by marketers and advertisers. Hackers keep a close eye on Facebook too, seeing it as a wonderful source of personal information that’s very useful for cracking passwords and in creating phishing scams.

Privacy in our modern world is pretty much under assault from all sides, and we’re not helping by buying ever more cameras and entering endless data into the great wild west that is the Internet. If you really want to remain anonymous, skip the cell phone, toss the security cameras, log off the Internet, and get ahold of one of those Harry Potter invisibility cloaks. Oh yes, don’t own or drive a car either; stick to public transport (paid in cash) or a bicycle.

Too extreme? For most folks, that probably is.

The basic truth is that, to be a functional part of modern society in this country currently, is to give up a certain amount of privacy. How much you give up is entirely up to you.

But I wouldn’t worry about the odd drone buzzing overhead. Unless of course, it’s a Predator carrying several Hellfire missiles, like the ones we have flying over various world hotspots as you sit and read this.

Editor’s note: Michael Seinberg notes he is a very big fan of privacy and works to guard it where it makes sense; he owns no drones.