John Goncalves is a little bit of a renegade. He doesn’t use a plastic slider or piece of tape to conceal the tiny webcam at the top of his laptop screen, unlike almost everyone else he knows.
“Everyone warns you to cover your camera because somebody might be monitoring you.” But I’m wondering to myself, “Why would anyone want to keep an eye on me?”
Goncalves, a 19-year-old gap year student in Toronto, agreed.
He claimed that anyone who peeked into his life would be thoroughly bored.
Why should he care if someone watching him do his schoolwork or send emails from afar? But, just in case, he closes the screen when he has to change his clothes or have a private discussion.
According to security experts, Goncalves has a point.
But, as Kavya Pearlman, CEO and co-founder of the XR Safety Initiative, a non-profit that focuses on privacy and security in virtual reality, augmented reality, and mixed reality settings, pointed out, there’s a broader dilemma at play here.
Our laptop, phone, and tablet cameras are only a few of the many cameras that can capture our activity.
According to Pearlman, cameras on wearable gadgets such as spectacles will soon be able to capture every moment of our lives.
When we’re surrounded by more cameras than our Post-it notes can cover, how will we protect our privacy?
How bad actors access webcams and other cameras?
Hackers can gain access to cameras using outdated operating systems – software that hasn’t been updated in a long time.
Because security vulnerabilities are normally addressed through software updates, the longer you wait to update,
The more likely your system could contain issues that hackers could exploit. By enabling automatic updates, you can prevent a slew of security issues.
When hackers break into popular operating systems from huge firms like Apple or Microsoft, they usually sell the knowledge to governments rather than using it to snoop on low-profile individuals, according to Ashkenazi.
The Washington Post and 16 other news organisations conducted an investigation into how the Israel-based NSO Group marketed malware that could hack iPhones and other Apple devices to foreign governments, who used it to spy on journalists, government officials, and activists.
Why your webcam sticker isn’t enough?
Snooping is prevented by the use of camera coverings. However, they aren’t a long-term solution, especially when it becomes more difficult to tell when we’re being recorded.
In September, Facebook, for example, announced a $300 set of “smart glasses” that can collect photographs and videos as the wearer moves around.
The glasses are more subtle and attractive than Google’s predecessors, and despite a lukewarm welcome, Pearlman believes it’ll only be a matter of time before smart glasses become a part of our daily life.
That’s not to mention the proliferation of camera-enabled linked gadgets in our homes, cities, and businesses.
What happens to our privacy when these [webcam] coverings are merely a passing fad, and no one seems to mind because everything is recorded anyway?” she stated “
We’re getting into a culture where the question of whether or not I should have a mechanical cover to turn off every camera that might be spying on me is moot.”
True privacy, according to Pearlman, is a question of context, control, and choice: In what circumstances am I willing to be taped?
What level of control do I have over the data collected? Was I given the option to opt out?
Currently, companies, not consumers, decide these types of privacy decisions. That must change in the future, according to Pearlman.
“I believe we need to open up, decentralise, and make these decisions collaboratively so that billions of people do not feel powerless when their choices are removed,” she stated.