Dating With Spyware

Someone once told me to write about the experiences I’ve had, that they will touch others. And though this experience is rather dark, intimate, raw, incredibly private and even embarrassing, maybe through this, there will be some good to be found for others; for awareness. So let me tell you how seemingly innocent technology can breach your world when in the hands of the wrong ones.

Can you think of a time where you had your privacy and trust abused to such a level of violation that you’ve felt completely displaced? Wolves often are disguised as sheep, or that’s what they say at least. Well, let me tell you, that trusting is one of the most vulnerable acts we can do, but trust is a requirement of human relations; it’s at the very foundation of any core vulnerability. The thing, they don’t tell you, though is how incredibly difficult it is to move past damaging violations of trust. 

Personally, trust is not something I give freely, it is something that is earned over time, but once it’s gained, it’s gained entirely. Now, I’ll be the first to admit, that I don’t have much control over my walls, wall’s I built in early childhood as a protective measure. I either trust explicitly or I don’t with little to no middle ground; and entities that are untrustworthy are parted by actions of their own accord, red flags of inauthenticity if you will. 

So, for the first time in my life, I allowed myself to explicitly trust an entity that my intuition warned me not to. Maybe I was naive, but I was blinded by hope while I was exhausted from life; drained from the nonstop traumas that continued to turn my world upside down. And what I have come to find out is when you are vulnerable, that it’s the easiest time for someone to take advantage of your trust, to victimize you.

We are in an age where women as a whole still have to be more protective of their surroundings, of their decisions, when it comes to vulnerability to ensure safety. In comparison to men, it’s not uncommon for women to be taken advantage of, to be preyed upon, to be abused even, but what happens when the very person that violates you is suppose to be the person you trust explicitly? The person who has painted himself out to be the person who wants to protect you, who wants to safeguard you. Well, I’ve come to find out that that is an entirely new depth of violation. 

So let me tell you this, as new age technology advances, so does the measures in which one can (and will) go to in order to violate one’s privacy, one’s trust. We are naïve to think that these types of things don’t happen to us, though we know they happen in general. But, often times we don’t want to believe it, for humans want to see what they want to see. It’s that simple; the truth can be staring us dead in the eye, and if we choose not to see it, we won’t.

I let my guard down to a man I thought I could trust, to a man who I thought was someone who would protect me. Instead, he used that trust to invade my privacy, to violate my own trust, to take advantage of the truth that I so freely gave him for his own selfish purposes. I dated a man that was seemingly committed to me, and me alone, but that was in other relations since the day that I met him, a man that had secrets to hide. Looking back, I can’t help but to feel ashamed though I understand that the shame is not mine to bear; it is his. But what happens when you are left to recognize that he lived a double life, that he was willing to go to drastic lengths to maintain that, including breaking the entire existence of my world as I knew it.

From the very beginning, I remember talking to him about wanting to get a camera for my home after a neighbor mentioned getting one due to suggested maintenance violations. He even went so far as to give me suggestions based on his uses of cameras. I recall thinking it to be odd at that time, but we weren’t that serious, we hadn’t even been intimate at that point, so I dismissed it without cause. So fast forward a few months, when things start to become serious; I stay at his home and I see a camera pointed at his bed. He is quick to state that it was only used for insurance purposes for his sleep apnea, that in order to be reimbursed for his sleep apnea machine he has to record his sleeping studies. It seemed odd, but I saw the machine next to his bedside that appeared to be for sleep apnea, nevertheless I always had that level of uncomfortability, that awareness that something wasn’t right.

Sleep apnea was completely foreign to me at this time, I didn’t know anything about it, but the story seemed to add up, 1+1=2, so I tried to dismiss it. I tried not to think too much of it, but in the back of my mind something always felt off about it. Days turn into weeks, weeks turn into months and all the while, I’d never actually seen him or heard him talk about using the sleep apnea machine. Though it wasn’t until later that I even considered that to be odd, I trusted him, why would he lie?

It was a long distance relationship, so when I did come to visit, I came to stay a few days at a time. I was pretty open and relaxed using his home to talk to my friends freely, typically of which were on speakerphone as a laxidazical form on my part. Of course, it wasn’t until he started to try to break down my woes, woes that were discussed in what I believed to be private conversations while alone in his home that I truly felt uneasy.

