Our Phones Are Listening

Feeling watched? You might be being listened to instead.

Feeling watched? You might be being listened to instead.

When I log into Gmail, answer some correspondence, then browse the internet, I am never surprised that I am being pitched social media reports or task management software… because all that is what I’ve been writing about in my emails. This is the same reason that, if you browsed my email while I was logged in, I wouldn’t freak out about you seeing anything in particular. Passwords and other information that is sensitive are typically sent via encrypted messages or other means and what remains is a ‘Hey did you do this?’ ‘Yes, I did that’ back and forth of a typical work correspondence.

I’ve often teased that my friends know to call me if they want the dirt; in my online life, I am an open book.

Listening to the Note To Self podcast recently, I heard the story of a guy who was singing to his dog before work (the song was ‘Every time I say goodbye, I cry a little…’ something that I could have done myself if I was still living alone with my dog and watching her sad face as I got ready for work). He puts his iPhone on shuffle and out of the thousands of songs that could be playing, guess which one does.

The interview went in depth with Walter Kirn who wrote a recent article in The Atlantic called ‘If you’re not paranoid, you’re crazy’.

The summary: our phones are listening to us. Our web cams are recording us. We are being watched, even when we think we have logged out for the day.

Now, my life has always been if I am on my computer, I get how I’m being watched. But the fact that my phone could sit charging while listening to my husband and I argue or my friend and I have a heart to heart… that’s where it crosses the line for me.



The article I’ve linked above discusses a tech person who throws parties and insists everyone leave their phones in their locked cars, ideally with the batteries taken out. There’s a lot in there if you take the time to read it.

All of it makes me ask myself, do the people in this article know something I don’t? And if so, why am I not listening?

In all the user agreements that none of us read, apparently it doesn’t mention that we aren’t being recorded. Plus, why does every new app seem to want access to our microphone?

It makes me wonder what tasks I can do with my phone off that I have been a little lazy about:

  1. Bringing my digital camera with me for photo opps.
  2. Sending out correspondence via handwritten notes.
  3. Scanning my receipts and other documents to file away with my Doxie scanner.
  4. Buying stuff from local merchants with cash.
  5. Trying to hang out with people in person.
  6. Wearing a watch again so I can leave my phone places. (I often bring it with me just for the time keeping purposes!)

In any case, I am happy to know this is happening and think of ways I can go ‘offline’ a little more often, not just for the good of my body but to avoid being spied on.

Podcast discussing this is approximately 30 mins: http://www.wnyc.org/story/walter-kirn-paranoid-crazy/ Educate yourself… and as I educate myself, I am happy to share what I learn with you.



Nicole Ouellette
Nicole runs Breaking Even Communications, an internet marketing company in Bar Harbor Maine. When she's not online, she enjoys walking her short dog, cooking with bacon, and trying to be outdoorsy in Acadia National Park.

Leave a Reply Text

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *