Above: Take care to protect yourself and keep important information private. Image by Biljana Jovanovic from Pixabay


When I was a detective, we had our regulars, comprised of conspiracy theorists warning us of everything from aliens to the ever-popular government spying conspiracy. One such regular was a woman, who came from an upscale family, a trust-fund woman in her mid-fifties.

She was convinced that the late President Ronald Reagan had dispatched agents to spy on her every day, all the time. She lived in a nice condo she swore was bugged.

We made frequent visits to “cleanse” the walls from the listening devices Reagan had installed just so she wouldn’t sleep in her car. She insisted on sitting upon two phone books, (remember phone books?) when she drove her car, because they would block the transmitters from sending signals to the President.

She never said why Reagan spied on her, but she was convinced. When she visited, she implied that the popular foil helmets should be worn. She insisted that many of our everyday appliances were actually devices designed to spy on us.

…And now

Here we are, some 30 years later, and some of what she said—rhetoric that I dismissed as coming from a delusional mind—has actually evolved.

I recently read an article in USA Today, addressing privacy and some tricks you can use. These are designed for those of us who are already “out there” in cyber-land, so some of this may seem farfetched, but the goal is the same. Protect your privacy.

If you have a Mac, you may be familiar with the AirDrop function, designed to share large files with nearby devices. Okay, now think of the worst-case scenario. You AirDrop in a crowded area such as a coffeeshop or the annual Toadlick Music Festival*, meaning you’ve created the possibility of AirDropping to someone else—a total stranger, someone who may not even like frogs or music related to frogs—who happens to be holding a similar device. This is an easy fix. Set your AirDrop to send only to those in your contact list.

Remember that your car and your phone connect also. What happens when you sell them? You may pass along that information, so be sure to “wipe” those items before selling them.

Your car is essentially a computer and contains information about you. The Federal Trade Commission offers good advice, including the fact that some cars have a factory reset option. But even if you reset it, you may still need to cancel subscription services like satellite radio, mobile wi-fi hotspots and data services. Either cancel or transfer them to your new car.

Make sure you also cancel your phone and address book, mobile apps, music, location data and your garage code. (Nothing like your garage door opening at midnight when the new owners of your car have a five-dollar bet the code still works.)

More ways to stay safe

Speaking of your car, it is possible to intercept the code so that your car can be entered. Granted, these thieves are a bit savvier, but it can—and more importantly has—happened. Setting up outside the home, a thief could intercept the code. Wrap the fob in tin foil.

Also, engage in quality reading on how to disarm Alexa, Siri and Google from listening to you. [You can find that info online, by—interestingly enough—Googling it.]

Remember, it’s up to each of us individually to ensure our privacy in order to keep the robots from taking over because, if they do, they could bring back disco, and that just doesn’t end well for humanity.

Also, invest in tin foil.

*The next Toadlick Music Festival brings nationally known musical artists to Dothan, Ala. The next festival is scheduled for January 1, 2020.

Steve Rose is a retired police captain and a contributing writer to Atlanta Senior Life.