Is your cell phone spying on you? Even if it is, does it really matter? You’re no criminal, right? Should you protect yourself in any case? In this guest post, Lois Cadwallader answers all these questions and more and shares 15 ways you can protect yourself from this personal intrusion:
Have you ever had the feeling that “someone is listening?” Well, they are. And it’s more than just your cell phone. Most newer electronic devices are seeded with sensors.
What’s interesting, is the smartphone has probably become the most important personal identifier and locator.
Think about it. What do most people have with them always? Their phones.
How do smartphones provide surveillance? They:
- Log personal data
I recently had my own experience with this. I carry my phone on airplane mode with Bluetooth and WiFi off to safeguard against exposure to electromagnetic radiation. (Find more information on Bluetooth radiation dangers here .)
I had turned my phone back on to check for messages and saw a friend zipping along on a bike path. “Diane Day! Diane Day,” I called out loudly. Well, she was riding so fast that she didn’t hear me. But someone else did.
Within a few hours, I had a personal message from her on Facebook … but it was suspicious. It didn’t sound like her. Sure enough, it was a hacker. Coincidental? Maybe. But the timing is just too close. I can’t help but wonder if my phone picked up her name, associated her with my Facebook friend, and someone went phishing.
I’d be interested in hearing your stories, please share in the comment section below.
It’s not just our smartphones.
Let’s take home managers, or smart speakers. Apple and Google admit that Alexa and Siri spy on you. Employees listen in on conversations, but only to monitor and improve the system, so they say. Industry claims the sampling is very small, and that they have in place strict anti-abuse regulations. [1,2,3]
And even more disturbing, the very systems we use to protect our homes may be the instruments of surveillance and invasive contact. An alarming report just surfaced about a hacker speaking to a young girl through the smart speaker in her bedroom. This video is downright creepy.
You can also check out this article on how to create a low-EMF bedroom .
Even when the GPS is turned off, your location can still be established using cell tower triangulation. Although this is not exactly “pin-pointing” it can get pretty close. This could be used for good or bad, depending on who wants to know your whereabouts. 
They Log Personal Data
Your smartphone and other smart devices collect, analyze, and record thousands of interactions every day. It is no secret that this information is available to 3rd party advertisers. But it’s for “your benefit” – It’s like having a “personal shopper” hunt out the best deals for you.
Google says they don’t “sell” your personal information. They just place advertisements in your purview, based on your trends and search history. 
And Apple boasts, “What happens on your iPhone stays on your iPhone.” However, a NY Post investigator begs to differ.
Are You OK With Massive Data Collection And Retention?
What About Hackers?
In the article, “Smart Homes Might be Getting too Smart. Start Worrying,” the author makes the stunning point that the danger is not just that hackers could know when you are on vacation and hack your smart lock and break into your home. That’s bad enough. But also there is the broader danger that hackers could commandeer hundreds of thousands of smartphones and smart devices to request access to a bank, social media platform, or government agency, thus forcing a DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attack. 
This is actually what happened in the 2016 Mirai botnet that crashed the web. 
Isn’t Being Connected A Good Thing?
In the book, Owned: Property, Privacy and the New Digital Serfdom, by Joshua A. T. Fairfield, 2017, the author discusses what it means that our environment is seeded with more sensors than ever before. 
Our dishwashers, smart televisions, internet-enabled home thermostats, smart meters , Fitbits and smartphones constantly gather information about us and our environment.
Who owns that information? You might be surprised at the answer.
When you purchase a smartphone or any smart device you relinquish ownership of your personal information. Industry owns your personal information. It is buried in hard-to-read, small-font terms-of-service agreements.
5G will only make it worse , as the sensors and transmitters are brought closer and closer, right into our neighborhoods, connecting all of the smart gadgets in the smart homes. This is not just “real time” listening. There is huge data collection, analysis, and retention by government and industry. [10,11]
Why? You guessed it. There is nothing new under the sun.
Money and power, money and power, money and power.
Money, Money, Money
Technology is a trillion dollar business. Industry and government are riding high on the enormous profits. Smartphone ownership is fast becoming a “right” and a “necessity” for life. Ask any person under 50 years old, “What’s the one thing you cannot and will not go without?” The answer is usually, “My phone.”
So, we now have a product with almost 100% dependence for both business and personal use. And the consumer is more than happy to pay for the latest smartphone upgrade.
