Who Owns the New Land Created By a Volcano in Hawaii?

Mount Kīlauea on the big island of Hawaii has been spewing lava for over a month now. Thousands of acres have been covered by new molten rock, and it’s flowing out into the sea. When that happens, lava will cool, harden, and can create new land, sometimes hundred of acres at a time. Who owns that new land?

These areas are called “lava extensions,” and were central to a 1977 Hawaii Supreme Court case in which Big Island residents Maurice and Molly Zimring sued the state over 7.9 acres of new land formed by a 1955 Kilauea eruption.

Since the 1955 lava abutted property purchased by the Zimrings, they assumed it belonged to them.

“The deed for the property…described the original pre-1955 parcels and contained no description of the new land… The Zimrings paid property taxes, planted trees and shrubs, and even had a portion bulldozed, fully believing they owned the 1955 lava extension,” the USGS explained in a 2008 blog post:

After the 1960 Kapoho eruption, the state ordered the Zimrings to vacate the lava extension, and they took the issue to court, winning the initial trial. The decision, however, was eventually overturned by State Supreme Court Chief Justice William Richardson.

The decision means that “new” land created by lava belongs to the state. So if you ever consider purchasing oceanfront property in Hawaii, take into account the odds that someday that property might not have an oceanfront. The concept of land ownership itself is relatively new to Hawaii, as you can read at Motherboard. -via Digg



Why Do Dogs Crouch Forward When They’re Playing?

BY Michele Debczak – Mental Floss

Whether they’re tilting their heads or exposing their bellies for rubs, dogs are experts at looking adorable. But these behaviors do more than elicit squeals from delighted humans; in many cases, they serve important evolutionary functions. A prime example is the “play bow”: If you’ve ever seen a dog crouch forward with its elbows on the ground and its rear end in the air, wagging tail and all, then you know what it is. The position is the ultimate sign of playfulness, which is important for a species that often uses playtime as practice for attacking prey.

The play bow first evolved in canids as a form of communication. When a dog sees another dog it wants to play with, it extends its front paws forward and lifts up its behind as a visual invitation to engage in a friendly play session. Dogs will “bow” in the middle of playtime to show that they’re having fun and wish to continue, or when a session has paused to signal they want to pick it back up. Play bows can also be a sort of apology: When the roughhousing gets too rough, a bow says, “I’m sorry I hurt you. Can we keep playing?”

Play between canines often mimics aggression, and starting off in a submissive position is a way for all participating parties to make sure they’re on the same page. It’s easy to see why such a cue would be useful; the more puzzling matter for researchers is why the ancestors of modern dogs evolved to play in the first place. One theory is that play is crucial to the social, cognitive, and physical development of puppies [PDF]. It’s an opportunity for them to interact with their own kind and learn important behaviors, like how to moderate the strength of their bites. Play also requires the animals to react quickly to new circumstances and assess complex actions from other dogs.

Shiba inus playing outside.

Another evolutionary explanation is that playtime prepares puppies for the hunting they do later as adults. Watch two puppies play and you’ll see them stalking, biting, and pouncing on one another—all behaviors canines exhibit in the wild when taking down prey.

Of course, it’s also possible that dogs simply play because it’s fun. This is a strong case for why pet dogs continue to play into adulthood. “Devoting a lot of time to play may be less advantageous for a wild species who spends much of its time hunting or foraging for food, searching for mates, or avoiding predators,” Dr. Emma Grigg, an animal behaviorist and co-author of The Science Behind a Happy Dog, tells Mental Floss. “Many domestic dogs are provisioned by humans, and so have more time and energy to devote to play as adults.”

Because play is a lifelong activity for domestic dogs, owners of dogs of all ages have likely seen the play bow in person. Wild canids, like wolves, foxes, and coyotes, tend to reserve this behavior for members of their own species, but pet dogs often break out the bow for their humans—or anyone else who looks like they might be up for a play session. Grigg says, “One of my dogs regularly play bows to her favorite of our cats.”

