If smartphone is spying on us, it’s getting an earful

My friends Christian and Yuki educated me about the rumor that our smartphones and even televisions can spy on us on behalf of marketers or counterterrorism agencies. The theory goes that companies create programs that will activate your phone’s or television’s microphone in order to capture “utterances” – words you say in general conversation, when you aren’t actually commanding Google, Siri, or what-have-you. Then, they can better target ads to sell you things or see if you’re a terror risk.

Yuki and Chrsitian. Photo courtesy: Ryan Sakamoto (ryansakamoto.com)

Here’s a recent article from the BBC: http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-35639549.

If agencies are spying on us for terrorism monitoring or if marketers are spying on us to sell us things, both will be sorely disappointed. We’re a boring, law-observing, politically-mainstream bunch, and we’re also not easily swayed by advertisements.

It’s a creepy idea, but we have nothing to fear. Nobody in this house is the second coming of Boko Haram.

A little while after this conversation, Yuki’s phone was targeted with ads for hypnosis; I’d been talking about booking with my friend Brent Koffman at Body & Mind to see if hypnosis could combat insomnia. It’s only something I brought up verbally, Yuki had not typed the words into her phone or computer, nor had I e-mailed her about it.

With Yuki-Dookie.

Coincidence, or spying? According to that BBC article, “The major tech firms absolutely reject such an idea.” But we thought it was odd.

So just to be sure, I grabbed Christian’s phone and started uttering randomly weird or obscene phrases into it to see if it was secretly capturing my voice. Not to be outdone for potential humiliation, he did the same to my phone.

Christian and me.

If I start getting pitched for a Talking Heads album compilation, I’ll know it heard him yelling about “sand in the Vaseline.” Then we’ll know we have to take future top secret conversations to a place with no tech gadgets.

Diane Ako

Peace of mind By Diane Ako I like to reflect on life. Sometimes it’s philosophically. Sometimes it’s humorously. For all its beauty, life is far too difficult a journey to take alone. You need the support and connection with others to help carry you along the way. Writing brings me that connection– within and without. It clarifies my thoughts and feelings. It helps me reach out to others for advice, wisdom, or feedback. Your thoughts become your actions. Your actions become you. A wise yogi- Patanjali- said, “Speak what is true. Speak what is pleasant.” Let’s speak of things pleasant to one another and seek some peace of mind along the way. ABOUT Diane Ako joined Hawaii: In Real Life in October 2016. She likes being part of a community of local bloggers – people who like writing and sharing, like she does. Ako is an anchor/ reporter at Island News (KITV4 – ABC) in Honolulu. She previously anchored and reported at KHON2 (FOX) and KHNL (NBC), and at stations in California, New Mexico, and Pennsylvania, In between news jobs, in 2017, she launched and ran her own p.r. company, Diane Ako PR. From 2010-2014, she headed the public relations department at Halekulani Corporation, which oversees luxury resort Halekulani and boutique hotel Waikiki Parc. She’s been blogging since 2009 – before Hawaii: IRL, she wrote for The Honolulu Star-Advertiser, the state’s largest daily newspaper, where her stories garnered a dozen journalism awards and an Emmy nomination. Ako has a BA in Communications from Menlo College and an MA in Political Science from University of Hawaii at Manoa. One day, she might figure out how to put that master’s degree to use.

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