American companies alone are estimated to have spent over $19 billion in 2018 acquiring and analyzing consumer data, according to the Interactive Advertising Bureau. [12,13]
And Then There’s Power.
They would need an Infra-structure in place for surveillance and compliance assurance.
- They would need to control technology in order to control information.
- They would need to control financial transactions.
- They would need to control the military.
- Food, prescriptions, electricity, fuel, etc., all controlled by technology.
- They would want to keep the population dependent (if not addicted) to the services under their control.
In short, they would need surveillance, surveillance, surveillance.
Where could this possibly be going? Dr. Jeremy Naydler, author and philosopher writes about the disturbing scenario of the global electronic intelligence in, “5G – The Big Picture.” 
And check out this edgy film, 5G APOCALYPSE – THE EXTINCTION EVENT. It is a full-length documentary by Sacha Stone exposing the 5G existential threat to humanity. OK, it might be a little hyperbolic. But if even half of this is true, yikes!
The power of artificial intelligence and other advanced technologies will be enormous. Vladimir Putin said, those in possession of artificial intelligence will rule the world. The processing speed and knowledge base of artificial intelligence will be so great, it will seem all-knowing to most. 
And President Trump states in the National Security Report, “We will improve America’s digital infrastructure by deploying a secure 5G Internet capability nationwide. These improvements will increase national competitiveness, benefit the environment and improve our quality of life.” 
Linked to a global network of cameras and audio devices, made of non-biological materials, artificial intelligence will appear to be omnipresent, omnipotent, and immortal. Those acquainted with biblical prophecy speculate that AI will be the platform for the one-world dictator. 
There’s a race for technological domination because that equals power. And surveillance is a necessary part of it.
But I’m Not A Criminal
The thinking goes something like this, “If I’m not engaged in any criminal behaviors, I shouldn’t mind if I’m monitored. Surveillance keeps us all safer from crime and terrorism.”
To be fair, there are some benefits to this “tracking” involving safety, identifying medical emergencies, solving crimes, finding missing persons, etc.
So, why should you care? One word. China.
China is using smart phones and other smart devices to massively spy on its citizens. They assign a “Social Credit Score” to base reward and punishment. [18,19,20,21]
“It could never happen here.” Famous last words.
Silicon Valley is already building a Chinese-style social credit system. 
And one could argue that in the US there is already an un-written social credit system solidly in place, just waiting for the right people to implement its rewards and punishments.
It all sounds a little far-fetched; conspiratorial. But still, it should give reason for pause and reflection. How much of our privacy are we willing to relinquish for the sake of convenience? What are we exchanging for ultra-connectivity? And is it worth it?
Is There Anything We Can Do?
Here are 15 steps you can take to reduce the spy-factor in your life.
1 – Unplug
Unplug, turn off, disconnect as much as possible.
2 – Be Aware Of Your Appliances
Seek out older models of appliances that do not have a WiFi feature or dis-arm the WiFi component of new appliances. This is difficult, but possible with a little bit of research. (Still confused about the dangers of WiFi? Read this article on why WiFi is not safe .)
3 – Keep Airplane Mode On And WiFi And Bluetooth Off
If you are “EMF savvy,” you know that other than completely powering off, the only safe way to carry a cell phone on your body is to:
- Turn Airplane mode ON
- Turn Bluetooth and WiFi OFF
This shuts down all electromagnetic energy . And of course, shuts down all transmission and reception. Thus, you are un-connected. So, you must check for messages periodically.
You can still use other features, like calendar and camera. And you can still access downloaded items.
But beware! Some of the newer phones (and tablets) have an automatic re-connect feature. So, you must double check to ensure that Airplane mode is ON and Bluetooth and WiFi remain OFF when your phone or tablet is close to you. These devices “want” to be connected and are programmed to do so. Learn about cell phone radiation protection here .
A “Faraday Bag ” is another option for carrying your phone.
4 – Get A Meter
What about the sneaky factor? Since most phones have a sealed battery that can no longer be removed, one cannot really know if it is truly “off.” The only way to be assured that there is no beacon signal emitting from your phone or appliances is to meter.
You can do that yourself quite easily with the right kind of meter.
And as we progress deeper and deeper into the mesh of electronic surveillance, now might be a good time to acquire a meter.
