The Tracking Device in Everyone’s Pocket

Posted: September 14, 2012 by jerkmag in SURF -- tech
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

I’ve always been fascinated by the amount of information we have on our cell phones. If someone were to get a hold of your iPhone, for example, they would potentially have access to your Facebook, bank account, Twitter, emails, Amazon account, and more. But these are just account names and passwords; it’s hard to comprehend how vulnerable we really are.

This is exactly what Malte Spitz wanted to highlight. In his ten minute TED Talk presentation, he talks about how much power and information the cell phone has given to the individual. During social movements in the last few years, such as those in Egypt and Syria, cell phones and social media have played huge roles. There is no doubt the cell phone is no longer a novelty, it is a part of our day to day lifestyle. However, this is also where issues begin to arise. While cell phones have provided their users with all sorts of services, they also provide the service companies with information we probably don’t want them to have.

Every time we use our cell phones, there is a record of it; even more so now that location services are so readily available. Service providers can easily store this information. Spitz wanted a straight answer – what kind of information does your service provider have and how much of it? He requested the data, and after a few attempts and a couple of lawsuits, Spitz “received 35,830 lines of code — a detailed, nearly minute-by-minute account of half a year of his life.”

How scary is that? Spitz wanted the convoluted lines of code to be better understood by everyone in order to represent the drastic amount of our personal lives that are on record somewhere. He converted the codes into visualization. You can see 6 months of his life here. Your regular cell phone services which have been around for a decade, combined with location services, begin to reveal a lot about your lifestyle. In Spitz’s train ride from Berlin, you can see his call records, duration of each call, text messages received and sent, the amount of data he used and more. This information is all in the hands of our cell phone provider, whether we like it or not.

So what do we do about this? Nothing. We live this way. I mean, it’s not like your service provider workers are sitting there going, “Check it out, Joe just went on RedTube.” The information is available in their hands, but it’s likely ignored… in most average people’s cases. Just hope your significant other doesn’t get a hold of your cell phone data. Another option still remains; you could go AWOL, cancel your cell phone service, stop shaving, and go live in a tree.

-Can Cakmak

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