Humans are the only species that seems to regard "privacy" as a thing. If a chimpanzee wants to start jerking off, the rest of his family just sits around and watches, bored. But humans? Our houses, clothes and means of communication are all built around carefully hiding certain aspects of ourselves.
But this is changing with terrifying speed, thanks to technology. Almost every advanced gadget we use presents another crack that a creepy or malicious person could pry open if they got the urge to stalk us. If you think we're being paranoid, well, let us provide you with actual examples of it happening ...
#5. Any Photo You Post Online Gives Away Your Location
When we say that any picture you post online can let a stranger know where to find you, we're not talking about a photo of you standing in front of the Leaning Tower of Pisa, pretending to hold it up. We're talking about the photo you took of yourself, in your own bedroom, standing in front of your wall of One Direction posters.
So for instance, let's say you've given up on meeting Prince or Princess Charming in the real world and you've turned to dating sites. But you know there are some bona fide crazies out there, so you'll want to play it safe. For your profile pictures, you're sure to only use photos without recognizable background features or tell-tale scars proving you're the Chosen One or a Cuban drug lord, because then anyone could find you. You don't post your real name and you keep all your personal information behind a privacy wall, which is like a chastity belt for your identity, if your identity were a vagina.
And creating a Facebook profile is like vajazzling.
Little do you know that the innocent self-portrait of you in your favorite George-Washington-but-as-a-cat costume has led Glenn Close (or her male equivalent, also named Glenn Close) right to your door. That's because every digital photo has a wide variety of information stored in the actual code of the file: Time, date, camera type, camera setting and how drunk you were when you took it are all embedded in the file when you upload the picture. You know what else is in that file? If you used your smartphone, the GPS coordinates of where you took the picture. You might as well arm your stalkers with some roofies while you're at it.
Don't believe us? In the summer of 2012, a couple of Burger King workers thought it would be hilarious to show just how much they loved serving customers fresh salad.
Wait, that isn't how you're supposed to prepare a salad?
And they had to have felt completely safe posting that health code violation -- every fast food kitchen in the country probably has that same tiled floor, and there are probably 30 million fast food workers wearing black pants and tennis shoes. It could be anybody.
Yet it only took 4chan users 15 minutes to use the code embedded in the photos to figure out where the picture was taken and get the perpetrators' asses fired. Fifteen minutes. Imagine how fast a crazy person with a boner would work. Or literally anyone else with bad intentions.
"I feel it's still safe to assume that any crime I've photographed can be posted online without consequence."
The good news is that the major dating sites like Match.com and PlentyofFish.com are savvy enough to remove the GPS information when you upload your pictures. The bad news is that a quarter of the websites surveyed didn't, so beware, readers who use InterracialMatch.com or SeniorsCircle.com or SugarDaddyForMe.com. Not only are you setting yourself up for a lifetime of bluffing to your kids about how their parents met, but you also could be facilitating your own murder.
#4. Your Copy Machine Is Storing Every Document You Copy
There are only two upsides to working in an office: mugging for the camera that's filming a nine-year-long documentary of your workspace, and free copies. Need a copy of your phone bill before you can move into your new apartment? Your Social Security card so you can falsely apply for unemployment? Are you a 1960s-era secretary who still thinks it's appropriate to make copies of your butt during a drunken Christmas party? We've all been there, and unless somebody has access to the copy or the original, nobody will ever know you did it.
"What happens here is between me, you, that eggnog and this newly moistened machine."
Well, unless the copier was purchased after 2002.
Since then, most copiers have also functioned as scanners, fax machines and printers, which means they've all come with a hard drive. And that hard drive stores every single document ever recorded on it -- ever. Pull out the hard drive and download free software to scan it, and you'll have access to everything copied, scanned, faxed or emailed on that machine.
"Dude's ass. Dude's ass. Chick's ass. Dude's junk."
So let's say you buy yourself used copiers from a warehouse, as CBS investigators did in 2010. From those machines, investigators found everything from official sex crime complaints to pay stubs to 300 pages of private medical records. The whole operation was over in a few hours.
So, if you're an identity thief or a fake faith healer looking for someone to scam, you might want to invest in some used copiers. If you're a person who happens to have a creepy, overly attentive co-worker, know that unless you immediately overwrite everything you copy, or you hire a technician to destroy the hard drive, it's feasible for the creep in the mailroom to use his overtime to get acquainted with copies of your glass-flattened ass.
"No, this must have been Milton from accounting. I'd recognize that tramp stamp anywhere."
#3. Your Facebook Profile Makes It Easy to Guess Your Password Security Questions
You're probably pretty careful with your passwords -- you're not like those novices who use "Password1234" for everything. You've got a nice combination of nonsense letters and special characters, and it'd take a supercomputer several thousand years to guess it.
Argonne National Laboratory
"AAAAA. AAAAB. AAAAC. AAA- aw, fuck it."
Of course, every site has a "Forgot your password?" function that lets you reset it by answering a few personal questions. But how would anyone ever get access to, say, your private email account unless they somehow knew everything about you? It's not like some creepy stalker is going to somehow know the name of the town your mother was born in.
Well, unless they know how to type "Facebook.com" into the address bar.
"Facebook? You must mean Myspace."
Again, this isn't some paranoid hypothetical situation here. Twenty-three-year-old George Bronk, for instance, followed a multistep plan to not only obtain nude pictures of his Facebook friends, but ruin their lives as well. First he'd study up on the profiles of women who listed their email addresses on their Facebook accounts. He'd learn their favorite color, mother's maiden name, birthday, high school mascot, first car, hometown, favorite book, dog's name, etc.
Then he'd log in to their email accounts and skip the password, because unless it was "CRAZYGEORGELOL," he didn't know it. Instead, George would wait for the security questions like "What is your mother's maiden name?" or "Who is your A #1 stalker?" Thanks to his snooping, he usually knew the answer, giving him access to his victims' private emails.
We recommend answering those questions with nonsense.
By this point, the guy was in post-douche territory, so he must have figured, "Why stop here? I'm only a hair away from becoming Satan himself!" He scanned the "sent" files for nude pictures of his victims, then sent those pictures to himself and everyone in their address book. Then he logged in to their Facebook accounts and posted them there.
Being the classy guy he was, Bronk would occasionally refrain from posting the pictures -- only to use them as leverage. In other words, blackmail. Once caught in October 2010, investigators discovered that he had victimized 46 women in 17 states with over 172 email files that had explicit photographs attached. He has been sentenced to four years in state prison, where, we have to assume, he will be occupied with a different level of stalker activity.
"Remember, prison staff will never ask for your password."