5 – Use A Land-line
Many of my friends no longer have a wired telephone line. We still keep ours. I don’t know how much longer they will even be available. But, I recommend if you have a land-line, keep it. If you do not have one, inquire as to whether or not you can install one.
Important – This should be completely wired with no additional wireless hand set.
You might be Interested in Lloyd’s extensive article on Cordless phone dangers. 
6 – Resist The Home Manager / Smart Speakers
They are fun…convenient. They are all the “new rage” in technology. But come on’ – do we reeeeeally need them? And do we really want them listening, locating, logging?
I say, no!
7 – Be Mindful
Smart devices, appliances, electronic key fobs, and even toys are always listening. And sometimes even recording.
8 – Use Technology Against Technology
There are a few products that claim to block techno-spies. I have not checked them out yet. Worth a look.
Use webcam and microphone blockers and anti-malware software. When browsing the internet, go “incognito.”
9 – Check Privacy Options If You Use Social Media
Use social media with caution. Be sure you are aware of and use privacy options. You need to check these periodically, as they do change.
You can take it a step further and have your social media presence scrubbed. While you can delete your Facebook account relatively easily, getting these firms to remove your information is time-consuming, complicated, and sometimes impossible. In fact, the process is so burdensome that you may want to consider paying a service to do it on your behalf.
10 – Hardwire As Much As Possible
Hardwire your computer, mouse, printer , etc.
Wired is more secure than wireless as there is less chance of someone intercepting.
11 – Install Anti-Virus Systems On All Wireless Devices
Although not 100% fail-proof, they do make it difficult for hackers to intrude into your technology devices.
12 – Go To Advanced Security And Privacy Solutions
There are ways to disable the “listening” function of your smartphone and smart devices. There are also ways to delete your recorded information. Takes some research. I have not done this yet. I hear that it is difficult, but doable. My next project.
13 – Simplify
While cutting-edge technology can be exhilarating, there is something attractive about slow and simple living. Spend more time in the wilderness where there are no sensors. There is something restorative about the natural world and a small footprint.
14 – Take A detailed Audit Of Every Possible Source Of Surveillance In Your Home.
For a detailed list of “smart” devices that could possibly be used for surveillance, see:
Cadwallader, Bill, “EXPOSED: The Electronic Sickening of America and How to Protect Yourself—Includes the Dangers of 5G and Smart Devices ,” Stop Dirty Electricity, Las Vegas, NV 2018
Bill shares over 30 pages of up-to-date information from his annual visit to the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. You may be surprised how many things in your environment have turned “smart” and could be used as a surveillance tool, even when turned off.
15 – Some Would Say Completely Eliminate Technology
This is difficult. And I admire the purists. I really do. But to run a business in the modern world, I have to use a pc and smart phone. If you are completely retired and don’t need electronics, it might be doable. You also might be able to move to a rural area. That would be ideal.
We may not be able to avoid surveillance entirely. But we can reduce the spy factor by taking some simple steps. Do what you can do today.
Many thanks to Lois Cadwallader for this guest post.
Author bio: Lois Cadwallader, MA, has been a professional educator all her life. She lives in Las Vegas, Nevada and enjoys volunteering in after-school clubs, hiking and cycling. She is the co-author of Exposed: The Electronic Sickening of America and How to Protect Yourself.
Sources and Bibliography
1. Amazon Admits Employees Listen to Alexa Conversations. www.independent.co.uk/life-style/gadgets-and-tech/news/amazon-alexa-echo-listening-spy-security-a8865056.html 
2. Google and Amazon really DO want to spy on you: Patent reveals future versions of their voice assistants will record your conversations to sell you products By Tim Collins, Dec. 15, 2017. www.consumerwatchdog.org/privacy-technology/google-and-amazon-really-do-want-spy-you-patent-reveals-future-versions-their 
3. No secrets at home anymore now Amazon’s Alexa is spying on us, Geoffrey A Fowler, May 07 2019 www.stuff.co.nz/business/world/112528222/no-secrets-at-home-anymore-now-amazons-alexa-is-spying-on-us 
4. Accurate Location Accurate Location Detection by Minh Tran, DMD transition.fcc.gov/pshs/911/Apps%20Wrkshp%202015/911_Help_SMS_WhitePaper0515.pdf 
5. Does Google sell your personal data? JERRY HILDENBRAND, Jan 12, 2018 www.androidcentral.com/does-google-sell-your-data 
6. It’s the middle of the night. Do you know who your iPhone is talking to? By Geoffrey A. Fowler, Technology Columnist, May 28, 2019 www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2019/05/28/its-middle-night-do-you-know-who-your-iphone-is-talking/ 
7. Smart homes might be getting too smart. Start worrying. Commentary: When better features mean worse ethics, should we change what we buy? By David Priest, October 31, 2019 www.cnet.com/news/smart-homes-might-be-getting-too-smart-start-worrying/ 
8. The Mirai botnet explained: How teen scammers and CCTV cameras almost brought down the internet by Josh Fruhlinger March 9, 2018 www.csoonline.com/article/3258748/the-mirai-botnet-explained-how-teen-scammers-and-cctv-cameras-almost-brought-down-the-internet.html 
9. Owned: Property, Privacy and the New Digital Serfdom, by Joshua A. T. Fairfield, 2017 New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 2017.
