The Dangers and Advantages of the “Smartphone Revolution”

// Posted by on 02/24/2013 (8:39 PM)

Let’s forget hackers, cyber warfare and foreign espionage for a second and bring it back to something much simpler. Smartphones – iPhones, Androids, etc- it seems like every one has one these days. But as harmless (and cool) as they may seem, what real threats are they posing to our personal security and individual privacy? Recent reports have revealed that Android and Apple keep records of their users’ locations tracked through their mobile phones. This is a huge security issue; think about it, if someone got their hands on this information they could easily use it to stalk you, find out when you’re not home and rob you, etc. Network World’s investigative article goes even further saying that these privacy and security threats are “intentionally built into well over 80% of the iOS and Android apps on the market”. After analyzing the apps offered on both phones they concluded that smartphones users are at risk for outsiders getting access to (1) their contacts on a smartphone (including the contact information that may come from corporate email that syncs to the phone) (2) their calendar information and (3) their location. So what can we do? According to Brian Chen, author of “Always On: How the iPhone Unlocked the Anything-Anytime-Anywhere Future-and Locked Us In”, turning off the location functions on our phones isn’t enough – Apple won’t let you opt out of their tracking services.

On the flipside, Smartphones can also help increase our security according to the Pennsylvania State Police who launched the “See Something, Send Something”. The app allows users who see what they deem “suspicious activity” to send a picture or a text to the Pennsylvania Criminal Intelligence Center with their smartphones. And according to the York Daily Record article, they are doing this without putting the users at risk! According to the article, the app “uses privacy protection software for safeguarding the tips and citizens’ personal information” and “allows the criminal intelligence center to engage citizens without a tracking location or storing of personal information”. The launch of the “See Something, Send Something” app has been met with both positive and negative responses. Some people see the potential for increasing public safety with more eyes out on the streets while others see this as an extension of “Big Brother”. What do you think?


Chen on Apple iPhone Privacy Issues

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Celia said...

I find it difficult to think of the “See something, send something” app as some sort of extension of Big Brother. Police have always had the “see something, say something” slogan, where people can report suspicious activity via phone or at a police station. This is the type of small security measure that could prevent a subway or train bombing situation. There is virtually no security on public transportation or Amtrak trains, meaning that someone could theoretically just walk up with a controller to deploy a bomb. While obviously this is an extreme example, the public police tip app could save lives. I think people need to view the app as “it might not help, but it can’t hurt.”

// 02/26/2013 at 10:19 am