Just Saying

Help, I think I am being wiretapped

Just hum in my ear or whisper if you have a pop song or message to share

Somebody is watching me. I don't know who yet or what exactly this person/government/criminal organisation/multi-level marketing company wants, but I know I am being surveilled.

It is partly my fault. I had become sloppy.

I took all the basic precautions: I stuck a small piece of paper to cover my laptop camera, I tried to surf the Web nearly exclusively in incognito mode and I created a password so complicated that I have never successfully entered it correctly on the first try. (I bet that must have been annoying for whoever has been wiretapping me.)

Spy: This is Agent Puppy Mischief over, subject is about to enter his Gmail password. Standing by for intercept.

The password is... dollar sign, A, exclamation mark, C, C... Abort, abort intercept, subject has entered the wrong password.

Stand by for password re-entry. Ok, password is dollar-sign, A no caps, exclamation... Abort, abort. Subject has again entered the wrong password.

Subject is now hitting the "Forgot your password" button, stand by for... Never mind, subject cannot remember the answer to his security questions and has returned to the log-in screen.

So yes, I thought I was basically secure, until I did a survey of my connected life last week and uncovered many highly suspicious findings. Here are a few:

Finding 1: Mysterious TV button surplus

There are 27 buttons on my television remote control, although only five of them are of any use. What are the other 22 for? When I press "Action" and "Prog" nothing seems to happen. Why? The only possible explanation is that my TV is being used to spy on me and these are covert functions for the use of intelligence agencies.

Finding 2: Suspicious wife response delay

My wife takes at least half an hour to respond to any of my WhatsApp messages.

Even if she asked me a question one minute ago, anything I say subsequently will go ignored for at least half an hour. Sometimes, I can get stonewalled for half a day.

I have thus concluded that someone is hijacking my messages and screening them before each is relayed.

Finding 3: Microwave oven defrost conspiracy

This was arguably the finding that completely convinced me that my privacy was being violated.

I don't know about your ovens but the "defrost" option has never successfully defrosted anything. A frozen chicken can spin around in a microwave oven for 10 minutes under the "defrost" setting and come out still hard enough to be used as a bowling ball.

So I did some checking and... did you know that "Frost" is the name of a journalist who did a very famous revealing interview with former US president Richard Nixon about the Watergate cover-up?

So Frost has become something of a synonym for transparency. And that means to "defrost" is a code word that means to remove transparency! And that must mean - this is so obvious when I think about it now - my microwave oven is trying to obscure something from me.

But what does my microwave have to hide, you ask? The answer is clear: Espionage.

Having now established conclusively that I am the victim of a wiretapping conspiracy, I have taken more extreme steps to protect myself. And I suggest you behave similarly if you, too, want to protect your personal information from prying eyes.

The guiding principle to remember in this digital age is that anything that is not digital is that much harder to spy on.

If you don't want Russian hackers to spy on your e-mails and messages, then the safest thing to do is to stop using e-mail and messaging apps.

I have started to insist that anyone who wants to send me any sort of message must come right up to me and whisper it in my ear.

If they have a hilarious photo of kittens they would like to share with me, they should first print it out, place it in a secure unmarked envelope and then either give it to me in person or place it under a specially marked dustbin at a particular petrol station in Lornie Road. Those who wish to know the specific location of this dustbin will have to come whisper in my ear to ask for it.

At the moment, there is no mechanism for covert sharing of funny videos, so I currently don't watch any. Although, if a funny video on the level of the BBC dad who was interrupted by his children mid-interview ever came up again, I am willing to break some of my rules to watch it.

I will no longer, however, put my privacy at risk to watch "mukbang" (eating) videos.

I have also ceased using all my existing streaming services. All my music now comes exclusively from helpful friends and family who softly hum the latest pop songs into my ear.

Perhaps you think all of this is too much. Perhaps you think that privacy now is an illusory concept and that we all should not be so paranoid about everything. Perhaps you think that as long as someone doesn't do anything wrong, he or she has nothing to worry about. So what if the world finds out that your wife asked you to buy toilet cleaner?

To these types I say: You haven't seen what I put in my microwave oven.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on April 02, 2017, with the headline 'Help, I think I am being wiretapped'. Print Edition | Subscribe