The Princess Pretenders

Via MessyNessyChic

The possible survival and escape of the Grand Duchess Anastasia of Russia, was one of most captivating and romantic mysteries of the 20th century. The youngest daughter of the last Tsar of Russia, was assumed to have been tragically murdered along with her parents and siblings by communist revolutionaries in 1918, when they were lured by their captors into the basement of their own home, and executed by firing squad.

The Duchess, pictured far left as a child, with her sisters and father, Tsar Nicolas II, would have been seventeen years old at the time of the assassination. In the decades that followed, at least ten women came forward claiming to be Anastasia, offering varying stories as to how she survived the Romanov slaughter.

The Romanov daughters

The most famous and convincing of those women was Anna Anderson, who surfaced publicly between 1920 and 1922 after being admitted to a psychiatric hospital in Berlin, initially refusing to identify herself.

Anna Anderson

A fellow patient first claimed that Anderson, who had been rescued following a suicide attempt, was Grand Duchess Tatiana of Russia, the second eldest daughter of Tsar Nicholas II. A former Russian captain came to visit the unknown woman and intrigued, he began persuading other Russian émigrés to visit the mystery patient, who spoke German with an accent described as “Russian”. Eventually, Baroness Sophie Buxhoeveden, a former lady-in-waiting to the Tsar’s wife, Tsarina Alexandra Feodorovna, visited the asylum.

The Romanaov sisters, from left: Maria, Olga, Anastasia, and Tatiana, ca 1910.

Upon seeing Anderson, she declared, “She’s too short for Tatiana,” and left convinced the woman was not a Russian grand duchess. A few days later, the nameless woman noted, “I did not say I was Tatiana.” She began opening up to the nurses of the asylum, confessing that she was in fact another daughter of the Tsar– Anastasia. She explained how she had hidden among the bodies of her family and servants, and was able to make her escape with the help of a compassionate communist guard who noticed she was still breathing and took sympathy upon her. 

Her claims would later result in the longest running legal case ever heard by the German courts. Most members of Grand Duchess Anastasia’s family and those who had known her, believed Anderson was an impostor but others were convinced she was the real Anastasia.

Some of her earliest and key supporters were Tatiana and Gleb Botkin, children of the imperial family’s personal physician, who had been murdered by the communists alongside the Tsar’s family in 1918. They had known Anastasia as a child and Tatiana had last spoken with the Duchess in February 1917.

“Anastasia” at pictured at Castle Seeon

She saw a striking resemblance in the woman claiming to be Anastasia and decided that her inability to remember events and refusal to speak Russian was a result of her trauma. To help the woman’s weak memory, she began coaching Anderson with insider details of life within the imperial family.

It was around this time that she began calling herself Anna Tschaikovsky, choosing “Anna” as a short form of “Anastasia”. She began living off the finances of those who believed she was indeed the lost Duchess, which included some members of the Imperial family. The woman who’d been plucked from a mental asylum in Germany was suddenly living amongst Europe’s wealthiest aristocracy, being passed from one wealthy benefactor to another.

After living at the expense of Grand Duchess Anastasia’s great-uncle for a spell, she found herself at Castle Seeon, hosted by a Duke and distant relative of the Tsar. Meanwhile, more suspicious members of the Imperial family hired a private detective to investigate Anna’s story.

The detective returned with a report, claiming that Anna Tschaikovsky was in fact a Polish factory worker called Franziska Schanzkowska, who’d worked in an arms factory during World War I. During one of her shifts, a grenade had fallen out of her hand and exploded, causing injuries to her head and a fellow co-worker’s death. Already a widow of war, Schanzkowska had become severely depressed and declared insane.

Anastasia, the lost Duchess

The son of the Duke who was hosting the alleged “lost Duchess” at Castle Seeon, was hell-bent on proving that she was an imposter. He tracked down the brother of the Polish factory worker, and organised a surprise meeting between Felix Schanzkowski and their dubious guest, hoping to witness the moment of sibling recognition. Years after he was called to a local inn near the castle to meet the woman claiming to be Anastasia, Felix’s family said that “he knew Tschaikovsky was his sister, but he had chosen to leave her to her new life, which was far more comfortable than any alternative”.

