If there is a manmade tool that has shaped the 21st-century it is, undoubtedly, the Internet. The Internet is the destination for receiving communication, information, and, of course, cat videos galore. Having said that, the network also has the tendency to be very, VERY creepy. In the past, we’ve told you all about how people, sometimes from all the way across the globe, can be spying on your online activities at any time, looking for an easy scam.

It’s a scary thought–and a very real threat!–but there is also a host of other ways the Internet can leave you vulnerable. Take the example of today’s story. Believe it or not, chatting with customer service reps isn’t as private an activity as you likely thought. You see, these representatives work off of systems that can see what you’re typing, even BEFORE you hit the ‘return’ button.

Ok, ok, so it might not be as creepy as many of the other intrusive data breaches out there, but it is disconcerting nonetheless.

This revelation was first made public late last month, when Tom Scocca, the editor of Hmm Daily, shared his stunning customer support-related realization. Scocca explained that he came to the understanding that customer service reps working through Internet texting apps could see everything that you’re typing prior to clicking ‘enter’ when he, himself, was communicating with a company that, according to him, “annoyingly holds back some discounts unless you ask for them directly.” 

So, being the savvy online consumer that he is, Scocca threw the representative some bait, which, subsequently, elicited this exchange:

Me (11/25/2018, 4:17:34 PM): Do you know what sort of [redacted] would work with one of those? We live in an apartment, so the smaller and quieter, the better.

[Agent] (11/25/2018, 4:17:35 PM): a [redacted] will be a good option: [link to product]

While the back-and-forth might seem innocent enough, Scocca swears that the agent sent him the response–with the product link attached– within a second of him sending over the question. This can only mean one of two things: the customer service agent is the fastest typer in the world and should be presented with a Guinness World Record award, or, the customer service agent could actually SEE what Scocca was writing before he sent it.

The idea of Speedy Gonzales working as a customer service agent is hilarious, but something tells us that the ultra-fast response corresponds better to the latter theory; the agents must be able to see what the customer is typing before it is “officially” sent.

So, why does all of this matter? After all, who cares if a customer service rep can see the words we are typing mere seconds before we send them? Scocca says that this issue is important because it’s just another example of how Internet-based companies continually overstep. He writes:

Like Facebook’s data-mining, this is one of those situations where the people inside an industry have a completely different theory of what’s normal than the people on the outside, who deal with the industry, do. Along with real-time typing monitoring, the chat-service company also offers a feature that enables the chat operator to “see the current webpage of your customer on chat, and you’ll also be notified of each page they switch to.”

That last point sure does make things a whole LOT more serious. Definitely keep in mind what you are typing–and what you are searching!–when texting with a customer service agent on the Internet. There are no more sacred spaces, folks!

We’d love to hear your thoughts on this latest Internet privacy bombshell. Does it upset you that companies do this to their customers? Do you think they should stop? How do you keep your information private when surfing the web?