In the 70s, if you were lucky, MI5 would mark you out to be something of a wrong’un and make a folder with your name on the top, with Letraset or a Dymo label maker. Men in hats would hang out near lampposts, black cars would speed off the second you approached them, and Alexei Sayle’s parents would pop round for dinner parties. That’s how people kept tabs on you in the 70s – unless you’d put a Blue Peter time capsule (all about you) in the back garden.
By the 80s, spy stuff was getting smaller and more affordable. People had worked out that the X-ray Spex in the back of American comics were as useful as a kazoo in a storm. The advent of the Internet made it easy to stalk strangers, as information was just a few clicks away. But the world was turning. Those secrets you had that could only be revealed by the Sunday papers once you were famous – those secrets were finding their way into the public domain.
Marketing people talked about ABC1s as if everybody fell neatly into little bands based on Edwardian social structures. But these red-rimmed agents of Hell were plotting something more insidious.
Big Business (boo!) sussed out they could collect lots of little bits of information about you, flotsam like you buy Anchor butter and KY jelly. On its own, it means nothing other than you are a toast eater with the need for a water-based lubricant. But sew it together with other trinkets of data…and they paint a portrait of such unerring depth you’d wonder how they obtained your hidden diary.
For this very reason, I now complete online quizzes differently every time. One minute I’m telling YouGov I’m an astronaut in Cheadle, the next I’m a semi-professional Marxist rebel in High Wycombe. And this will work very well at protecting my data.
I’ve got my lies, I’ve got my firewall, I’ve got my VPN – nobody is getting to my secret stuff. Nobody. Until I plug my mod into the USB port, apparently.
It’s not new news. In 2014, as part of the anti-vape brigade’s attempts to scare people away from switching, they spread the myth that e-cigs spread special vape AIDS to computers. Or something. We laughed, they wagged a finger and tutted, we all moved on. But then they raised their eyebrows and reminded the room that a Samsung photo frame tried to kill babies. We ignored them and they went away.
Now, on Twitter, someone has brought the whole thing tumbling back into focus.
Sorry if I get vape pens banned at your work place...... pic.twitter.com/VYhIIvyDEx— Wll buy derby ticket (@FourOctets) 25 May 2017
To put things into perspective, the WannaCry worm was a 4MB file – it would never fit onto the spare memory in an ecig. This isn’t to say it might not be possible in the future, but at the moment the greatest threat to your personal data is the dumb Facebook thing that’ll tell you what kind of Marvel superhero you are. I’m Squirrel Girl.