Your Phone Is Listening To Your Conversations

In a conversation with my brother the other day, I casually mentioned an ex-girlfriend of his.

“I haven’t spoken to her in years,” he said. “Have no contact with her — no clue if she’s even alive.”

“You’ve never Googled her or looked her up on Facebook?” I asked.

“Nah, never,” he said. “I don’t do stuff like that. Don’t care enough to.”

The conversation went on. There was the Facebook data breach in the news and movies we’d recently seen — one of them was Snowden.

“That movie scared the shit out of me,” he said. “I had no idea the level at which these agencies were tracking us.”

“It’s not just the government,” I said. “It’s every website you visit. It’s your phone, your computer, anything that you log on to — once you’ve got some kind of digital footprint, you’re fucked.”

“I don’t mind that so much,” he said. “You want to sell me things? Fine. I’m a consumer. If you want to target ads at me, that’s great. Now I don’t have to look at things I don’t like.”

“The phone is listening to you too,” I said. “It hears everything. You’ve never mentioned a place in passing and then randomly started seeing mobile ads for that place? I certainly have.”

“Maybe,” he said. “But I’ve never noticed.”

We parted ways — not before I told him to look into encrypting everything — and when I woke up the next day, there was a text message waiting for me.

“You were right,” my brother wrote. “This morning, there was a LinkedIn notification on my phone — ‘people you may know’ — and whose name do I see? My ex-girlfriend. Haven’t thought about this woman in years. Years!”

“Told you,” I texted back. “The phone is listening. It always is.”

“Scary,” he wrote. “Super fucking scary.”

“It’s stalking you,” I said. “The phone is stalking you.”

Wrote for the New York Times, New York Magazine, Esquire, Rolling Stone, Vice, Fader, Vibe, XXL, MTV News, many other places.

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