Conversations that he should never had access to unless had he 1) had been in the home to overhear, 2) heard directly from my friend(s) or 3) been using his camera to listen in. Even then, I remember raising the question to my friend, asking how he would have known, questioning my sanity for the idea of such violation. Feeling uncomfortable about the camera that was in his room.

By the sixth eerie coincidence that happened, that he was again aware of information he otherwise shouldn’t have had access to, I dug a little deeper into this mysterious camera of his. I remember picking it up, looking at the serial number, the model number and taking that information to the web. From the manufacturer’s website, it was evident that a light would display when the camera was in action, signifying the device was recording. Though, it wasn’t until this moment, that I understood that through an app on a mobile device, you could remote live to watch and listen, that the camera had motion detection features to record. Again, there was no light on displaying recording, so, I dismissed it as paranoia on my part. What was bothersome, though, was that the moment he came home from work that night, he was apt to discuss the camera, seemingly out of the blue, trying to bid my fears away, which should have been unknown to him, unless of course he was using the camera.

Had I dug a little deeper at that time, what I would have found out was that it is incredibly easy to disable the lights that indicate recording and maybe then, I would have recognized what was going on sooner, rather than later. They say that your gut instinct is the highest form of protection, that its an internal warning, but I couldn’t understand why I kept getting these creeping suspicions, these gut feelings when it came to the camera. I kept telling myself that it was ludicrous to even consider, that there was absolutely no reason for him to spy on me? What could he possibly gain? I was the most honest person he had ever known, I didn’t have anything to hide, nor could I, if my mouth didn’t utter the truth my body language did. I had never been more exposed, more vulnerable. 

Looking back, I think about the time I came into town unbeknownst to him and left a gift on the bed. Within minutes, I was at his restaurant to surprise him with a kiss as I passed through town; I was surprised to find that he expected me already, as it was suppose to be a surprise. He claimed he had a gut feeling, though its now, that I suspect it was a push notification, from the motion detection of his camera, rather than a gut feeling. It wasn’t until later that I remembered him telling me about his phone app for his Nest devices. I wish I would have been more critical of the feelings of discomfort I had, but I was preoccupied with the cancer that was about to claim my brother’s life in the days to come. I was in denial of the idea that he would even want to spy on me.

Most of the next few months were spent at my home, so as time passed, my trust strengthened and my doubts diminished. That is until one morning we were in his bed, pre-dawn, there were no natural or artificial lights and in the midst of being intimate, I looked over to see a very faint, but distinct red light coming from the camera. Of course, this wasn’t the light that was indicative of recording, it appeared to be internal in the camera itself and a complete fluke to even be visible. I remember the chill that went through me, from mind to body. I felt paralyzed by the fear of the truth to come next. My body began to tremble and my voice suddenly disappeared for what felt like minutes to come. When I finally did find my voice, my body betrayed me with nonstop shudders as I tried to formulate the words to my fears.

Being the narcissist that he is, he couldn’t dare own the truth, at least not at this point. It was clear how distraught I was from the realization. He couldn’t explain how it was on; he couldn’t do anything at all to calm my fears, to debunk my claim. Instead, he ripped the camera out of the wall to never be seen again. Or so I had thought. That was until months later I came by unexpectedly to gather my belongings post break up, only to see that the camera was back up, in the same location, pointed directly to the bed. An indescrible feeling took over me and all I could wonder was whom else he might have been recording? How many other women might have fallen for the same lies, the same invasion of privacy? I suddenly saw the full picture of the truth I had been in denial of.

Even near the end of our relationship, where he admitted to overhearing conversations when I brought a friend over at his house while waiting for him to return, I still refused to see the truth that was staring me down. He brazenly told me then that he had overheard the entire conversation, one in which I discussed my questions of doubts of his cautionary signs of cheating. Instead of focusing on the fact that he blatantly used his camera that was never suppose to be recording unless he turned it on for sleep apnea, that it was in fact recording at all times without the recording light, I was focused on the guilt he shamed me with. Instead of taking ownership, he tried telling me he was searching for videos he had to send to his insurance for his sleep apnea machine. He even went so far as to tell me the video recorded due to motion detection on the camera. In that moment of heated discussion, he used blame and guilted me into thinking I was ludicrous for considering his infidelities to allude his actions.

