Privacy rights: Who is watching you?

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GREENSBORO, N.C. -- When you want some privacy, where do you go? If you stay inside your home, what are you doing? Depending on your answer, someone may be watching you. They may also know more about you than you could have ever imagined.

FOX8 spoke with legal expert Steve Friedland to better understand how you may be watched during the course of your daily activities.

Friedland holds a Juris Doctor degree, a Masters of Laws degree, and a Doctor of Jurisprudence degree. He is nationally recognized as an author of numerous legal books. Friedland works as a Professor of Law at Elon University. He has done extensive research on the subject of privacy rights.

"Many people like to think they are off the grid, but I think people would be surprised if they knew how much information was being communicated," said Friedland.

According to Friedland, information about us is being gathered as we engage in our daily activities, and oftentimes we are unaware it is happening because it goes unseen.

"It has been estimated that in a single day, people gather about a terabyte of information. What is a terabyte? Well, it is a large amount of information I have heard estimated about a quarter of all the books in the Library of Congress," said Friedland.

Friedland offered this rule of thumb: "Any time there is a device nearby, people should assume that what they are doing is being watched."

Examples of devices include, but are not limited to, cell phones that can track our whereabouts and smart thermostats in our homes that know when we come and go.

FOX8 spoke to David Warfield of Greensboro about how much time he spends using technology. He said, “I probably spend way too much time in front of a screen during the course of a day.”

When we browse the Internet, cookies track our every move. According to Friedland, this is one way that retailers target consumers with specific Internet advertisements. Another way is to watch them while they are physically inside a store to monitor how many times they walk past a display or pick up a particular item.

It may be fair to expect our privacy to be somewhat diminished when we leave our home and get into our car. Have you ever thought about how your whereabouts may be tracked by your license plate or how the black box inside your car is tracking your speed? Friedland says these are more examples of how watching largely goes unseen.

"Data is being connected from very different sources and this idea of big data is painting pictures of us that maybe we even don't know," said Friedland.

FOX8 spoke with Alyzza May of Greensboro who has this to say about the unseen tracking, “I think it’s weird and risky and kind of creepy.”

Facial recognition software is another way that people may not realize they are being watched during their Internet use. According to Friedland, Facebook is still developing its software, but it is already estimated at a billion faces.

As connectivity continues to expand, privacy is more likely to diminish.

"The more we see this data being developed, the idea of a terabyte a day is probably a low estimate," said Friedland.

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