Anna Anderson/ Anna Tschaikovsky

Despite numerous princes, princesses and relatives of the Tsar labelling Anna, “an adventuress, a sick hysteric and a frightful playactress”, one going as far as to say, “I am convinced that you would recoil in horror at the thought that this frightful creature could be a daughter of our Tsar,” just asmany credible friends and relatives were convinced that Anna Tschaikovsky was genuine, or at least, wanted to believe she was.

In the late 1920s, her story broke America, feeding the fairytale to young working-class women across the country, dreaming of a better life. Published articles quickly reached Xenia Leeds, a former Russian princess and distant cousin of Duchess Anastasia married to an American industrialist, who arranged for Anna to travel to the United States. On her way, Tschaikovsky stopped in Paris, where she met the Tsar’s exiled cousin, Grand Duke Andrei Vladimirovich of Russia, who also believed her to be the true Anastasia.

Anna, pictured left

Anna settled in New York and lived for 6 months on the Leeds estate, before being kicked out over some rumoured disputes about Tschaikovsky’s claim to the Romanov estate. She lived in hotels for a while, checking in under the new name “Anna Anderson”, to avoid the press. Going by her new moniker, Miss Anderson was then taken under the wing of a wealthy Park Avenue spinster, Mrs Jennings, who was all too happy to host the alleged daughter of the Tsar, particularly as she became the toast of the town and society’s favourite party piece.

Mrs. Jennings, with Anastasia

But Anna Anderson, Duchess or not, was still a damaged soul, and a pattern of self-destructive behaviour soon began her downward spiral. She repeatedly threw violent public tantrums, killed her own pet parakeet and ran naked on the rooftops before she was forcibly taken away to a mental hospital and sent back to Germany a year later on Jenning’s dime.

Baroness von Gienanth visiting Anastasia in Unterlengenhardt.

At the end of World War II,  a German prince helped her escape the Soviet occupied zone and cross safely into occupied France where she stayed in some army barracks and became a tourist attraction of sorts. Friends of the Tsars continued to visit her, some acknowledging her as Anastasia, others denouncing her, including the English tutor to the imperial children, who declared, “she in no way resembles the true Grand Duchess Anastasia that I had known … I am quite satisfied that she is an impostor.”

In the 1950s, she settled in a small village in the Black Forest of Germany, and became a recluse and a hoarder, living in a dilapidated cottage with 60 cats. By this time, countless works had been inspired by her claim to be Anastasia and in 1956, actress Ingrid Bergman won an Academy Award for her starring role in the 1956 film Anastasia, inspired by Anderson’s claim.

In 1968, her earliest and long-term supporter, Gleb Botkin came to her rescue, offering to move her back to the United States. It was there that she met Jack Manahan, a wealthy history professor known as “Charlottesville’s best-loved eccentric”. They were married shortly before the expiration of her visa. Despite his wealth, they lived as hoarders together in squalor and she was once again institutionalised in 1983.

Anna and Jack

Never one to make a dull exit, she broke her out of the asylum and drove around Virginia with Jack for days until a 13-state police alarm saw her returned to the facility, where she died of pneumonia in 1984. Her ashes were buried in the churchyard at Castle Seeon.

DNA tests were carried out a decade later on a sample of Anderson’s tissue and the blood of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh (the very same husband to the current Queen of England), who is also a second cousin of Duchess Anastasia. According to the doctors who conducted the tests, “If you accept that these samples came from Anna Anderson, then Anna Anderson could not be related to Tsar Nicholas or Tsarina Alexandra.” On the contrary, her DNA did match with a great-nephew of Franziska Schanzkowska, the missing Polish factory worker.

The location of the body of the true Grand Duchess Anastasia was unknown until 2007. In 1991, the bodies of Tsar Nicholas II, Tsarina Alexandra, and three of their daughters were exhumed from a mass grave near Yekaterinburg, identified through skeletal analysis and DNA testing. More than a decade later, the skeletal remains of Tsarevich Alexei, the youngest sibling (and heir to the throne of the Russian Empire), was discovered at a bonfire site near Yekaterinburg alongside that of his sister’s, Anastasia. Repeated DNA tests confirmed that none of the Tsar’s four daughters survived the tragic shooting of the Romanov family.

