Pinnacle of human innovation or digital contagion? Here’s a sampler of what’s making the Internet creepier and destroying consumer privacy these days.

1. School Apps 

If you have a child attending school, you’re probably familiar with an app for communicating with teachers and administrators. In theory, the direct teacher-parent communication removes the X factor of children who aren’t always the best source of information. Now for the downside: A recent study found that 96 percent of school apps shared student data with third parties. The trade off for free or low-cost communication tools is data, some of it belonging to minors. These apps may even be in violation of privacy laws, allowing companies to begin data-mining the next generation of consumers. 

2. Car Surveillance

Car manufacturers and service providers may be using your car to spy on you. The data grabbed would make George Orwell blush: depending on what you drive, where you go, what you listen to, who’s with you, even your sexual activity can be monitored, as well as possibly sold to third parties. The smarter the car, the more egregious the data collection; one need look no further than last year’s revelation that Tesla employees were able to see–and share–footage collected from their cars.

“We could see them doing laundry and really intimate things,” one former Tesla employee told Reuters. “We could see their kids.”

Data collection by automobiles is unregulated and ubiquitous in most modern cars. The only recourse is to buy a used car that predates the current technology.  

3. E-readers

Anyone seeking a moment of peace and quiet knows the value of being able to curl up with a good book. Unfortunately, the advent of e-readers means that what was once a solitary activity is now less so.

Roughly thirty percent of Americans read books digitally, generating a bonanza of valuable data, including what you read, where you read it, and even specific passages in books you revisit. This data is repurposed to build predictive models about your preferences and overall lifestyle, on a potentially mammoth scale. 

“The kinds of nuanced correlations… through analyzing that data is beyond what we can conceptualize as human beings,” said Stacy Mitchell of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance in an interview with the Guardian. 

Even e-reading apps from libraries aren’t immune to the creeping surveillance, despite being long-standing advocates for privacy. A recent court case ruled that libraries don’t have the ability to block popular apps like Hoopla from extracting as much data from borrowed e-titles and the people that read them as possible. While the decision is being appealed by a non-profit organization called the Internet Archive, it’s safe to assume that any digitally-based reading is being snooped on.

4. Meta

Between ads that track us across the internet to our collective sneaking suspicion that Instagram is secretly recording our conversations, one thing is certain: Mark Zuckerberg’s Meta universe is creepy. 

Between Facebook, Instagram, Messenger and WhatsApp, Meta’s network of apps is notorious for its unsettling data-mining practices. What you read, your menstrual cycle, your calls and texts, and a lot more from your digital life are tracked and transmitted back to One Hacker Way.

What started out as a platform to help keep in touch with college friends has metastasized into an internet-wide data collection scheme that knows what you do online–whether or not you keep or maintain any accounts in their network of apps. 

5. “Nudify” Apps

Online sextortion scams in recent years have seen an uptick. The main beats involve scammers coaxing their victims into providing revealing photos of themselves and then threatening to release them to their families and social circles. The consequences are dire, ranging from public humiliation to suicide, something we’ve explored on “What the Hack with Adam Levin.”.

Thanks to AI-assisted technology, scammers can now skip the first step. “Nudify,” or undressing apps create deepfake nude images from non-lewd photographs, meaning that images harvested from social media accounts can be weaponized for sexual harassment and even extortion.

If that sounds disturbing, consider that while extortion is illegal, generating these images isn’t as long as the subject isn’t a minor. In other words, any photo of you that’s posted online could be transformed into a pin-up for as little as $9.99/month