Had I not been turned upside down by the utter shift in guilt he placed on me, maybe I would have taken the situation at the time in a more natural lighting. But in that moment, all I could feel was the blame and guilt he bestowed on me for my doubts. It wasn’t until later that I realized how foolish I had been for not opening my eyes in that very moment. Research debunks the notion that insurance companies use video recordings as compliance sources to validate usage of the machine. Instead, they use a smart card, an attachable modem, or a wireless enabled PAP device to validate usage for insurance purposes. I was at a loss for emotions and words; I completely shut down upon realization that he had been spying me, recording my conversations and even our intimacy. It was a feeling of betrayal and violation that I had never felt before.

I tried to comfort myself with the thought that maybe he only intended to use the camera as a means of keeping track with the multiple women he saw during the course of our relationship. That he couldn’t have intentionally gone into this invasion of privacy to purely record sexual acts, but ultimately that’s the course it breached, regardless of intent. But none of that mattered, the fact remained, he did. It’s not only illegal, but also morally wrong to take the safety of ones privacy and invade it and violate in such mannerisms.

What’s worse is that it didn’t just stop with his camera. Shortly after the incident where he took down his camera, I purchased one for my home before leaving the country. In part, I wanted to be able to check on the home, pets and visitors that came in, but I also wanted to understand how the camera itself worked. At this point, I was still fairly clueless. But life got the best of me, I turned it on, and set it to not to record while I was home and left it at that. I remember how uncomfortable he seemed when he first saw it, how quiet his mood changed. His first words were to tell me that I had a different model than his, so not all the features are the same. It seemed like an odd remark at the time, but I didn’t quite know how to take it, though now I suspect it was to cause doubt.

A few months later, before its been confirmed that he’s been cheating, I was having a pretty honest conversation with a friend in the privacy of my own home, discussing my ongoing fears of his infidelities. A few hours later in conversation with him, he’s upset, and drinking, something he doesn’t do often, further validating his state of dismay. He then makes uncanny commentary that directly related to the conversation I had at my home mere hours before. Commentary he should have in no way shape or form had been privy to such details. I remember looking at my phone, wondering if I had accidently dialed him during the conversation, but my phone record indicated I hadn’t. At the time, I couldn’t wrap my mind around it. Had he heard the entire conversation I just had of all the red flags that were raised? How could that be possible? I felt like I was losing my mind.

Later it would come to me, how incredibly easy it is to hack into someone else’s Nest Camera. In fact, I urge you to Google how easy it is to hack into one if you have one yourself; it’s actually quite alarming. To take the very tool you think you are using to safeguard your pets and home while away only to be turned into the very tool that invades your privacy while in the appearance of privacy. I’d never ripped something off the wall faster than I did that camera when I came to that realization.

The more research I did regarding the matter, the more alarmed I was to find how often these types of breaches happen. The more I dug, the more valid I felt in everything that I had been exposed to or had happened. Part of me had been in denial during the duration of the relationship, but the moment I saw he had put his camera back up post our break up, I knew I had known all along. I couldn’t help but to feel shameful that I didn’t fully open my eyes sooner, that I didn’t speak up sooner. How had I allowed this to happen to me? I was so desperate to see the best in him, I didn’t want to think he was capable of such lengths. But reality sank in, and I realized that I always knew deep down something was off, something in my gut had warned me all along, I just choose not to see what I didn’t want to see.

The point here is that this type of invasion of privacy can happen to anyone, from anybody and its alarmingly common. The number of devices that are out there to use to obstruct one’s privacy is relentless. This behavior to drive such invasion is not bias of one’s race, gender, career path, or age; it can literally be anyone. It can be done in any story setting; it can happen at times you are completely unaware of. So, I urge you to be aware, to be mindful, to take the time to research these type of invasions of privacy, to protect yourself. It’s almost always, a person you trust and it’s almost always driven by insecurtires and fear. Dating today is a completely new beast with unparalleled acts; make sure your sheep isn’t disguised as a wolf.

One thought on “Dating With Spyware

  1. Wow…I’m rather speechless! This is so intense & frightening & to think that this is so commonplace yet unbeknown to all those who’ve never experienced this or been made aware. It should definitely bring awareness to all those who take the time to read it. I know it has for myself.
    I’m such a fan of your posts and I love how your so open and vulnerable in your writings.
    I ❤️ You!

    Like

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