Saturday, October 16, 2021

Friday 5 for October 15: We learned more from a three-minute record, baby - Long Reply at the End

 Friday 5 for October 15: We learned more from a three-minute record, baby: From Scrivener's weekly Friday 5 blog.

1. Who needs you? 

My special friend Lisa who is disabled, always needs me. I try to care for her best as I can within my limited resources.

2. Who runs to you?

I don't have pets or kids, and it is good that no one runs to me. I usually run from people that I want to avoid.

3. Who forgets you?

I wish some people would forget about me. I know others have, and that is a good thing. I generally like to be under the radar.

4. Who keeps you hangin’ on?

See #1.

5. Who’s watching you? 

This is a huge question with a song that is more timely today than ever. It's not only "who" is watching you, but "what" is also watching you. 

Your smartphone is tracking your every move online and even in the physical world. It can be an iOS device or an Android or something else. The darn things are spying on you. 

Installed apps, the operating system, the internet, the entities behind the apps you install and your cell phone service provider are all watching you... tracking EVERYTHING you do on that cell phone and often when you are not on it. It's creepy.

I reluctantly became a cell phone owner in 2014 and have owned at least 4 phones over the past seven years. Currently two of them have active service, one is semi active as a wifi only device, the others are less functional due to their older operating systems and fading 3G technology. Still to some degree, all have the power to track you through bluetooth, wifi, cell phone data, GPS and tower triangulation.

Law enforcement and many governments like the fact that most people carry a cell phone everywhere they go. Commit a crime? First thing law enforcement checks is your cell phone and social media accounts. Government? Lately with COVID-19 they want you to voluntarily install apps to "keep safe". From what? Don't! Even though they say they don't track you... never trust the government.

Then there is the private sector. All the big tech players love it when you use their phones, apps and operating systems. We are talking about Google, Apple, Facebook, Twitter, Amazon and thousands of other entities that use the "free" apps to track you. They want to learn about your whereabouts, online browsing habits, what you buy, what you engage in, etc., etc., etc. Just thinking about it is overwhelming.

So what do I do? I can't totally eliminate tracking as long as I carry some cell phone or another. Since my heart attack in 2015, I feel I should at least carry one phone that can do at least 911. All phones that are 4G LTE can call 911 whether they have cell service or not. Older 3G and 2G phones can still do 911 but their days are number as the major cell phone service providers will turn off the older networks by next year.

So minimally I carry my Alcatel flip phone with me. It is 4G LTE with limited internet functionality running on KaiOS, a fork of the now defunct FirefoxOS. Kai OS is a popular low cost cell operating system found in many third world countries. A few of the devices are available in the U.S. What attracted me to KaiOS was the low price for the device ($20 at target) and low price for the Tracfone service (approx. $22 a month for unlimited talk and text with bankable data of 1GB per month). Upon getting this phone, I cut my landline which cost about $35 a month with taxes and fees.

Most of the KaiOS apps are vary limited, web based extensions. Many are not mainstream for the model of phone I have. Their tracking is very limited. None of the Hawaii government apps can work on my phone. That is good. I installed only a small handful of third party apps on this device that mostly handle podcasts, internet radio streams, offline games, and an RSS reader. It also has a built in FM radio that does not require any data stream since it just picks up signals from local towers. The phone came pre-installed with a lousy web browser, utility apps, calculator and note taker. The worst thing about the phone is T9 texting and anything else you have to type with a 9 function keyboard.

I do have two smartphones... one is the Pixel 4a which I bought mainly for its camera functions and the fact that I can still use Google Photos for free with any image I shoot with the camera / phone. Plus it is a modern smartphone with 4G LTE and does everything all other smartphones can do. I don't do any banking or online purchases with this thing. None of those types of apps reside on the phone. Since the phone was unlocked and not tied to any carrier, it only came with core Google apps, many of which I deleted. I try to keep third party app installations at a minimum. No games. No social media apps. Most social media can be browsed using Chrome or my favorite browser, Duck Duck Go. Definitely no government apps installed here. At the current time this phone is connected to T-Mobile on a shared senior plan.

My third cell phone is the Samsung Galaxy J7 that I recently retired from active service. It is now a stay at home only, wifi device where I still have several third party apps installed such as Pluto TV, Prime Video, YouTube Music, Spotify, Audible, Stitcher and several others. Since this phone goes nowhere now, I think it is relatively safe enough to use those types of apps. If I do take it out, it can at least call 911 when needed, and with a couple of wifi only phone apps, I can do a phone call if I can find free wifi. I do no banking or online purchases with this.

That is where my Mac and Chromebook comes in. These devices stay at home 99% of the time and I do most of my computing on that. Sadly all of the concerns I have with phones, privacy and tracking apply to computers.

As long as we are hooked up to the internet in some way, we are always being watched, tracked, nearly all day and all of the time. Someday when I can be more settled, I'd like to once again be cell phone free. Perhaps someday I will turn off T-Mobile and just use a dumb-phone as my main and only mobile device.


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