Smartphones


#1

Do you have a smartphone? Do you use it for social networks? How much access does it have to your private data? How much of that data do you store in the cloud? How much adverstisement do get on it, for example in the form of pushed notifications?

I am asking because, in Europe, there is concern growing about privacy and smartphones. Some people start to realise that these little device know more about us than the Est German Stasi could have dreamt of.

Yet, as recent trip to the USA gave a completely different view. People appear to have little concern about privacy. The industry appears to be pushing a concept where they would know everything about you and the phone would beep each time you drive in front of a shop to offer you something to buy. You are also supposed to leave a whole trail of reviews and opinions all stating how great the experience at that shop and that dinner were to engage all your friends to spend their earnings there.

In Europe, if I would send unwanted reviews to my real friends, they would delete me from their contacts the next minute.

Anyway. I wonder how the smartphone ecosystem will evolve, what Facebook, Google and Twitter will look like in 10 years. My European friends are pessimistic, but the crowd here is predominantly American. What do you think? How will we use our smartphones in 2027?


#2

Residing U.S. citizen here. I feel like I’m living in a panopticon of both Little and Big Brother. The ubiquity of cameras and (to your point) cultural acceptance of freely posting photos of oneself and friends, regardless of their consent, makes me lens-shy even at social events. I don’t understand the compulsion to broadcast every visual of those moments.

The growing cult of consumerism towards everything—people, places, events, experiences—is jarring and, I dread to say, very American.


#3

I have an iPhone 7. I use it for all social media (FB, Twit, IG). I do not use the cloud at all, completely turned off. Since I have the 128gb version I figure if it cannot fit on the phone’s storage I don’t need it.

I expect our phones to become more and more integral to being a remote control for all things in your life…it’s already kind of there for some people.


#4

I can’t speak for all of America, but Apple has been at the forefront of every battle for consumer privacy protection regarding their phones.

Review sites have gone from being a gimmick to being the defacto way to interact with businesses and give feedback. Most people I know have had poor experiences with offering feedback or complaints in person, but nearly instant results when posting reviews on Facebook or Yelp, and businesses are extremely proactive in responding to customers on social media. That doesn’t mean that the place I ate has any of my personal information that I don’t want them to have.


#5

That is different with the people I know. Most of them do not want their pictures on social media. It could be a particular demographics, however. I know that some other people cannot get enough pictures of themselves posted on social media. I do not know where the difference comes from.


#6

Yes, apparently Apple wants us to replace all our light switches by apple-approved homekit devices (and google probably has similar plans). It appeals to some people, but I do not think it will be a hit. Most people I know find it too complex and do not keep their smartphone in their pocket when at home. And if the phone is not by you when you are at home, it makes a poor remote control.


#7

The advantage with Apple is that its business model is not about selling your privacy to the highest bidder. OTOH, I am still not sure what data they can access if you store your calendar or contacts in their cloud, for example. Is it encrypted in a way that they cannot access it? I have not found the answer.

Facebook and Yelp then have the list of all places you ate at.

As to bad comments, my experience is that businesses will be extremely persistent in harassing you until you remove them.


#8

I use my smartphone way too much, but I do try to avoid certain privacy holes.

For example, I use Google Maps on my iPhone but I don’t log in to any of my Google accounts while using it even though it always nags me to log in, and for gmail I use the built-in iOS email client, not the official Google app. I don’t use any “share my location” type features and try to keep apps’ access to location services to the bare minimum needed for functionality. (Google Maps yes, or it’s pointless; Facebook, nope.)

I haven’t posted anything on Facebook in almost two years, have various privacy settings as tightly locked-down as possible, and am very, very selective in clicking Like. My preferences are set to prevent other users’ tags of me automatically appearing on my timeline. If there is still a way to remove said tags entirely I don’t know how to do it, it’s been well buried if it still exists. I do not use the Facebook Messenger app. (I keep Facebook to stay in touch with people and for events, but I’m done with sharing my everyday life, getting into silly arguments, etc.)