10. Who Owns Americans’ Personal Information and What Is It Worth? Robert Shapiro and Siddhartha Aneja, March 8, 2019 assets.futuremajority.org/uploads/report-for-future-majority-on-the-value-of-people-s-personal-data-shapiro-aneja-march-8-2019.pdf 
11. When smart devices watch you, what do they do with the data? By Kim Komando USA TODAY, June 20, 2019 www.usatoday.com/story/tech/columnist/2019/06/20/what-do-smart-devices-do-data-they-collect-you/1483051001/ 
12. U.S. Firms to Spend Nearly $19.2 Billion on Third-Party Audience Data & Data-Use Solutions in 2018, Up 17.5% From 2017 Dec. 05, 2018, IBA (Interactive Advertising Bureau) Retrieved from www.businesswire.com/news/home/20181205005139/en/U.S.-Firms-Spend-19.2-Billion-Third-Party-Audience 
13. Tech spending will near $4 trillion this year. Here’s where all the money is going and why by Eric Rosenbaum April 8, 2019 www.cnbc.com/2019/04/08/4-trillion-in-tech-spending-in-2019-heres-where-the-money-is-going.html 
14. “5G – The Big Picture.” By Dr. Jeremy Naydler, April, 2019 Retrieved from takebackyourpower.net/5g-the-big-picture/ 
15. Vladimir Putin Says Whoever Leads in Artificial Intelligence Will Rule the World, By David Meyer, September 4, 2017 fortune.com/2017/09/04/ai-artificial-intelligence-putin-rule-world/ 
16. Ultra-fast 5G wireless service declared national security priority by White House by Danny Crichton, December 19, 2017 techcrunch.com/2017/12/19/ultra-fast-5g-wireless-service-declared-national-security-priority-by-white-house/ 
17. Will Artificial Intelligence Create Pathway To The Antichrist? By Britt Gillette, November 19, 2019 www.prophecynewswatch.com/article.cfm?recent_news_id=3610#QUFHUABS0Vj1W5pv.99 
18. China has started ranking citizens with a creepy ‘social credit’ system — here’s what you can do wrong, and the embarrassing, demeaning ways they can punish you, by Alexandra Ma Oct 29, 2018 www.businessinsider.com/china-social-credit-system-punishments-and-rewards-explained-2018-4 
19. How China Is Using “Social Credit Scores” to Reward and Punish Its Citizens, By Charlie Campbell / Chengdu, 2019 time.com/collection/davos-2019/5502592/china-social-credit-score/ 
20. Chinese Social Credit Score: Utopian Big Data Bliss Or Black Mirror On Steroids? By Bernard Marr, Jan 21, 2019 www.forbes.com/sites/bernardmarr/2019/01/21/chinese-social-credit-score-utopian-big-data-bliss-or-black-mirror-on-steroids/#325c8bc848b8 
21. ‘Social credit score’: China set to roll out ‘Orwellian’ mass surveillance tool By Bill Gertz – The Washington Times – December 9, 2019 www.washingtontimes.com/news/2019/dec/9/social-credit-system-china-mass-surveillance-tool-/ 
22. Uh-oh: Silicon Valley is building a Chinese-style social credit system, By Mike Elgan, August 2019 www.fastcompany.com/90394048/uh-oh-silicon-valley-is-building-a-chinese-style-social-credit-system