Big Brother is watching


I’ve had quite a rough tech week, but after a series of unfortunate (and some would say, sitcom-worthy) events involving my catering job, a Frisbee, and a deceptively deep puddle, I am back and blogging!

As my old phone was sadly no longer operational (see: series of unfortunate events), I picked up my new one yesterday. Glancing over the back of the box for the features, I see this description:

“It sees, listens, knows, shares. Stays awake when you do. Responds to your words, keeps track of loved ones. Lets you re-live every moment.”

I see where you were going with that description, Samsung. You want me to feel like my phone is smart and has my back and will work how I need it to. I get it, but the phrasing also managed to come off as super creepy. I was very weirded out by the implication that my phone is doing these things whether or not I told it to do so (or furthermore, whether or not I even want it to).

I’m not really one of those people that is bothered by the idea that the government may be watching my communications. I don’t think we’re at “Big Brother” levels of monitoring, and I’m not trying to avoid all channels that could be watched like Ron Swanson.

ron drone

I have friends who tape little pieces of cardboard over their laptops’ built-in webcams “so no one can tap in and see through it” to look at them. I always thought this was silly (what would anyone see if they did hack into my webcam? Me and my bad posture slumped towards the screen for hours on end?). In theory the same logic could apply to my phone – but for some reason, I care a lot more about what my cell phone is doing without my permission. I guess it’s a problem for me because my phone is with me at most times – unlike my laptop – and contains a lot more personal information about me.

I’m sure I spent at least an hour going through my new phone and disabling some of these “Big Brother”-esk features I didn’t want to be a part of. GPS location tracking, off. Auto-upload photos to Facebook, off. Auto-sync contacts to and from social media, off. Do you want to give this website access to your location? No. Do you want to launch facial recognition software to remember and automatically tag your contacts? No.


And don’t even get me started on App permissions. You basically sign away any privacy rights you might think you’re entitled to when you download an app. For instance, in order for me to get my UNC email and calendar to sync to my phone, I had to give the application access to my location and all my contacts’ information, plus grant it the ability to turn my phone on/off, enable a factory reset on all settings, and use my email to send content, all without my knowledge or permission.

But because I’ve decided that’s something I absolutely have to have on my phone, what choice to I have but to agree to have my privacy violated? Just hit “accept” and hope for the best.


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