Cunning imposter? Traumatized into adopting a new identity? Or used by her supporters for their own ends? Whichever is the truth behind Anna Anderson’s intentions, it seems to me that her story provided some much needed hope for one of history’s most tragic tales.

And as strange and far-fetched as her story seems, Anderson was not the only Princess imposter. Meet, Mary Baker, aka, the Princess of Caraboo. In the early 19th century, she fooled a nation, sensationally convincing them that she was a fictional princess from a far off kingdom.

In 1817, a young woman wearing a black turban stumbled into a Gloucestershire village, carrying her possessions in a bundle, exhausted and near starving. The town’s cobbler and his American-born wife, the Worralls, took her in. She was speaking a language foreign to anyone in the village, and when she saw a painting of a pineapple, she excitedly pointed at it, repeating the word ‘nanas‘, the Indonesian translation for the what was then considered an exotic fruit, afforded only by royalty. The mysterious and beautiful woman exhibited strange behaviour and insisted on sleeping on the floor. She was briefly arrested for vagrancy, where she met a Portuguese sailor who claimed to speak her language and translated her story.

She claimed to be Princess Caraboo from the island of Javasu in the Indian Ocean, captured by pirates after a long voyage. She had arrived in England by jumping overboard in the Bristol Channel, and then swam ashore. After she was released from prison, the alleged Princess became a local celebrity, welcomed as exotic royalty by the dignitaries of Gloucestershire, and her bohemian ways provided much entertainment for the English countryside. Once she had convinced them that she couldn’t speak or understand English, they felt free to speak in front of her, providing her with the tools she needed to continue her deception. She could often be spotted using a bow and arrow, fencing with the aristocracy, swimming naked or praying to a god she called Allah-Talla (a spelling variation of one of the formal names for God in Islam).

She had her portrait painted and her adventures printed in newspapers, spreading the tale of the Princess of Caraboo nationwide. But when a board-house keeper in Bristol spotted the Princess’s picture in the local paper some months later, the embarrassing truth surfaced. The princess from Javasu was in fact a cobbler’s daughter from Witheridge, Devon, named Mary. She had been a servant girl around England but had found no place to stay. A servant girl with European looks, who found herself homeless, she’d invented her exotic persona and created her own language from imaginary and gypsy words. The British press cruelly ridiculed the rustic middle-class couple who’d first fallen for her story, but Mrs. Worrall, who had always been taken with the girl, took pity on her and arranged for her to start fresh in America.

Even after her story was outed however, a letter was published in the papers, allegedly from Sir Hudson Lowe, the official in charge of a certain exiled Emperor Napoleon, defending and backing up the Princess’ story. He even claimed that after escaping the pirates, she’d rowed ashore St. Helena, where Napoleon was being held and so fascinated the emperor that he was applying to the Pope for a dispensation to marry her. 

After a sting in American, peddling her ‘Princess Caraboo’ act on stage, and again back in England on New Bond Street, with little success, she ended up selling leeches to hospitals in Bristol and died a widow at the age of 72 at the turn of the century.

Like Anna Anderson, Mary Baker’s story inspired several novels and screen adaptations. Again, I feel that labelling her a mere imposter does this woman great injustice, who managed to use her own unique talents to break out of society’s cage and rise above the circumstances of her position.

But if two pretend princesses weren’t enough, we’ll finish with a third: the young maidservant who took a role of nonexistent sister of Queen Charlotte…

In 1771, Sarah Wilson was working in the Queen’s House when she began stealing jewellery and clothing from the royal household. She was caught red-handed and sentenced to death, but narrowly avoided capital punishment with a softer sentence. She was shipped off to the colonies, and sold into indentured servitude, but didn’t last long before making her escape. According to the tale, somehow she still had some of the queen’s dresses with her, and began parading around the colonies as “Princess Susanna Caroline Matilda of Mecklenburg-Strelitz”, sister of Queen Charlotte. Wilson’s story was that she’d been exiled to America by her family following a scandal, and she managed to fool a number of wealthy Virginians with her knowledge of royal affairs. One problem: Queen Charlotte didn’t have a sister. It didn’t help that the Queen was originally from Germany and this princess didn’t speak a word of it. The rumours eventually reached her master from who’d she’d escaped and it didn’t take long for him to put two and two together before “Princess Susanna” was being dragged back to servitude. She worked for two years before running off again, this time with a dragoon officer during the War of Independence. Little is known of Sarah Wilson after that, but something tells me she continued to act like the princess she’d always wanted to be.

