The story begins like a particularly chilling creepypasta, with a young tech consumer sitting at her computer late one night, downloading horror films from Film4 on Demand.
She’s alone in the big, empty, slightly unnerving house she recently inherited from a distant uncle she never knew existed until two weeks ago. Sounds of groaning and settling echo around her; soon she thinks she distinguishes one recognisable sound from the rest of the noise, that of footsteps slowly ascending the rotted stairs. She stills, listening – the footsteps amplify as they draw closer to her room. Paralysed in fright, she can do nothing but stare at the download progress bar, frozen at 76%. ‘Is this number significant?’ she asks herself. ‘Yes, I have it, I saw it when—‘
Her thoughts are interrupted by the creak of the bedroom door opening behind her. The footsteps continue, halting just behind her Reade Mesh Office Chair, which she bought half price from Argos before news of her inheritance came through. The entity behind her, the thing, simply stands there, waiting for she knows not what, breathing his fetid air onto her neck and causing a most unpleasant shiver.
Not one to shy from confrontation – she’d gained much experience in the WWE fan forum flamewars of 2009 – our intrepid young internet-user begins to twist her chair around, counting the seconds before she comes face to face with the nameless horror behind her.
At long last she makes eye contact, and it turns out the creeping horror does have a name: it’s General Keith B. Alexander, Director of the USA’s National Security Agency (NSA).
Social media sharing has made every individual’s private life that much more public in the past ten years, and tech in general is giving governmental (and non-official) agencies an ease of access into private citizens’ affairs on an unprecedented scale. Privacy in technology is a hot topic at the moment, and for good reason. Not only are technological advances themselves raising issues of right to privacy – such as taking and/or posting pictures and videos online without consent, smartphone photo apps and Google Glass image capture functions – but the use of those technologies is being perverted into a worldwide surveillance network, a virtual playground for agencies whose sole business is gathering information.
Let this post serve as a reminder of the perils technology brings into our lives along with its comforts. Always look behind you when using social technology – you can never really know who’s watching.