Smartphone users pay to be spied on

If you have a smartphone you are paying a lot of money for companies to spy on you.

One day I will visit Tennessee. (Image from Google)

One day I will visit Tennessee. (Image from Google)

Personally, I have no problem with Google, Apple, Facebook or [insert trendy company here] keeping track of my location or my web browsing habits. Before I drive to and from work Google sends a little map telling me exactly how miserable my next hour on Earth will be. That is sad, but kinda useful.

And now that I have searched Amazon for drones large enough to lift a human over over traffic I am constantly bombarded with offers for drones that can barely lift a GoPro, much less a full-sized human with an outdated laptop. Shopping tips are less useful than a real-time traffic map, but also less annoying than some Facebook friends.

A lot of people get freaked out when they learn exactly how much data their phone collects.

Recently, a friend told me he left his TV on a Spanish language station and he started getting Facebook ads about tacos and other Hispanic delicacies. He likes tacos but uninstalled Facebook Messenger.

Facebook, and other companies, have long been accused of using our phones’ cameras, mics and hidden DNA sequencers for nefarious purposes. Facebook tried to quash the rumor in a statement June 2 that said it “does not use your phone’s microphone to inform ads or to change what you see in News Feed.”

Some companies seem really intent on spying as much as possible. Amazon, a company I trust with my personal info, created a device — the Echo — which, unlike your significant other, is always listening. Keep that one out of the bedroom.

You may not know this but Google logs your movements and keeps a recording of your voice when you use a microphone to use its products. Since Google provides useful tools that make my life easier I put up with it. Using Google software I can type up something at home and it is available anywhere I go.

I can plop a map pin down where I buried a secret treasure and months later know exactly where to lead authorities if I get caught.

Still, I was a bit startled when I checked out exactly how much info Google was storing. You may be freaked out too if you visit history.google.com, enter your password and listen to your former self say “directions to DeKalb marriage license office.”

Less alarming is Google’s map, which indicates I have not left the friendly confines of Georgia, Alabama and Florida in a long time. Anything north of Memphis probably isn’t worth visiting.

Google even provides a list of places I frequent. Home is No. 1, followed by work and a bar. That makes sense. Turner Field is 7th, but due to the quality of the team may drop out of the Top 10 shortly. A hot dog joint is higher on the list than my heart would like.

How often do I use Google? A lot. I search for something 66 times per day and I most frequently visit Wikipedia, StackOverflow, AJC.com, Amazon and Reddit.

Google shows me what info it has stored and lets me delete it. I’m assuming Apple does the same thing.

We pay the government a lot of money to spy on us too, but I doubt they’d let us see what kind of info they are collecting. I know they won’t let us delete it.

And that’s OK. In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death, taxes and the proliferation of privacy-stealing smartphone apps.


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