The tragic events of the terror acts in Paris were earlier linked to the usage of game consoles like PS4 that can use Wi-Fi to interact with gamers across the world — anonymously. But updated stories are refuting this bit of news — while not outright saying it couldn’t happen.
Could terrorist cells use games like Call of Duty, Battlefield and Grand Theft Auto to exchange information? And with the even more violent games, including the newly released Call of Duty Black Ops 3, can users get actual training in military style tactics like flanking maneuvers and bombing runs? Because these games are mapped by satellites, gamers can even see the exact layout of certain regions to even further their accuracy in the real world.
So what does this mean for all of the so-called anonymous social media platforms that rely on secrecy for their popularity? If game consoles actually turn out to be ways that terrorists can communicate and train for attacks, there’s no doubt that surveillance on those devices and apps will begin.
We’ve already learned that blink-and-you-missed-it apps like Vine and SnapChat are anything but locked down. And if you’ve ever sent a message to a friend through Gmail or Facebook about a new pair of shoes and then noticed the ads on the side of the page about that exact shoe, you know apps scan your messages for targeted advertising. And of course, if you’ve set your Instagram and Twitter accounts to private, don’t believe the hype.
And there are more of your everyday apps to be affected. Here’s just a sample:
1. Group Messaging Apps: Expect apps like GroupMe and GoogleHangouts to be monitored, even when the groups are closed to certain members.
2. Music Streaming Playlists: As of now, you can create playlists that are only able to be shared with those you select. What happens if you make a playlist dedicated to anarchy? Suspicious playlists will definitely be able to flagged.
3. Kindles, Nooks and Other Reading Devices: Your reading history is already easily accessed. What will happen when you download a book about making bombs? Like streaming music playlists, the future will probably include flagged books that can let authorities know in real time when certain books are purchased or even searched for.
4. Live Video Recording Apps Like Periscope: As of now, you can have a closed Periscope session with just one or two people — completely closed off to others and with the recording turned off or easily deleted. But that won’t stop the right folks from dropping in and watching these recordings in real time.
Will people stop using these apps? Or will we all slowly begin to expect less and less privacy and adjust to (another) new normal? Think about the uproar each time Facebook changes its methods that give us less and less privacy and make it harder to lock our profiles down. People scream about privacy — but very few actually close their accounts for good.
Do you want to protect your privacy online? Forget it. Like Jay Z once said: Streets is watching. In the meantime, maybe we all need tutorials from Hacktivist group Anonymous to figure out how to truly operate, well, anonymously.
Aliya S. King, is the author of two novels and three nonfiction books, including the New York Times best-seller Keep the Faith, written with recording artist Faith Evans. Find her on Twitter and at aliyasking.com.
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(Photo: Sony Computer Entertainment)