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Virtual Snooping

The modern-day snoop is all too often someone you know. If this consideration doesn't leave you paranoid and looking over your shoulder, it should.

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As digital marketing experts at our respective companies, we are keenly aware that we are expected to be responsible for a lot more than our humble job description acknowledges. We are no longer just overseeing the planning, development and execution of our organization’s marketing and advertising initiatives; we are expected to be aware of every tilt and trend, and knowledgeable about “all-things-digital”. A major part of that digital world includes reputation management and digital security. Therefore, it has become part of the CMO’s job to warn companies of looming digital threats that may affect the health of the company culture or those working there — and these days, this means cybersecurity in all its forms. So now, let’s be honest. Hacking is widespread and dangerous, and the headlines are full of breaches, from banks to department stores to the government. But there is another form of hacking that can affect our law firms as well. We all know (or should know) that millions of “others” are hacking and stalking exes, friends, family members, children, co-workers, competition and strangers. And just like the real-world “Peeping Toms” of yesteryear who hid by night to steal a glimpse of someone else’s privacy, the modern-day Peeping Tom is an anonymous digital voyeur who hides on the shadowy backside of IOT devices to steal a target’s privacy and security. What you may not know is that the modern-day snoop, like the original, is all too often someone you know. If this consideration doesn’t leave you paranoid and looking over your shoulder, it should. Welcome to 2017: The Year of Living Digitally, Dangerously This coming year, our communal resolution should not be about losing more, saving more or loving more — it should be about resolving more. Yet, as with most serious issues, solutions cannot even be considered until society admits it has a problem — and like a 2017 New Year’s Eve astronaut, I’m here to tell you “Humanity, we have a problem.” We are currently living in a society where too many of our citizens are addicted to being a “fly-on-the-wall,” aka, virtual snoops. Voyeurism is a uniquely obsessive and destructive addiction that is driven by human beings’ lust and desire to dominate and control while maintaining a façade of humanity. It is no surprise that 2016 studies have also confirmed that a parallel mental illness is on the rise — narcissism. The most concerning part of the “virtual Peeping Tom” mental illness is that a majority of society is secretly partaking in the addiction. The stats on those engaged in the subversive stalking and hacking of humanity’s privacy suggests that around one out of three people have hacked or stalked someone they know. With stats like that, it is clear why most of society is unwilling to admit or solve the issue. These stats also prove that the “virtual Peeping Tom” mental illness is truly out of control. At this point, one solution is not possible — multiple solutions must be considered. One of the first is to define hacking as a mental illness, not a creative pastime that only the “weird guy next door” partakes in. The second is handing out harsh consequences for the defined criminal activity to everyone who stalks or invades another’s privacy. Let’s stop rewarding virtual snoops with government jobs, paying them up to $500K for their sick behavior. 2017 is on the path to becoming the worst year yet for virtual Peeping Toms, thanks to the endless variety of Internet-connected gadgets we’re putting in our homes, and the interconnectedness of our digital lives, in general. Below are some stats that give insights into the growing problem:

If you are unaware of how easy it is for even the most average of virtual Peeping Toms to invade a target’s privacy, here is an example to understand the prevalence of the virtual Peeping Tom mental illness: Kathleen had just hung up from an important and private phone call with a family member. As a family-oriented person, keeping up with family and close relatives was important to her. She had asked them to find out some information for her and, also, to secure some items that she needed, but didn’t want anyone to know about as it was a personal matter. A day or so afterwards, Kathleen noticed that some acquaintances (not friends) mentioned items and bits of information from her phone call, almost verbatim. What made it startling was that this had happened on other occasions, but Kathleen just chalked it all up to coincidence. Later on, she found out that all her cell phone calls and text messages were not only being hacked, but leaked out to people she knew. Someone in her circle of acquaintances had accessed her calls and texts, and related bits of her private business to friends and foes alike, and it had been going on for longer than she realized, Kathleen had been a victim of cell phone hacking, her online safety was compromised. Hacking most phones is completed in simple, easy-to-understand steps and even worse, there are spy mobile programs that do all the work in less time and very inexpensively. Conclusion Instead of allowing 2017 to become another year of living digitally dangerously, let’s choose to make a dent in the societal deception by the millions of addicted voyeurs claiming anonymity. If one can be fired for stealing or fraud, shouldn’t stalking, hacking and bullying by virtual snoops receive similar consequences? As CMOs, we have the digital knowledge and influence to inform those that run our firm communities so that they can continue to maintain a healthy company culture. Let’s make 2017 the year we get back to respecting the respectable, instead of honoring the mentally ill snooping addicts. ***** Karen Ellis is Owner of Social Sweet Spot — digital strategizing, content writing and IoT business. Reach her @SocialSweet, @AmazTechnoChick, and @SDBiotechBeach on Twitter; and SocialSweetSpot on LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, Periscope and more.

The views expressed in the article are those of the authors and not necessarily the views of their clients or other attorneys in their firm.

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