Does your smartphone spy on you?


by Marcelino Benito / KHOU 11 News

Posted on February 27, 2014 at 11:06 AM

HOUSTON, Texas (KHOU) -- For every second of every day, someone is tracking your every move, and you probably don’t even realize it.

People think no one’s watching, that they’re on their own. But as long as their smartphones are on and in their pocket, they’re never quite alone.

“It’s a violation,” Marie Jeanrejouis said.

“Did you know you’re being tracked,” asked reporter Marcelino Benito. “No, who’s tracking me,” replied Elizabeth Avila.

If you have an iPhone, it’s Apple. On an Android, it’s Google.

“You want to think no one’s watching you, but apparently that’s not the case, so it is creepy,” Jeanrejouis said.

Buried in iPhone settings is a detailed history of where you’ve been, how often you’ve been there and it’s time-stamped down to the minute you were there.

“I would feel very uncomfortable and afraid,” said Kim Brown.

And on a Droid, it’s even more detailed. It’s all plotted on Google Maps. GPS and Wi-Fi networks pin-point a person’s every move from home to work and back. Smartphones send all that information back to tech companies.

“Companies have a vested interested in figuring out where you are and where you’re going,” Mary Dickerson said.

Dickerson heads the IT Department at the University of Houston. She said all that private information helps companies make money, but there’s no 100 percent guarantee Apple and Google can keep it safe.

"There’s always a risk the question is, is it a significant risk?" Dickerson said.

There are things people can do to reduce the risk. Taking back privacy is really only a few swipes away. On a droid, just go to ‘Settings’, select ‘Location Services’ and uncheck ‘GPS and Wi-Fi’.

On an iPhone, it’s a bit more complicated. Just go to ‘Settings’, click ‘Privacy’, then select ‘Location Services’, scroll down to ‘System Services’, that’s where you find ‘Frequent Locations’. Just turn that feature off.

“Do you think most people know about it,” asked Benito. “No, but I’m going to show people now.” Avila said.

But there’s a catch. Even after all that, cell phone providers can still keep tabs on you.

“Someone’s always watching, big brother,” Jeanrejouis said.

To completely go off the grid, the only option is getting rid of that smartphone.

“I need my phone,” Anna May said. “I need the Internet. I need to connect to the world. It’s part of the price I pay for connecting to my world.”

It’s the price people pay for no privacy.