3Listening to Your Phone Calls
If you told us 20 years ago that there would be places where cell phones would be more ubiquitous than toilets, we would have shat our Girbauds and done a spit-take into your mirrored Oakleys. But here we are, in 2010, with just about every schmo carting a cell phone around like it's no big thing. Hey! You know what else is "no big thing"? Using that same ubiquitous device to to listen to your conversations, read your text messages and monitor your online browsing.
Companies like Mobile Spy are on the cutting edge of the turning cell phones into secret, psycho nanny devices business. For just about $100, customers can get software that records the phone number and length of every outgoing and incoming call, all text messages sent and received, and the phone's Internet browsing history. All of that info then gets sent to a database run by the good people behind Mobile Spy, and can be perused by users at their leisure.
"Don't worry, everybody. She said she'd be right back."
Fancier programs also let you listen in on and record live phone conversations.
Now, this doesn't mean you should get all paranoid and start sending all your text messages in Esperanto, but the fact that so many different kinds of software for spying on cell phones exist suggests that there's a pretty serious market for this sort of thing.
On the plus side, none of these programs can be used unless the perpetrator has access to your phone. On the down side, anyone who does have access to your phone can monitor you like you're a dissatisfied Soviet dissident and they're the KGB.
But no untrustworthy person will ever be alone with your phone, right?
2Using the Internet to Find Your Personal Info
You probably think you're pretty clever about what sort of personal information you reveal on the Internet. Sure, we all have a drunken electric slide pic out there, but it's not like the average person is handing out their address and phone number to everyone they meet in some shady chatroom. So your personal life is pretty secure, right?
Pictured: total safety.
Totally. Unless somebody knows your name or has a vague idea of where you live. Because with just those little tidbits, anyone can track down your precise address, phone number, and just about all the other information that you don't exactly advertise to the universe.
And there's more than one way to do it, too. For starters, there's a site that lets you browse around a map of your community to see if anyone near you has a criminal record. The website is kind of creepy and seems to promote vigilante justice, plus they freely admit that their data isn't always accurate, so maybe that 80-year-old man with the oxygen tank who lives next door isn't really a serial rapist after all.
And if the guy doing the searching isn't a total cheapskate, there are plenty of websites out there that are willing to give out all sorts of personal info for the right price. You can get someone's address and phone number with just a couple of bucks, but if you want to get fancy you can also get their previous addresses, aliases, tax and legal history, property values, marriage and divorce records, and info on their neighbours and family members, all for around $40.
Apparently you can put a price on human life. And that price is less than a new Xbox game.
All these sites are doing is pulling together a bunch of info taken from various public records databases, but the end result is a report on your life history for anyone who cares to pay for it. Suddenly that guy who's stalking you on Facebook looks pretty harmless.