Technology has become an increasingly important, almost indispensable part of our lives. There are nearly as many cell phones in the United States as there are people. As the hardware and software have advanced, these handheld wireless wonders have become more and more useful. However, a couple of recent developments have raised concerns about the impact of these devices on our personal privacy.
Earlier this week, researchers announced that the incredibly popular Apple iPhone tracks and stores users’ whereabouts. This information is unprotected and easily accessible with a simple app that can be downloaded for free. It is unclear why Apple would create this tracking feature, and why it would not tell its customers about it (though customers do acknowledge the possibility of being tracked when they accept the legalistic “terms and conditions of use”). The news has attracted the attention of Congress, and at least two lawmakers are publicly demanding Apple explain the purpose of the tracking software.
In similar news, the ACLU has filed a Freedom of Information Act request, seeking details of a data extraction device used by the Michigan State Police (MSP) to retrieve personal information stored on cell phones. MSP officials claim that the device is used only when a search warrant is issued, or when the owner of the phone consents to the search. However, with Michigan’s ban on texting while driving, there is some concern that the data extraction device might be used during routine traffic stops. In any case, the amount of information that can be retrieved is staggering.
These two stories may just be the tip of the iceberg. As technology creeps into more and more areas of our lives, our personal privacy is potentially being jeopardized.