When I began reading about the stories of our Princess pretenders, I wasn’t expecting to be inspired by them; to find their stories as impressive and adventurous as some of our favourite female pioneers and explorers. While history has them written down as fraudsters, I would argue first that they were dreamers; intrepid, intelligent and imaginative women ahead of their time, who tried to beat the cards that life had dealt them. And can you really blame them for wanting the fairytale? What’s that saying? “Fake it ’til you make it”.


By Messy Nessy

A Beer From the Middle Ages Is Making a Serious Comeback

BY Michele Debczak – Mental Floss

Hop-forward beer is all the rage today, but in the middle ages many imbibers preferred brews that skewed towards the sweeter side. Now, centuries after it fell out of fashion, Atlas Obscura reports that gruit ale is making a comeback.

Gruit beer is any beer that features botanicals in place of hops. The ingredients that give the drink its distinctive sweet, aromatic taste can be as familiar as ginger and lavender or as exotic as mugwort and seabuckthorn. The herbs play the role of hops by both adding complex flavors and creating an inhospitable environment for harmful microbes.

It may be hard for modern beer lovers to imagine beer without hops, but prior to the 16th century gruit was as common in parts of Europe as IPAs are in hip American cities today. Then, in 1516, that style of beer suddenly vanished from pint glasses: That was the year Germany passed a beer purity law that restricted beer formulas to hops, water, and barley. Many of the key botanicals in gruit beer were considered aphrodisiacs at the time, and the rising Puritan movement helped push the brew further into obscurity.

Hops have dominated the beer scene ever since, and only in the past few decades have microbrewers started giving old gruit recipes the attention they’re due. In 2017, the Scratch Brewing Company in Illinois released their seasonal Scratch Tonic, made from a combination of dandelion, carrot tops, clover, and ginger. The Põhjala Brewery in Estonia brews their Laugas beer using Estonian herbs, caraway, and juniper berries. Get in touch with your local microbrewery to see if they have their own version of the old-school beer in their line-up.

[h/t Atlas Obscura]

Clever Illustrations Of Homophones

What happens when a frog’s car breaks down? It gets toad away. If you’re like me and laughed at this joke more than you probably should have, you know that words are fun. Bruce Worden, the man behind a blog called Homophones, Weakly, also shares this opinion. Like you might have already guessed, he’s into homophones (each of two or more words having the same pronunciation but different meanings, origins, or spelling). In fact, Bruce likes them so much, he’s even visualizing them!

Poking fun at the English language, Bruce uses minimalistic illustrations to prove that we just have to listen. For without context we couldn’t know if someone is inviting us to a sail or sale. Scroll down for the images and upvote your favorites! Also, be sure to check out our list of the 20+ ‘Same’ Things That Most People Don’t Know Are Actually Different, too!

The First Cyberattack – in 1834

WannaCry, a computer virus that encrypts data and demands a ransom to unscramble it, hit thousands of computers in May, causing several hospitals in Britain to close their doors. Hardly a week now goes by without a large company admitting that its systems have been breached: Yahoo recently confessed that 1bn accounts had been compromised in an attack in 2013. Cyber-attacks are a scourge of modern life, but their history goes back further than you might expect.

The world’s first national data network was constructed in France during the 1790s. It was a mechanical telegraph system, consisting of chains of towers, each of which had a system of movable wooden arms on top. Different configurations of these arms corresponded to letters, numbers and other characters. Operators in each tower would adjust the arms to match the configuration of an adjacent tower, observed through a telescope, causing sequences of characters to ripple along the line. Messages could now be sent much faster than letters, whizzing from one end of France to the other in minutes. The network was reserved for government use but in 1834 two bankers, François and Joseph Blanc, devised a way to subvert it to their own ends.

