“You should remove WhatsApp from your phone!” a friend of mine messaged me frantically (on WhatsApp, of course!).

“Why?” I asked.

“Because they changed their terms and conditions. Now, Mark Zuckerberg can read everything you write,” he replied.

“That’s great,” I wrote back. “Mark, if you see this: we need you for a minyan this Shabbat at Chabad of Hackensack!”

Indeed, WhatsApp—which is owned by Facebook—changed their terms and conditions in the past few days, and the change, which gave them more access to your data, had sparked a fierce debate about privacy.

Privacy in the digital era is quite a complicated topic. It’s not that privacy is not important. It is. But let’s be honest: almost none of us have it.

If you don’t have a Google account or Facebook account and use DuckDuckGo as your search engine, more power to you. Most of us, however, do use some of those free services that harvest our data and use it to deliver ads and sell products.

And boy do they know a lot.

Google Maps can tell you every place you’ve visited in the past few years.

YouTube will easily remember all of the videos you’ve watched.

Google Search knows any term you’ve ever searched for.

Amazon knows everything about your shopping habits.

It literally feels as if someone is watching you every moment of your life!

That’s not good.

Yet, maybe there’s a way to harness some of it for our benefit, at least until the day we receive our privacy back.

There is a story in the Talmud that illustrates how the feeling of “someone’s watching” can be used for the good.

When Rabbi Yoḥanan ben Zakkai fell ill, his students entered to visit him . . . His students said to him: “Our teacher, bless us.” He said to them: “May it be His will that the fear of Heaven shall be upon you like the fear of flesh and blood.”

His students were puzzled and said: “That’s it? Shouldn’t one fear G‑d more?”

He said to them: “Would that a person achieve that level of fear. Know that when one commits a transgression, he says to himself: ‘I hope that no man will see me.’ If one is as concerned about avoiding shame before G‑d as he is before man, he would never sin!”

So if we feel that Mark Zuckerberg, Jeff Bezos, Larry Page and Sergey Brin are watching us, maybe we’ll be on our best behavior. Our online communication and browsing habits definitely need improvement. I know that mine do.

“Someone’s watching”—so let’s do it better.