Smartphones- Are They an Asset or Liability?

Smartphones- Are They an Asset or Liability?

According to comScore, a leader in measuring the digital world, 129.4 million people in the U.S. own smartphones.

Is it at all uncomfortable to know that we rely on these mobile gadgets?  How many people can walk out the house without their phones?  How many will risk being late for work, an important event, or whatever to find a lost smartphone?

There was a time when we could not receive phone calls unless we were connected to a landline.  We attended family gatherings, church, school, traveled, all without an attached phone.  Have these gadgets interfered with the quality of our communication and fellowship with family, friends and even on the job?  Is it annoying when you are in the middle of a conversation or meeting and someone has to leave to answer a call?  I am actually one of those guilty of doing it.  I am by no means writing to condemn the smartphone, just wondering about our dependence as consumers on the mobile device.

I recently realized my attachment to my phone when I left it at a checkout counter.  It was probably the vast amount of personal information I had stored in it that made me so anxious to get back to the store.  Or maybe the fact that I have become dependent on the device and could not imagine being without it. I am ashamed to say that, yes, I have an attachment to my smartphone. I probably would have denied this before I lost it.

I read an article today about “Saga” a new application able to track not only where you are, but what you are doing.

Yes, I do have a concern with this.  While there is nothing top secret about my life and I am one of those who was not upset with PRISM, I am uncomfortable with a device tracking my every move and the ability of others to acquire this information.

I recently refused to update a map app on my smartphone after realizing it could pinpoint where I was.  May be I am too cautious but if the device can track me so can people.  I finally had to update my phone when I needed my GPS to find a location.  The more I think about these devices tracking everything about my life the less I like it.

The most recent version of Saga, available for Apple and Android phones, automatically logs the places a person visits, it can also collect data on daily activity from other services. An article in MIT Technology states, once the app has been running on a person’s phone for a little while, it produces infographics about his or her life; for example, charting the variation in times when they leave for work in the morning.

A company named ARO is the producer of these apps. The MIT article goes on to explain that the software running on the company’s servers creates and maintains a model of each user’s typical movements. It further states that these models power Saga’s life-summarizing features, and help the app to track a person all day without requiring sensors to be always on, which would burn too much battery life.

Saga’s ability to sample light and sound from the environment and the ability to use the phone’s microphone to collect short acoustic fingerprints of different places will be valuable in determining destination and making inferences about what a person is doing, according to the article.

So my question is this, who wants a phone tracking their every move?  While I appreciate the convenience of my GPS, email, text messaging and ability to access the internet, I have no desire for my smartphone to track me and record my every move.

My children tell me I am paranoid and that this could help in criminal investigations.  I can see where it would be an advantage for the police to have a criminal with a smartphone such as this, but I am talking the everyday life of a citizen like me.

Today a New York lawmaker asked for the state of New York to ban a new “spy” application that will allow users to spy on one another.  These applications are potentially dangerous because stalkers and abusers could use them to track their victims.

According to Manhattan Assemblyman Micah Kellner, this is stalking for the 21st century, the idea that you can be omnipresent in somebody’s life. It’s an illegal wiretap.

Right now I have the option whether to download the app, but my fear is that it will one day be an automatic app running in the background of the phone.

Are we about to outsmart ourselves with smartphones or am I paranoid? These apps have the potential to infringe upon our rights to privacy.  Are they an asset or liability?

By: Veverly Edwards

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