The Blanc brothers traded government bonds at the exchange in the city of Bordeaux, where information about market movements took several days to arrive from Paris by mail coach. Accordingly, traders who could get the information more quickly could make money by anticipating these movements. Some tried using messengers and carrier pigeons, but the Blanc brothers found a way to use the telegraph line instead. They bribed the telegraph operator in the city of Tours to introduce deliberate errors into routine government messages being sent over the network.

The telegraph’s encoding system included a “backspace” symbol that instructed the transcriber to ignore the previous character. The addition of a spurious character indicating the direction of the previous day’s market movement, followed by a backspace, meant the text of the message being sent was unaffected when it was written out for delivery at the end of the line. But this extra character could be seen by another accomplice: a former telegraph operator who observed the telegraph tower outside Bordeaux with a telescope, and then passed on the news to the Blancs. The scam was only uncovered in 1836, when the crooked operator in Tours fell ill and revealed all to a friend, who he hoped would take his place. The Blanc brothers were put on trial, though they could not be convicted because there was no law against misuse of data networks. But the Blancs’ pioneering misuse of the French network qualifies as the world’s first cyber-attack.

All this holds lessons for us as we grapple with online mischief today. The first is to avoid complacency. Network intrusions (like that at Yahoo) often go unnoticed for many years, and many (if not most) may never be detected. Malware like WannaCry hits the headlines because its effects are so visible, but it gives an inaccurate picture of the scale of the cyber-security problem. Most attackers, like the Blancs, do not advertise their presence.

Second, regardless of the technology, security is like a chain and humans are always the weakest link. The French telegraph system looks hopelessly insecure to modern eyes, with its telegraph towers in plain sight. But its key weakness was the human failings of its users, something that remains true today. Focusing on security as a purely technological challenge misses an important part of the picture: it depends on setting the right social and economic incentives too.

Finally, network attacks do not just pre-date modern electronic networks – they are as old as networks themselves. The tale of the Blanc brothers is a reminder that with any new invention, people will always find a way to make malicious use of it. This is a timeless aspect of human nature, and is not something that technology can or should be expected to fix.

Creepy Ways Companies Collect Data For Targeted Ads

by Mark Oliver – Listverse

At this very moment, everything you are doing is being recorded. You are being watched by computer programs and cameras that are monitoring you everywhere you go, in ways the wildest conspiracy theorists wouldn’t have believed ten years ago.

It’s worse than you think. You’re probably already aware that everything you do online is tracked, recorded, and sold to make better-targeted ads, but it goes way further than that. Companies in the business of selling your secrets are doing things that go way beyond 1984. You’re being monitored in ways Orwell never even imagined.

10 Hospitals And Pharmacies Sell Your Medical Records

Facebook recently sent their people to several hospitals to try to convince them to sell their patients’ confidential data. They wanted everything, including records of your illnesses and prescription histories, all for what they claimed would be a “research project.”[1]

Officially, the information was going to be anonymous because, legally, the hospitals wouldn’t be able to give away your medical history with your name on it. Facebook, though, already had a workaround ready. They were convinced that they had enough data on their users to take that anonymous information and connect it to a name and a face.

The hospitals, by the way, were fully aware that Facebook wasn’t planning on keeping the data anonymous. In fact, the social media giant had promised to get back to them and give them the names of patients who, based on their Facebook history, might need special treatments.

The plan was scrapped when Facebook got in trouble for the Cambridge Analytica data leak, but Facebook isn’t the only company buying your medical records. There are entire companies that do nothing but buy medical records and resell them. Rite Aid and CVS have both admitted to selling patient data to these businesses, and General Electric and IBM have admitted to buying it.

There’s a lot of money in it, too. The biggest company involved in trading medical information is called IMS Health—and they made $2.6 billion in 2014.

9 Apple Checks How Much Money Is In Your Bank Account

Apple filed a patent in 2015 for a brand-new program that would constantly run on your iPhone. Its whole purpose was to watch you while you check your bank account and your credit cards, find out how much money you have, and sell your bank balance to advertisers.