I use content blockers and Apple’s built-in tracking blocker.

Oh, and I keep Bluetooth off unless I am actively using it.

However, avoiding the cloud entirely isn’t practical for me. Sure, you can deny this and avoid that (and I do in many cases), but if you use email (anywhere, not just your phone), guess what, you have important data in the cloud. At a certain point, if you want the internet to be useful, you are going to have data on somebody else’s server.

And speaking of privacy, beyond the phone… North America also has this insane addiction to loyalty programs. I am cutting them out of my life. Huge, huge privacy hole.


#9

Well, no, they would have a list of the places I have reviewed, were I someone who did much restaurant reviewing. If the data that says I complain a lot about tacos means much to Yelp, they are free to use that data, it’d be information I posted freely online.

They’re a massive money saver, but they are most definitely also a privacy hole. Having once done a lot of work with P&G, loyalty programs are where they gathered much of their consumer info on buying habits and demographics.


#10

I was super disappointed by the AppleWatch. I was truly hoping it was going to be a simple straight forward phone, text, and practical usage apps wearable device. If it had been, I’d have dumped my phone entirely.

I wanted it to look like the below concept…I’d have worn it on my right wrist with a traditional watch on my left (I am a fan of watches and have quite a few). But this concept and function would have made me go phoneless so to speak. I am hoping we get there one day.


#11

I only use an instant camera now, just for this reason. Digital lasts until viewed, and has a chance of being leaked. Paper’s damn near immortal, but never leaks.


#12

IMO this is the main point of loyalty programs. Any benefit to the consumer is incidental and secondary.

As well as the obvious privacy issues inherent in sharing your habits with a company or companies, it can be hard to tell which programs take data security seriously until there’s a breach. So I tend to assume they’re all porous.

Apologies to OP for the off-topic tangent.


#13

I do not own a smartphone. My employers have provided me with a $50 Nokia Windows smartphone so they can call me when I am off-grid. I do use that phone for texting my family and for occasional personal calls.

I do not use social networks. I know that I would enjoy being able to keep in closer touch with my friends in distant places and consequently being on social networks would remove several formerly productive hours from my day, and I cannot afford that loss of activity. I know myself well enough to remove the temptation.

The phone has no access to any private data. I’ve assigned a unique userid to it which is associated with the Windows software ecosystem, so that I can transfer photos and other information from the phone into private data areas if necessary.

The photos are pushed into the Windows OneDrive cloud. I do not take pictures that have privacy issues.

I receive no pushed notifications other than indications that someone is calling or texting me. The ringer has never been enabled on the phone, it has been on vibrate since it was purchased two years or so ago.

This is in no way a typical American usage pattern! Most people are much more extreme in one direction or the other. So my usage demographic is very small and there is no marketing demographic I fit into, which is probably advantageous to me since I’ll get less specifically tuned psychological manipulation from the phone.

This is true; a live cellphone makes you trivially easy to track and monitoring all your movements is the most important information that surveillance entities can hope to get. Americans know this; political conservatives worry fruitlessly about it a great deal, and some people convince themselves that their favorite phone provider is different and acts meaningfully to protect their privacy.

I think that in your trip to the USA you saw the mainstream view of young people, urbanites and technophiles. These groups have accepted ubiquitous surveillance and monitoring as unavoidable and are focused on gaining advantage from it since they can’t avoid it.

I would too!

Smartphones will all be handsfree, but handicapped people will still be disregarded by smartphone designers, improvements in access for the blind and colorblind will be unintentional (but loudly promoted as evidence of high moral values).

Google will still exist in some form. Facebook will have gone the way of mySpace (it is already halfway there). Twitter, if it still exists in its present form, will still be an amplifier of all that is abhorrent and hateful in humanity.

Having learned my lesson in a previous thread, I’m unlikely to discuss this further, but those are my answers to your questions.


