Some 13 per cent of UK homes are vulnerable to tech-giant snoopers (Image: Jose A. Bernat Bacete / Getty Images)
Now it emerges that Amazon has been adopting Big Brother tactics of its own by eavesdropping on homes up and down Britain via its digital personal assistant product Alexa. And it is not alone. Apple and Google are also said to be listening in on their customers via their Siri and Google Home products.
This means that no less than 13 per cent of British homes are vulnerable to these tech-giant snoopers. But these revelations are only the latest examples of our burgeoning surveillance and data-collecting industry, carrying profound implications for our way of life.
Before the advent of the internet and the boom in online shopping, retailers found it hard to gather information about their customers, particularly if they paid in cash.
Now every single transaction is logged and a detailed profile is built up of each consumer. Over time, this new breed of hi-tech retailer comes to know us arguably better than we know ourselves. In a process known as "collaborative filtering" our choices are constantly being monitored and recommendations based upon them. If you rent a film from Sky, its computer algorithms will suggest others you might like based on the preferences of other users who have watched that particular movie.
So far, so harmless.
But a particularly spooky example of how sophisticated this now is concerns a US teenage girl from Minneapolis, who shopped with retail chain Target.
Like all its competitors,Target sets up a guest ID for as many customers as it can, with information such as age and marital status, but also their estimated salaries and the types of credit cards used. Target can also buy data about anything from ethnicity and job history to political leanings and reading habits. But the holy grail is a new parent as they spend so much on baby paraphernalia from nappies to cots.As birth records are normally public, no retailer has an edge targeting mothers after they have given birth. The key is to reach them beforehand and that means