Reader’s Digest: 13 Creepy Things Your Smartphone Knows About You

June 20, 2024

“Your phone is kind of this little mini supercomputer and personal data hub,” says Alan Butler, executive director and president of the Electronic Privacy Information Center. “Luckily, there have been some important and relevant technological advances in how some phones secure that data, but the depths to which data is collected or generated through your phone go on and on and on.” 

… “Phones are intimate in the sense that we act in ways with our phones that we would never do in public, and that includes doing something like creating a Grindr profile,” says Butler. “Data that the phone collects or generates in the course of using different apps and services can be used to identify you and these sensitive characteristics about you if it’s not protected or limited.” 

… One security risk to keep in mind is that voice assistants are listening for trigger words—so it is possible to inadvertently create recordings that you wouldn’t want to create, says Butler. (Amazon’s Alexa can also “spy” on you in this way.) The good news: You can manage this data. 

… Your phone might also know all of your passwords—if you give it access to them. While this might seem creepy, there’s an upside to letting your phone securely store your passwords. Using a built-in password manager is “widely seen as best practice in the cybersecurity and privacy realm,” says Butler. That’s because one of the biggest risks to compromising your accounts is recycling passwords (something many of us do for convenience). The problem with that tactic: If one account gets hacked, so could the rest of them. 

… Depending on the devices that you link to it, your phone could be collecting all sorts of health data: your heart rate, blood pressure, weight, medications and more. “There’s been an explosion of connected health devices, and one of the biggest risks is that a lot of people assume that health data is covered by privacy laws,” says Butler. In reality, HIPAA, which stands for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, applies only to very limited circumstances, like in-person interactions with your doctor. That means health data that you plug in to an app could still be collected and shared. 

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