User experience or privacy invasion: smart phones and location services

“You are seventeen minutes away from home” my iPhone maps screen read as I looked down at it, trying to figure out exactly where in Barcelona I had wondered to on my walk.  How convenient, I thought to myself.  Without even having to plug in my current location or where I was planning to go, my phone could easily tell me my exact distance from home.  But then I thought, this isn’t really my home; I have only been living for a month or so.  I have never told my iPhone that this temporary apartment is my home, but somehow it knew.  How? It’s not like I come home exactly at eight o’clock every night and park myself in my “home.”   There are plenty of nights I spend out with friends, and I haven’t spent a weekend home in four weeks.  However, through frequent location services, my iPhone knows precisely where I live.

Many users enjoy the personalized and convenient nature of their smart phone’s tracking and location services, calling it all part of the user experience.  I find myself appreciating how easily I can find out exactly how far I am from home, and how easily I can get from point A to point B.  Frequent location services are easily able to be disabled on an iPhone, and they represent only a minute example of the way that so-called user experience invades our privacy and security in the digital age.

Don’t want your iPhone to know where home is? Here is how to disable frequent location services.

In addition to knowing where we live, our smart phones are able to track where we visit frequently, through our location services as well as social media sites that encourage check-ins, such as Foursquare.  Helpful, right? Maybe. It can be nice that your phone knows where you like to go, but it also can know where you plan on going.  When I first started booking flights for my weekend trips, I noticed that as I searched more and more flights to Paris on my laptop, the prices began to skyrocket.  My roommate, however, had just started searching and had found prices much lower than anything appearing on my screen.  I had forgotten to search Incognito to insure that my search history wasn’t being tracked, and as a result my flight prices kept increasing.  I was eager to book my flight, so I whipped out my phone to book the flight on.  Thanks to the interconnectivity involved with the Apple user experience, my phone too had known about my plans to visit Paris, and was displaying flights equally as expensive as my laptop.

Despite the fact that over 64% of internet users clear their cookies and browser history, 59% of users feel that it is impossible to be completely anonymous.  There are currently few laws protecting people’s online privacy, which is evidenced by the 68% of internet users that believe current privacy laws are not sufficient.  Whether you love or hate the way that your smart phone and browsing services know your whereabouts, plans, and preferences, user experience affects the online privacy of everyone in the digital age.  Check out the video below to see how exactly we got here!




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