They didn’t even try to hide what they were doing. The patent specifically says—and this is a direct quote: “Goods and services are marketed to particular target groups of users [ . . . ] based on the amount of pre-paid credit available to each user.”[2] Or, in other words, they’ll look at how much you owe on your credit card and share the information with any advertiser willing to pay.

Officially, Apple pretended that they had no plans of actually using it. Their CEO, Tim Cook, has made great big speeches saying that spying on users for monetary gain is “wrong” and “not the kind of company that Apple wants to be.”

But it’s a little hard to believe that Apple planned, designed, and patented a program just to not use it. Apple definitely has the ability to check your bank account—and it’s only reasonable to assume that they’re using it.

8 Advertisers Watch Your Face Through Your Camera

Some astute people noticed something in a picture posted by Mark Zuckerberg: black tape over his laptop’s webcam.

It’s more than a little disturbing. More than a few people have described seeing ads on Facebook that seem to be working off of what they’re wearing or what’s behind them. Facebook has never admitted to watching us through our cameras, but the fact that Zuckerberg feels the need to cover his up suggests that he knows something we don’t.

Other companies are definitely doing it, by the way. A company called Emotional Analytics has developed software that uses the computer’s webcam to watch and analyze people’s facial reactions to advertisements.[3]

Few companies admit to using your camera without your permission, but there’s a lot of reason to think it happens. Android recently felt the need to update its privacy policy to ban Apps from using cell phone cameras to secretly record people’s faces. They didn’t exactly admit that anyone was doing it, but clearly, they had a reason to think it was happening—and up until February 2018, they weren’t doing anything to stop it.

7 License Plate Scanners Track You Everywhere You Go

Even if you didn’t use any electronics, companies would still track you wherever you go. There are multiple corporations that have set up license plate scanners around the world and use them to collect data on everywhere you go and everywhere you’ve been.

The biggest license plate-scanning company in the US already had two billion records of license plate scans on file in January 2015.[4] They would bundle the information they got from scanning license plates together with credit checks, purchase histories, information on where you live, and information on who you know and sell it all to advertisers.

It’s believed that insurance companies use this information to set their rates. If a customer has been caught driving through dangerous neighborhoods or parked outside of the local CrossFit gym, their insurance companies can crank up their rates a little bit.

Selling your license plate data is a multibillion-dollar industry—and it’s technically legal, thanks to a pretty thin loophole. The companies insist that they aren’t giving away private information because they only tell their customers your license plate number and not your name. But, of course, you just need to spend 30 seconds on Google to figure out somebody’s name with their license plate number—and you can believe that the people who buy the data look it up.

6 Retail Stores Track Your Movements Through Your Phone’s Wi-Fi

When a company offers you free Wi-Fi, odds are they’re not just doing it out of the goodness of their hearts. They’re doing it so that they can track everything you do in their store.

When you connect to the Wi-Fi, the store gets to track where you go and what you look up. They track what you look at on your phone, where you went, and what you bought. And, yes, they know if you try their stuff out, order it on Amazon, and go home without spending any money.

One of the main things they do is track where you go in the store, and for that one, they don’t even need you to log onto the Wi-Fi.[5] Your cell phone is constantly pinging, looking for a network to connect to, and the stores can monitor those pings to see where you go. They can record where you spend your time and how you move around—and they don’t have to warn you that they’re going to do it.

A lot of companies do it. Macy’s, BMW, Top Shop, Morrisons, and countless shopping malls have all acknowledged that they track their customers through their smartphones—and there’s no telling how many just don’t admit it.

5 Multiple Companies Track You With Facial Recognition Technology

The cameras in those stores aren’t just there to stop shoplifting. They’re watching you everywhere you go inside the store, collecting data that they can sell.

Modern cameras use facial recognition technology to figure out customers’ ages, ethnicities, and genders.[6] They monitor your face and track where you go to get a detailed map of where different-looking people go in the store, taking profiling in advertising to a whole new level.

It’s not just for improving sales, though. Amazon has been trying to sell its facial recognition program “Rekognition” to police departments across the country, and if they adapt it full-scale, it’s likely that cameras around the world will be able to pick us out by our faces in a matter of years.

That’s already the case in China, incidentally, where a network of 170 million cameras around the country are already using facial recognition to track down anyone they need to find. It’s effective, too. Recently, their cameras caught a white-collar criminal in a crowd of 60,000 concertgoers and automatically alerted the police.

4 Facebook Keeps Track Of All Of Your Phone Calls

Facebook got in trouble in March 2018 for recording every phone call users made on their Android devices.

When news of the Cambridge Analytica scandal broke and users around the world started vowing to boycott Facebook, people started downloading and looking over the data the social media giant had been storing on them. To their surprise, they found that Facebook had kept a record of every phone call they made.[7] Facebook had full details on who they’d called, how long they spoke to them, and every text that they’d sent.

Facebook insisted that they weren’t actually listening in on the calls—but other companies definitely do it. One company called Pudding Media even made it their entire business model. They opened an Internet phone service similar to Skype that based its whole revenue model on recording what its customers say and selling the data to advertisers.

Pudding Media ended up going out business, probably because they were too honest about what they were doing. But, although Facebook and Google deny listening to our phone calls, a lot of people are pretty sure that the targeted ads they’ve seen suggest that they’re lying.

3 AccuWeather Secretly Sells Your Location

AccuWeather got in trouble in August 2017, when they were caught selling their customers’ locations without their permission, but from the last we’ve heard, they’re still doing it.[8]

Their app secretly records a disturbingly large amount of information about their users. It doesn’t just track what city you’re in—it records your location down to the nearest foot, even measuring what floor of a building you’re on.

It even does it when you ask it not to. Even when users turn “location sharing” off, AccuWeather’s app keeps tracking their location, anyway. Then, without asking permission, they sell that information to advertisers so that they can customize your ads for where you’re standing. That way, if you’re next to a Starbucks, they can start bombarding your phone with ads trying to lure you in.

They’re not the only company that does it, either. While Google hasn’t been too transparent about what they do with GPS information, we know that they track your location no matter what you do. If you have an Android phone, it’s constantly monitoring where you are. You can turn off the GPS, you can log out of the phone, and you can even pull out your SIM card. It’ll keep monitoring exactly where you are.

2 Hundreds Of Apps Secretly Record Everything You Say

There are literally hundreds of different apps that come loaded with secret, hidden software that uses your microphone to record everything happening around you.

Most use a program made by a company called Alphonso. It’s programmed to constantly run your microphone, even when the app is closed, to listen for television shows or ads and see how they affect your behavior. It might record, for example, your hearing an ad for pizza on TV and then see if you go out and buy that pizza.

Technically, the program is legal because it requests permission to record you—but usually, that request is buried somewhere deep inside a thick privacy policy so that you’ll agree to it without ever actually seeing it.

It isn’t just weird, obscure apps that do it, either. McDonald’s and Krispy Kreme have both used these types of programs, and there’s good chance every Google Home is doing it all of the time. Google Home starts recording you every time you say the word “okay.” Even if you don’t follow that with the word “Google,” it’ll still record 20 seconds of audio, make a text transcript of everything it hears, and upload it to Google’s server.[9]

1 Facebook Gathers Data On People Who Don’t Use Facebook

Even if you don’t use Facebook, they’re still monitoring everything you do. On nearly every website you see, there’s a sneaky little button that’s watching you: the “like” button.

Facebook has added code to the “like” and “share” buttons that show up on almost every article online that lets it secretly record your actions.[10] You don’t have to click on the buttons for them to watch what you’re doing—if you’re on a website that invites you to share their post on Facebook, the company is watching what you’re doing. They’re watching your comments, they’re watching where you go next, and they’re selling everything they learn.

Your behavior on almost every website gets used to make targeted ads for Facebook, Instagram, and any company that pays Facebook for its ad services.

So it doesn’t matter if you opt out. It doesn’t change anything if you boycott Facebook. They’re still watching everything you do.