Is Your Technology Watching You?


Amazon’s Ring doorbells and in-home cameras may not be as safe as everyone thinks they are. “That’s crazy. I wouldn’t get one because I wouldn’t want Amazon watching my every move, or when I’m leaving my house and stuff. Honestly, I would sue them,” senior Kyra Rupp said.

Haley Kulm, Editor-in-Chief

From social media sites to smart speakers and video doorbells, there have been many reports of creepy connections, which suggest that these forms of technology may actually be spying on their users.

Many technology users have been suggesting that the government is watching everyone through their phones and computer cameras, and what makes this even more concerning is that advertisements will appear on social media sites based on the search history, or even based on recent conversations users have had.

“I [once] was talking about a pair of Converse [in person] that I wanted for awhile and when I got on Instagram, there were a bunch of ads for Converse, along with the same thing happening on Facebook,” senior Gretchen Hinchliff said.

People are also concerned that their smart speakers–Google Home and Amazon Echo–are listening to their conversations. These smart speakers could be listening to people’s conversations without any prompt to the device, waiting for the “wake word.” The devices record what people say, once they use their wake words they are initiated with their wake words and given a command.

If you have never had one of these devices, you might be wondering: what is a wake word? A wake word is something that you say to your smart speaker to initiate it so you can give it a command. For example, Amazon Echo’s wake word is “Alexa,” and Google Home’s wake word is “OK Google.” As soon as someone says these words in front of their smart speakers, the speaker will “wake up” and wait for a command.

“I’ve heard that someone was talking to one of their friends and they said that the next day they saw that their Google Dot made a delivery without their permission and they tried to see what it was and they said it was exactly what they were talking about,” junior Aaron Farthing said.

Many claim that Amazon’s Ring doorbells and in-home camera systems are both spying on their customers and storing the video footage of people’s lives.

“I think there are forms of technology in this day and age that makes me want to live off the grid,” Kirstin Johnson said. “It’s one of those things that I can live without. A normal doorbell suffices just fine, and it’s something I can live without, without having to fear my privacy being invaded.”

If the spying was not bad enough, these doorbells and in-home cameras are also very vulnerable to hackers. There have been many instances in which a hacker has talked to someone through their cameras. One little girl had one of these cameras in her bedroom, and someone hacked it and was attempting to get her to go call her mother a “n****r.”

“I think that’s stupid that technology should not be that. You should be able to trust it and if you can’t trust it, you shouldn’t have it,” freshman Dylan Knight said. “The company should fix that problem and make it more safe.”

I decided to test some of these claims myself. I started a conversation where my peers and I discussed seeing a movie. Immediately upon checking both my Instagram and Snapchat, I noticed advertisements for recent movie releases. I was talking about going to see a movie, and I got advertisements on Instagram and Snapchat about new movies. I then had a conversation about Justin Bieber with my friend, and an Instagram advertisement about Justin Bieber came up. The next day, some classmates and I decided to test the theory even further. In our mock conversation, a classmate mentioned that he wanted to buy a new Toyota Corolla. We both immediately started getting advertisements about this specific car.

The bottom line is this: Your phone and other technology devices could be spying on you, so be careful what you talk about and search for.