#14

I have not EVER used Facebook. How many can say that?? My social media is all relatively dumb, like BB, not invasive. I use a $10/mo prepaid phone service, and keep data network off most of the time, I use data like a phone booth (remember those?) briefly when I actually need it. Unlimited data plans are the road to having your phone glued to your face, though the ubiquity of Wifi can do that too. I do get badgered by Amazon & Home Depot to review my purchases, but that’s the price I pay for the convenience of their recordkeeping so I can look up what I purchased and when.


#15

I am deadly serious @Urbanacus, I admire you and wish I could be like you. I have thought about disconnecting and dumbing down my phone a lot over the last couple of years. As it is I am closer on the spectrum to president twitter fingers. Thankfully for me and the world, im not at the point of ejaculating every random incoherent thought unit I form. And I hope I am half ass judicious and responsible about my social network use. I don’t know though. Funny world we inhabit now.

Typed from an iPhone 6 in the United States.


#16

I just purchased a car with OnStar and a 4G connection. When they ran down the EULA to tell me that my car could be remotely unlocked, the computer controlled, and the telemetrics and driving history uploaded, plus how the data could be used, it was about as transparent as what Google does with your history. I declined the service at the dealership.

Those that would trade privacy for convenience deserve neither.


#17

I see what you mean. I would not buy a car with this kind of system either.


#18

OK. It seems that the readers of boing boing are as paranoid about smartphones as my real life friends. Which is good, but not necessarily the norm. Maybe I need to ask the question somewhere else, but I am not sure where.

Still: I worry that, when everyone will have their whole life at google, I will stand out as the suspect who does not. Even if, actually, I do nothing illegal. Don’t you worry as well?


#19

After getting lost at night in a city that I didn’t know, realizing how handy it would be if I could access google maps from my phone, I traded in my fliphone for a smartphone a few years ago.

Do you use it for social networks?

I have Facebook on it, along with Messenger, because that’s an easy way to communicate with my contacts and better than SMS. None of the others. And I don’t really use it for posting, if I wanted to post something, I’d do it from my PC.

How much access does it have to your private data?

I assume the worst. Anything on my phone can be seen by any random person at the phone company, samsung, any app development company, etc. I don’t really put private data on my phone.

How much of that data do you store in the cloud?

I put a few ebooks and such in the cloud so that I could easily access them when traveling, and I use gmail for email, but all of my important data is stored locally on my PC.

How much adverstisement do get on it, for example in the form of pushed notifications?

I use firefox with ublock origin, so I don’t get ads on the web. Unfortunately some of the apps (youtube, reddit, imgur) do have ads to ignore. I generally only get notifications when someone’s trying to contact me via phone, sms, or facebook. No notification ads.

I’ve been using the internet for close to 30 years. Awhile back, I did a search for some of my old usernames. Some of the stuff that I found from when I was a teen might be embarrassing now, but that was then, this is now. I was also impressed by some of the other stuff I posted back then - hey, I said that!

If someone had access to everything I’ve posted online or sent in a message and read through it, well, Eyes of the Dragon and all. They’ll see things they’ll wish they hadn’t. But maybe they’ll also see some of the good.

I don’t broadcast my life like some instagram star or something though. And I don’t worry about not doing so.


#20

German-raised European here, currently most of the time in Switzerland.

I cannot confirm that feeling of a growing unease in society as a whole, here. Those who warned about privacy problems early on are more or less giving in. It’s true there is a large conservative group of people who are, on the surface, worried. (And conservatives do have the influence, most of the time even power.) However, this doesn’t mean the understand shit about EULA’s, safe harbour, or even the basic privacy settings of their bloody handheld computers.

Seriously, from my POV it’s a feeling of unease about things they do feel not to understand any longer. (Never did, but anyway, now they are uneasy.)

I’ll try to tell you some anecdotes later on, but in regard to the general tone on your question, this needed to be said first.