The “Privacy of the Phone” Issue

I had the idea for this post a while ago, but never got around to actually write it. Either my life was too busy or I was not motivated enought (in other words: I was slacking). But than this tweet from @AriaAdagio and the following short conversation we had on twitter prompted me to finally gather my thoughts in this post and asking for your stance on this issue. Not to run a representative survey or something, I’m just curious. And I’m not even asking what stuff you do have stored on your phone :-) I’m more interested in who do you let have a look or even use your (smart)phone?

Because recently I’ve noticed that I am more and more reluctant to relinquish my phone into somebody else’s hand even for just a few moments. Especially somebody I don’t know very well or somebody who I don’t want to find out more about me than necessary and definitely not into the hands of those somebodies who don’t consider the internet part of their everyday life of communication, information and entertainment like I do. I hate (or well at least dislike) the whole “Twitter? Facebook? What’s the use of *that*?” discussion which I had to endure with several folks in my circle of acquaintance or family. I really don’t need them to see and inquire about the “tiny blue bird” icon on my phone and start it all over again.

Until a few weeks ago I had thought that I had to root my Android phone to use a launcher software to change the look of the screens and icons and such. But that’s obviously not necessary at all, so I started using Go Launcher and really like that with this I can change the look and feel of a lot of things on my phone. I admit to have been thrilled when I realized that I could easily “hide” some apps in a second “dock page” (the icons at the bottom of the screen which are usually fixed and can’t be changed) and could easily switch between those pages. Yes, I admit I might be a bit paranoid about that stuff. It’s just who I am, I’m paranoid about a lot of things :-).
There also is the fact that I have passwords stored on the phone (i.e. in the apps) because I don’t want to have to fill in user name and password every time I want to check my mail or my feed reader. But I really don’t want anyone who asks me to have look at my phone for various (and probably valid reasons) to accidently read my mails, tweets or see what feeds I’ve subscribed to. So, yes, I’ve become very reluctant to let my phone out of my hands.

[Update: Of course I have my phone locked, to not have just anyone have access it, but my “problem” *g* are those people I know and who want to have a look for actually rather innocent reasons, if you know what I mean]

And then I was wondering when that had actually started. And if that’s normal behaviour for any smartphone owner. And why I’m more concerned about privacy protection in regards to my phone than I am in regards to my purse or my wallet. I don’t consider anything I’ve got in my purse or my wallet too private for anyone else to see. Well, I don’t want anyone jotting down the number of my credit card of course :-), but that might be the extent of it.
When did an electronic gadget become part of my private personality, that needs protection? Probably the moment it turned into being more than a phone but more into a tiny computer. I don’t necessarily want to see just anyone what’s on my harddrives etc there either. But as the computer is located in the privacy of my apartment, I’m on the safe side there. The phone is much more accessible. I have it on my desk at the office or use it in front of my family and all that. And I always cringe on the inside when someone asks me if they could have a look at my phone, because they’re thinking about getting a new one similar to mine. But I can’t flat out refuse to let them have a look at it and try out how to use it, can I? Hence my happiness about being able of “hide” some of the stuff for the unexperienced eye to see.

But I’m still wondering: Is it just me? How do you handle the privacy of phone issue? Do you even care? I’m really curious to know, so leave me your view of things in the comments, if you’d like…

6 Comments

  1. Absolutely no to giving my iPhone to someone. It is locked and your post gave the idea to delete half of the info I have there. Just in case.
    PS: Great post!

    1. I have my phone locked as well, to avoid that just anyone could have access to it, but my “problem” *g* are those people I know and who want to have a look for actually rather innocent reasons, if you know what I mean.

  2. First of all, I should probably say that I don’t own a smart phone. I can browse websites with it or download my mails, but then I would have to change my contract details, and that’s too much trouble for something I don’t need. (Although we probably all know that owning a technical gadget isn’t about needing it in the first place. )

    But I think I can relate to it. I don’t like anybody to use my laptop for instances. It is set up the way I like it and if I choose to have an actor as desktop picture I don’t want to explain it (and yes, there are questions about that). I don’t want to have people look into my bookmarks or my personal data. Or worse see my open twitter or blogaccount and snoop through it. That’s why it’s password protected and I’ve created a total neutral guest account without a password. Since smart phones turned into little computers on their own, I guess most people tend to store personal data on them – I already store some data on my normal mobile phone.

    So sharing your phone or your laptop has created a level of intimacy which probably can only be topped by giving someone your diaries. In my experience what people have in their wallet or purse is mostly what you expect, mostly things you need for your everyday life. Sometimes the more minimalistic approach, sometimes the ready-for-every-situation-approach. But on our technical gadgets we don’t necessarily store things we need for everyday life, but what we enjoy, what we want to keep. So even if it is nothing embarassing or intimate, it shows who you are. More than you are willing to show. So for me it makes perfect sense, not to give your smart phone to anybody else.

    1. Thanks for this wonderful comment! You are so right about all of it, especially about keeping stuff on phone/laptop that we enjoy and like, in contrast to the ordinary stuff, we all keep in our wallets or purse, which I guess are pretty similar items (creditcards, driver’s license etc) I actually never thought about it from that angle. Thus thanks a lot for the input.

  3. Really interesing post, I`m so glad to read that I`m not the only one who is paranoid :)
    I hate, hate, hate it when somebody takes my smartphone. I`m a very private, even shy type of person. This whole social network thing scares me. Mark Zuckerberg says he aims a total loss of privacy, which sounds like a terrible nightmare to me. I really learned that Twitter is a nice place to be, but I feel safer hiding behind a nickname.
    I agree with Lillibelle, the items on my phone show who I am, it is intimate like reading my diary. It shows what interests me, has personal pictures on it… all stuff which gives a detailed insight to my core and that is really not something I want to share with a random person. Once my sister in law took my phone to take a closer look, and although I hadn`t nearly as much stuff on it as I have now, I felt naked and very uncomfortable and took it away from her. Or last year my daughter had an accident and the paramedic asked for my phone to call his deployment location. He looked really confused at my background screen (it was MD in the bathtub, lol) and that made me cringe.
    I`m even paranoid to use my phone in public. There were a lot of incidents in my city where robbers snatched Iphones out of peoples hands while they were using it or stole it from tables at a festivity while the owners sat in front of the tables. I`m not exactly wealthy, so I still have a guilty conscience for spending so much money on a phone and I`m really paranoid about the thought of it get stolen. Yesterday I had to use it in the middle of a busy pedestrian area, and I felt like surrounded by a lot of potential robbers ;)

  4. I don’t know that all that many people have asked to use my phone, so it’s never really come up. My husband and I use each other’s phones all the time, but I don’t think that counts. :p

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