We bought a new refrigerator.

It wasn’t working correctly, so I pulled up the camera on my smart phone, opened the door of the fridge to snap a picture of the model number to reference when calling for assistance and before I could finish with the picture, a window pops up on my phone that says www.geappliances.com. I had to remove the window to view the screen to see the picture. Really? No way that was a coincidence!

I have had similar experiences in the past, but nothing so obvious. We have all probably experienced searching for an item on the internet and then seeing ads pop up in websites and apps for days after the search. When this first happened I was miffed, but have grown used to what I call an invasion of my personal space. I have even had conversations with folks about an item or a place and then have seen an ad show up somewhere about what we discussed. Until now, I thought this was coincidence.

After the fridge seemed to “communicate” with my phone, I have asked others what their experiences have been. I had one friend say that he had a conversation about an item and then ads began to show up on his computer about the item they had discussed. Again this appears not to be a coincidence!

Obviously, our phones we thought were for personal communications are being used for much more. My phone and the phones of some of my friends are “spying” on our activities. Recently I watched a news clip where a reporter took a couple of phones, disabled the phones to WIFI and or cell signal and drove around town. When they completed the trip they enabled the phones and captured the data that was sent by the phones. Both phones, even though not fully enabled, tracked and reported the location of the phone throughout the trip.

Privacy, apparently, has been signed away with the use of our phones or some of the apps that we install. This worries me greatly, especially in this age when some are targeted for their political beliefs. We go to great lengths to protect the privacy of voter registration, tax records, personal finance, etc. Have we signed that away with the “acceptance” of using our phones for day to day usage? Did we fully understand what we were signing away? I certainly didn’t realize that I was enabling my phone to send messages about what I was about to snap in a picture!

If someone wants to target another because of their beliefs, political affiliation, where they shop, or who they hang with, is that info now out in cyberspace for someone to abuse?

I decided to Google “Is my phone camera and microphone spying on me?” and easily found this article “Are your phone camera and microphone spying on you?” by Dylan Curran. The article says that commonly used apps like Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn — when the user grants the app access to their microphone and camera — the app has incredible access. The apps could:

1. Access both the front and back camera.

2. Record you at any time the app is in the foreground.

3. Take pictures and videos without telling you.

4. Upload the pictures and videos without telling you.

5. Upload the pictures/videos it takes immediately.

6. Run real-time face recognition to detect facial features or expressions.

7. Livestream the camera on the internet.

8. Detect if the user is on their phone alone, or watching together with a second person.

9. Upload random frames of the video stream to your web service and run a proper face recognition software which can find existing photos of you on the internet and create a 3D model based on your face.


When I was in high school, we read George Orwell’s “1984”. If you have never read the book, society is basically monitored to the point of being ridiculous with “thought police”. At the time, I thought ‘this would never happen’. Well this isn’t mind police but it appears we are being monitored by a ‘personal cell phone’.

So, I even wondered if we had gotten to the “thought police” level of spying. Inwardly laughing at myself, I began thinking of a couple of items that I would never purchase. No ads have appeared on any of my apps. Thank GOD! The thought police are not hearing what I am thinking!

I have heard people say that computer cameras should be covered with tape when not in use. You can bet that I will now heed that advice. I will also begin to look at how to make my devices private again. I will remove access to my microphone and camera to apps and will study the privacy of apps before I agree to their legal documents. I will also research antivirus apps for my phone.

Phones are integrated into my business and my personal life. It would be a HUGE step backward to eliminate their usage. My first thought though, was to download my pics and throw the phone in the trash. I didn’t know that I was granting intrusive, unknowing access! I do take responsibility for not reading the super fine print many pages into their agreement. My reasonable self will keep the phone because it has become so necessary, but will eliminate unnecessary apps and will limit the access of the apps. I will research how to regain my private life, I suggest you do as well!