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Sometimes, it seems like there is nothing that your smartphone does not know about you. After all, you carry it with you wherever you go. You use it for just about everything and you probably depend on it for directions, suggestions of where to go for dinner or lunch, and as a constant source of entertainment. If someone were planning to develop the perfect surveillance tool, it would probably look a lot like your current smartphone.
Your smartphone is also a world-class surveillance tool
Just consider some of the data points that your phone collects from you on a regular, ongoing basis. It knows, for example, every place you’ve ever been as well as your current location. Even if you think you’ve turned off the location settings on your phone, there are still a few settings that you can never turn off fully. If you use your phone for map directions, for advice on nearby restaurants or stores, or for booking travel plans, then it knows not only your current location, but also your “intent” about future locations.
And, speaking of knowing your inner feelings and thoughts, your phone probably knows a lot about your personal characteristics, including information about your voice, your current health and wellness condition, and information about your closest friends and acquaintances. It knows everything you’ve ever told Siri (if you’re an Apple user), and it knows all about your passwords, login credentials, and biometric characteristics. In the old days, it would have taken a surveillance agency years, if not decades, to compile all this information about you into a nice little dossier. But you’ve given all this information away for free, and may not even realize it.
That creepy feeling
No doubt, you probably also have experienced one of those creepy moments when your phone seems to be eavesdropping on you. Of course, all the major social networks say they would never do anything of the kind, but Facebook has been known to snoop on users while operating in the background. Maybe you’ve mentioned some new product you were thinking of buying and then, all of a sudden, there’s an advertisement for a similar type of product the next time you open up the Facebook app. In the past, Facebook has said this is possible because the AI algorithm used to generate these ads just happens to be so powerful. Yeah, right. This can’t be a coincidence if it’s happening to everyone.
Stop the surveillance nightmare
There are, of course, a few steps that you can take to stop this surveillance nightmare. You can certainly check the settings on your phone, and disable some of the key location settings. You could also eliminate some of the apps on your phone that you never use, or you can start using new privacy browsers instead of Google. And you can be much more careful about how you share passwords and login credentials. At the very least, you can make sure that you are using state-of-the-art privacy and encryption tools whenever possible. If you are text messaging with friends, for example, make sure that you are using full end-to-end encryption so that nobody can ever read your messages later.
Looking back at this time in history years from now, future historians might conclude that this was the era that privacy became a luxury and a privilege in society. Now, even if you are relaxing in your backyard on a carefree autumn afternoon, you need to accept the fact that your phone might be listening to you, recording everything, and anticipating what you might do next.