Almost every week, a new report circulates about how some form of technology is intruding on peoples’ privacy.

Now it’s cars.

Yep, your vehicle could be tracking you and recording your tendencies, habits and characteristics, and its manufacturer could be selling that information for a profit. That’s happening with alarming frequency according to a report published by the Mozilla Foundation, a non-profit organization based in Northern California’s Silicon Valley that owns the company that runs the Firefox web browser.

A leader within the foundation said “the amount of data that these car companies blatantly said that they could collect was shocking” and that “it’s like nobody’s ever challenged them or asked them questions about privacy, and so they just include everything.”

While I could go on and on about how underhanded and unfair this practice is, what I find most amazing and disgusting is how some of the car manufacturers mentioned in the report seem so aloof and unsympathetic about the situation. Nissan, for example, openly admitted it could sell information about drivers’ and passengers’ characteristics to data brokers, law enforcement agencies and other companies (including intelligence, health and even sexual activity) and Volkswagen said it could record drivers’ voices to profile them for targeted ads.

Subaru even went so far as to claim that being a passenger in one of its cars implies consenting to their actions (or “policies”).

That’s just rude and hateful.

But at the same time, it’s just a reality that we’re constantly being listened to and monitored, and almost every move we make is tracked or documented in some manner. So while the concept of a car gathering data about its occupants is outrageous, unethical and downright creepy, it probably shouldn’t come as much of a surprise.

Yep, it’s just another sign of the times as the world spirals through an unprecedented period of discord and uncertainty and people are constantly drawn closer to an undesirable destiny. On a seemingly daily basis, there’s less we can control and more we’re subject to.

And if you think this is simply paranoia and we’re not being tracked or listened to everywhere we turn, try an experiment we tried in the Herald office last year.

It started with a conversation about how my wife and I had talked about taking an ocean cruise, but had never gone online to research possibilities and costs, and yet seen cruise line ads begin to pop up while browsing online on our computers. I said I had seen the same thing happen when I mentioned boots one time and boot ads suddenly showed up.

Some of the other people in the office shared similar experiences, and we were like, “let’s just say the name of random products and see what happens.” Someone said, “toilet paper,” and presto, there were Scott tissue ads showing up moments later on Internet pages on everyone’s computers. Then someone blurted out another product and sure enough, the online ads followed in short order.

I’ve demonstrated it to some people since then and it always happens. I promise it will work if you try it, too, and you’ll be incredulous and astounded.

How would that be possible? Because “they” are in fact listening to us, studying us and otherwise paying attention to us at all times via all the electronic devices we’re surrounded by. Your phone is never truly “off,” and your computer is linked to it and other nearby devices via an invisible, undetectable cyber network that functions without traditional connections.

And there’s really no escaping it. I know a handful of people try to by switching from Google to some other Internet search engine, but that’s only one avenue “they” use. There are a zillion other ways that whoever wants to know something about us can find out and exploit that knowledge in a manner that benefits them and leaves us as little more than extras in their clandestine (but purposeful) movie script.

Anyway, welcome to late 2023, a time when Big Brother is more active than ever before and outright freedom is in jeopardy.

And when the man-made contraptions you most love – like your phone, your computer and even your car – could well be your cyber enemies.

Doug Davison is a writer, photographer and newsroom assistant for the Houston Herald. Email:

Doug Davison is a writer, photographer and newsroom assistant for the Houston Herald. Contact him by phone at 417-967-2000 or by email at

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