Does an FBI agent sit all day watching you through your webcam? Twitter loves the idea, turning it into a meme about special agents helping surveilled subjects through relationships, advising on selfies, and offering a “bless you” after sneezing.
As amusing as it is to imagine some poor wretch has to watch your day-to-day routine — singing along to YouTube, searching for your ex on Instagram, and being depressed about breakups — the suddenly popular meme has origins in real-life privacy invasions.
And as silly as it may sound, the FBI has previously been accused of using such techniques: back in 2013, a report by the Washington Post revealed the agency had the ability to activate webcams for investigations, though in that case it was refused permission to do so by a judge.
me, peeling tape off webcam: hey guys whats apoptosis mean?
little FBI voice within my computer: programmed cell death.
me: thanks roger. tell the family happy holidays
roger, the FBI man: will do. please get more sleep
Should you cover your webcam? It’s a smart privacy and security move, because if your webcam is really hacked, it’s not likely to be a benevolent and bored FBI agent watching. Former FBI director James Comey covers his, as does Mark Zuckerberg, and so do the security experts Teen Vogue spoke to. “Can’t hurt, might help — I step out of the shower and send one or two emails in a towel (or less) every once in a while just like everyone else,” said Tarah Wheeler, cybersecurity fellow at New America.