Is My Phone Listening in On Me?

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How much does your phone know about you?

Do we need to be worried about our phones tracking our every move? Because it sure seems like they are. Walter Kirn wants you to know that you're NOT going crazy and maybe you should be a little paranoid with your phone. He covers privacy, tech and surveillance, and – unrelated – he wrote the book behind "Up in the Air" with George Clooney.

He answers some of your most pressing questions on phone privacy and how concerned we should be about what our phones are tracking. Here's a sampling of one of the many questions we've received from listeners that captures a thought-to-be-private moment:

Between Me and My Dog
"So, I get out of the shower and I’m getting dressed and of course my dog is over there on his chaise and I’m looking at him and I’m feeling all sad that I’m about to go to work for a couple hours. I’m humming to myself a song... my poor dog is tortured by this, but I start singing, 'Every time we say goodbye I cry a little, I die a little,' you know... that song. I get in the car, I put on the iPhone music. I have 6157 songs. I hit shuffle randomly, and the first song to play is the song that I was just humming... I haven’t heard this song in forever... So anyway, that's my question... and make sure you sing to your dog whenever you can because they love it, they absolutely love it.– Michael Grant

So... should we be paranoid? Do we know whether our gadgets are passively listening to us? No. We don’t know for sure, beyond what they tell us in their privacy policies. But we do know that voice recognition is what many major companies are trying to get us to start using. Google has OK Google, Apple has Siri, and Amazon has Echo, a home appliance that listens to you all the time. We know that many third party apps use location data services, and we know that personalization – especially personalized ads – rely on tracking.  

Listen to the our show to hear our interview with Walter Kirn and if you're interested for more phone privacy discussions, be sure to read his article in The Atlantic"If You're Not Paranoid, You're Crazy."

Also, enjoy the picture below (from listener Michael Grant) if you're feeling stressed out by all the privacy talk.

Bodhi the dog

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This is a repeat episode which originally aired in 2015. For more Note to Self, subscribe on iTunesStitcherTuneInI Heart RadioOvercastPocket Casts, or anywhere else using our RSS feed.

Music Playlist

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    Artist: Ella Fitzgerald
  2. Hip Hop Slidester

    Artist: Steve Pierson
  3. Voodoo

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  4. Corner Back

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  5. Midnight Grind

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    Album: BWN Catalog
    Label: BWN Music
  6. Organism

    Artist: Nicholas Rod