If you’ve got a Netflix account, passed through EDSA and saw the many billboards, or ran to Makati the moment you heard Penn Badgely and Shay Mitchell were having halo-halo at the Manila Peninsula, then you’ve probably heard about Netflix’s new series, “You.”
The show is told from the perspective of Joe Goldberg, played by Badgely, a fairly normal bookstore manager on the outside but a stalker of creative writing graduate student Guinevere Beck. Mitchell plays Peach Salinger, Beck’s best friend who sees through Joe’s outward personality and is the embodiment of the phrase “It takes one to know one.”
Fans like the show for many reasons: the plot, the actors, the memes, or the fact that Badgely openly called out Twitter users who thought Joe was just misunderstood and wanted a Joe (or a Peach) of their own. I found it interesting because if you look back and realize all Joe needed to stalk Beck was her name – the internet provided the rest. Thanks to Beck’s public social media, Joe managed to find where Beck lived, what she did for a living, who her friends and family were, and much more, enough that he could worm his way into her life.
“You” shows how easy it is to lose your privacy.
It’s so easy to forget how much data we’re putting on the internet, and we might not even be aware we’re doing it. And like Beck, we might not realize what a dangerous situation we’re in until it’s too late.
So if you don’t want to have a stalker watching your daily movements, here’s how you can protect your privacy and online data.
Cover Your Windows
This is my number one pet peeve of the show.
I’m not sure how much curtains cost, but I’m pretty sure Beck could find some curtains to decorate those huge windows in her ground floor apartment on a busy street in New York. I don’t get how she has the confidence to have an active sex life and dress up for work next to those big uncovered windows. Maybe she’s just one of those people who’s proud of her body and has no secrets. If that’s the case, props to her for having a positive body image of herself. The problem with this is that it becomes huge security and privacy risk.
Your house is your safe space.
If you’re letting the whole world know what’s in your home and provide them with unobstructed views to watch your daily movement, you are practically taping a target on your back. It might not even be limited to a stalker; what’s to stop a burglar from noticing you’re not home and you happen to have a nice TV set by the window?
Check Your Social Media Settings
Joe only had Beck’s name as a lead, yet he managed to find so much information about her, including where she lived, by stalking her social media, taking a photo of her in front of her apartment building, and then doing a Google photo search. I wanted to see if that was really possible, so I tried to do the same to my best friend’s house in the province.
Using a photo of her in front of her home showed no results on Google. But I knew she lived on a street with her last name. I also knew she lived near a hotel. That narrowed down my search on Google Maps until I found a house with a façade similar to the house in her photos.
You may have gotten a few notifications from Facebook saying “<friend> is nearby. See who else is in the area.” When you click it, you get a list of people within a certain radius, who is in what city, and who is traveling. It’s not telling you exactly where they are, but if Facebook and your GPS determine that you’re close enough, they alert you.
After several bad experiences and seeing people I know find out their photos were used for fake accounts, I’ve decided to place my Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram on private. I’m not telling everyone to set all of their social media accounts on private to stay safe, but I think people should be a bit more wary of what they post online.
Check your privacy settings, be careful of who you add on social media, and be a bit more discerning on what you post or say on any platform. If you’ve learned anything from Laura Lee’s Tweets coming back to haunt her, it’s that if it’s on the internet, people will find it.
Check Your Photos
I’m not sure if this works on other phones, but if you have an Oppo phone like I do and have an internet connection, try doing this: go through your camera photos and pick one random photo. It may not apply to all photos, but if you click on the upper-right info icon, you may see the location of where the photo was taken. It’s a helpful feature (I saw an old photo while scrolling the other day and couldn’t remember where I took it), but in the wrong hands, it could be dangerous.
This is a photo of my dog, Pud. You may assume that I’m at my parents’ home. When you check the info of the photo, you’ll find my phone pinpointed to the exact street I live on. While it’s not like Beck’s situation, in which Joe easily found her exact apartment building (my photo doesn’t show what my house looks like), my street is in an area where there’s only one way in and out of the village. Anyone with the patience could simply wait and stalk the area until they find me or my family members – something they could easily learn from social media.
Want to know how Google Maps could betray you?
Open the app and, on the menu, select “Your Timeline.” You’ll find that the app, even if it was never opened, has been tracking your movement, where you were, how long you stayed there, and how you got there. It can tell when you’ve been at home the entire day, if you walked or drove to a destination, or if you were in an area for longer or shorter than you claim.
I was really surprised when I saw this for the first time. Although there is a margin of error, and the app doesn’t always get the street paths right, it knows the key locations I’ve been to. When I need a mental health break, I go to this one mom and pop café I like going to without telling anyone where I really am. Based on my location, Google correctly guessed exactly where I was and how long I’ve been there.
GPS in itself is not harmful or dangerous. But if you’re afraid of what could happen if this data fell into the wrong hands, it’s best to turn off the GPS on your phone. Use it only when absolutely necessary, such as when you need to operate GPS-required apps, like Grab.
Avoid the Peaches in Your Life
Sometimes, it’s not the Joe Goldberg in your life that you should be careful of. Sometimes, it’s the Peach Salinger.
The Peach in your life is just as dangerous – maybe even more dangerous than a Joe because while a Joe manipulates everything around you, a Peach will manipulate YOU.
Peach is your friend who stays even when all of your other friends are gone, only for you to find out that your friends have left because she pushed them away. Peach is the friend who will help you when you’re in need and ask for nothing in return, but you know deep in your mind that Peach will softly hold everything she does against you until it builds up to a push you cannot resist. Peach will manipulate, gaslight, and belittle your dreams so you can be a part of her own dream, and when you try to walk away, she will guilt you into staying.
Avoid letting a Peach into your life no matter what she promises you in exchange. By the time you let her into your life and provide her with enough information, it will be too difficult to get anything done.
Netflix’s “You” shows just how ordinary people are so vulnerable because of the information we put online, for anyone to find. This is one of the unpopular opinions circulating the internet, but it’s probably why I dislike Beck’s character so much – even more than Peach and Joe. I’m not one to ever point fingers at the victim, but with her carelessness with her phone and social media, her obliviousness to the types of people she surrounds herself with, and her big windows, has left her vulnerable to the manipulations of two people who are good at taking information about her and using it to their advantage