Around a year ago, I read a post here on WordPress where a girl mentioned talking to her boyfriend about a particular brand of earrings while they were roaming the stores in their city. It was all fun and games until the guy opened his phone to check his Instagram feed and voila, his feed is full of targeted ads of earrings.

Ever since 1984, people have thought about stuff such as a Big Brother watching us, keeping track of our every move, listening to what we talk about. After the advent of modern technologies such as the internet and GPS (oh, thanks US Military), such a dystopian future didn’t seem far off.

On a personal note, I never believed in such things. Not believing as in, it wasn’t like I didn’t believe that it was possible, but that I didn’t think such a system would be in place only just now in such a nondescript way. Whenever I mentioned about that blog post to anyone, saying how it maybe seemed plausible, I was always shot down with a quick “Oh, that’s illegal, our government would never allow such a thing.”

The day I was completely sold on the idea was a fateful one. A friend and I were roaming around a mall, deciding what to do. After a few looney rounds, we thought a pizza would go down the throat quite well right about now. We saw a not-so-famous pizza restaurant in the food court, but decided against it as there was a large chain pizza restaurant (rhymes with Pomino’s Dizza) downstairs.

However, I had different plans. I went on a rant saying how we never try new things and we should try a new brand and a different restaurant today. We went to the food court, placed our order and sat down. Out of habit, we took out our phones and started checking our social media, you know the drill.

Oddly enough, it turns out that both of us had got an Instagram sponsored post for a third company that also sold pizza. That’s when it all clicked for me. Snivelling apps like Instagram, Facebook, Messenger gain access to your gallery, camera and microphone right when you install the app. It makes sense too since if you wanted to post a live video you would need access to the camera, microphone and by extension the gallery.

Now, any good samaritan corporation (huge irony, I know) would use the privileges to only carry out the intended operations. However, what we actually get is constant surveillance by these applications in form of a mic that is constantly receiving, an advanced AI with speech recognition and machine learning which customises the ads we’re shown.

This brings us to the greater topic of privacy in the modern cyber world. If you think about it, most of your life is on the internet and is dependent on it for its functioning. Gone are the days where you could go easily rogue, come back in say, five years and have nothing significant change. Not today though.

As far as these corporations are concerned, they’re hell bent on treating us as consumers, mere tools to make money, and not as human beings with real emotions. Such social and emotional engineering may be fascinating, but it can also be downright horrifying. We’re losing ourselves and our lives are being dictated to us, and we’re not even sure by exactly who. Is it robots, is it the corporations that create these robots, is it the government? No matter who it is, we have to realize the impact of such a scenario.