I Always Feel Like Somebody’s Watching Me

Privacy seems to be a key topic these days. You can’t flip on the news without hearing how the government is spying on us through our webcams and hacking into our emails. But recently I discovered a new enemy to be worried about… our smart phones, more specifically, our apps.

How many of us actually read the fine print when we sign up for anything, let alone when we purchase a new app on our smart phones? Not many. But maybe we should rethink our blind trust of technology. Your phone could be recording private moments and broadcasting them to the world.

If you have the flashlight app, you might want to delete it. Or at least check out the disclaimer. Downloading the application means that you give them free reign over your photos, and also allows them to take photos, or videos of you at all times to use at their discretion. Think I’m kidding? Check it out:

Screen shot of terms before accepting the app

Screen shot of terms before accepting the app

Learning this creepy information made me think twice about internet privacy too. Did you know that even if you make your Facebook page “private,” there are apps that will enable people to see it anyway? The internet can be a scary place, and online dating isn’t exempt. Now, this isn’t to say you should avoid online dating, I merely suggest taking certain precautions.

  1. Don’t give out your full name— until you’ve met in person and trust them enough with this information. Sure, an adept stalker could probably still find this out, but don’t make it easy for them. Remain on a first name basis until you’re sure they aren’t crazy (or at least not more crazy than the rest of us).
  2. Create a unique username— don’t use the same username for your dating profile that you use for Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. You don’t want them to be able to find you online until you’re ready and willing. Also, don’t include personal information, such as your birthdate, in your username. Like I said, make the stalker work for it.
  3. Don’t dole out your digits too freely— make sure you’re comfortable before giving out your number, and if you want extra safety ask for their number instead. You can always *67 before calling.
  4. Save the specifics— Before you’ve met in person, don’t tell them your favorite place to hang out, the street you live on, or even your neighborhood, don’t tell them your regular Starbucks or where you work. Leave a little mystery until you’ve solved the mystery of their sanity.
  5. Keep communication on the site— (until you take it offline) not through your personal email or social media sites. You signed on to the dating website for a reason, so there shouldn’t be a need to friend them on Facebook or exchange emails unless you’ve met and have started dating. Today’s society is all about over-sharing, but until you’ve been on a few dates, he doesn’t need to follow your tweets about what you ate for lunch.
  6. Keep your wallet closed— this seems like a no-brainer, but still needs to be said: NEVER GIVE OUT MONEY, your debit or credit card information or your social security number. I don’t care if they say they need bail, a heart transplant or to save their precious pup from being put down. DON’T do it. EVER.
  7. Wrap it up— don’t carry on an extensive online relationship. Exchange a few emails, then if you’re feeling it, meet up (in a public place). Don’t be the next schmuck on Catfish. Although it’s entertaining, the show shouldn’t even exist,  not if we’re smart about how we date online.

CONCLUSION: don’t blindly trust technology. It’s your frenemy. Use it, don’t let it abuse you. Of course, these are basic guidelines, not set-in-stone rules. Use your gut and your common sense, and when in doubt remember the age-old saying: better safe than sorry.