What was once fodder for conspiracy theorists is now an accepted reality. If you are online or use a mobile phone, someone is gathering information about you. Some watchers are rather innocent, such as learning which browser you use, and others are quite nefarious, such as those that steal your financial information or private images. You can combat keyloggers and computer spying with powerful internet security software, keystroke encryptors and anti-keylogger software. Some people even go to more extreme lengths to maintain their privacy by using obscure internet service providers, disposable phones and cash-only transactions.
Now that you have accepted that your computer activity is being monitored, you may wonder who is watching.
Most employers install some kind of monitoring software on company-owned computers. It is legal to install monitoring software, even keyloggers, on computers that a company owns. Sometimes this type of software is used to track stolen laptops, and other times it is used to monitor employee productivity. While most employers do not care about your mundane conversations with coworkers using your computer, there are cases that progress to termination when it comes to releasing private company information, HR issues or company slander. It is not recommended that you attempt to disable your company's security software, but rather that you limit personal interactions to your personal computer or mobile phone.
Spouses and Exes
There is commercially available and free keylogger software that can track everything that you do on your PC or mobile phone. Often this type of software runs stealthily in the background, unbeknownst to the user. While it is not legal to install this type of software on computers or mobile phones you do not own, when it comes to married couples, there is a bit of gray area, and laws vary state to state.
Depending on the type of monitoring software, others can gain access to anything from your keystrokes and the images you look at to recording your video and VoIP conversations. Most anti-keylogger software can detect computer spying software. Some software detects and blocks spy software, whereas others can completely remove the unwanted software. If you detect keylogger software installed by your spouse, it is up to you and your marriage counselor or lawyer to decide how best to proceed.
Parents often install monitoring software on computers their children use. Parental control software can log websites visited, gather screenshots, block websites, monitor search terms and much more. Some parents use the software to create user accounts for their children, whose permissions may vary depending on their ages and maturity levels. The software can also control what hours the child can play games or access the internet. If your parents have installed this type of software on a computer that they own, it is legal in the U.S. even if you are over 18.
Cyber criminals who deploy malware are most often looking for passwords and logins to gain access to your accounts. While some simply want to spread spam in your name, others are more malicious and gain access to your entire system, including files, applications, webcams and microphones. There have been numerous cases reported in which webcams have been activated to expose unsuspecting victim's private moments. Cyber criminals who gain access to your accounts often sell the information, and victims have little recourse. You can combat this type of privacy invasion a good internet security solution, anti-keylogger software and encryption software.
Marketers are allowed to gather some information about your internet habits. Data that is easily gathered includes your country, the web browser you use, the operating system and basic system information. If you have ever visited a website that seems to recognize you when you come back, some information has been collected from you, such as your IP address. Some sites install cookies and trackers that can provide information on your web habits. You may also notice sites such as Facebook that attempt to provide advertisements of interest to you based upon your activities and basic information.
The news is all aflutter about this topic. If your government chooses to collect information about you, it is pretty hard to circumvent it because the government can gain access to the major ISP providers and websites to obtain information directly. This usually leaves security tools pretty useless. While what the government can and does do with the collected information is hotly debated, if ultimate, 100-percent privacy is of utmost concern to you, you may want to consider conducting your personal interactions offline.
Rockwell and George Orwell predicted modern privacy concerns and not knowing who knows what about us. In 1984, Rockwell released his hit, "Somebody's Watching Me." In Orwell's infamous novel "1984," he wrote, "Nothing was your own except the few cubic centimeters inside your skull." If your privacy is a concern for you, you have to actively protect it.