By Jeb Bladine • President / Publisher • 

Jeb Bladine: Bugging ourselves with smartphones

 

Do you have a smartphone? If so, do you mind that it tracks and analyzes your movements, creating lucrative information for sale to marketing companies?

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Jeb Bladine is president and publisher of the News-Register.

> See his column

This week, I decided to follow some recommendations from Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum about protecting personal privacy on smartphones. Here’s what I found:

My “mobile advertising ID” already was disabled, which was a good thing. But 47 of my apps were activated for “location sharing” — I turned all those off except for “find my phone” and “maps.” I found that my “location history” was activated, and put it into pause mode.

Want to join the privacy party? Here are the AG’s three suggestions:

Stop sharing your location with apps. Review your group app “permissions” link and turn off location sharing unless it’s essential to app functionality.

Second, your phone creates a unique number sent to advertisers and app makers, often bundled with your movements and other personal information. Disabling that function limits how companies can “tie your activities together and follow your movements across the internet and the physical world.”

To disable mobile ad ID on an iPhone: Open the Settings app, select Privacy, tap the Advertising option, and activate “Limit Ad Tracking. On an Android device, open the app drawer, launch the Google Setting app, tap “Ads” under Services, and enable the “Opt out of interest-based ads” option.

Third, turn off your “location history.” Your Google account, if you have one, already has saved significant location data from your devices. To prevent that data collection going forward, go to activity controls in your Google account and turn off location history.

Smartphones, it seems, have hypnotized Americans into valuing instant gratification over personal privacy, and we are far from alone. Consider a few statistics from Pew Research and Techjury.net:

In 2019, 96 percent of Americans had cell phones. That included 81 percent with smartphones, up from 35 percent in 2011. Worldwide this year, smartphone users will number 2.87 billion, with nearly 10 billion mobile devices in use.

Two-thirds of smartphone users are addicted to them. One university found female college students spend 10 hours daily on cell phones.

On the Internet, 72 percent of all searches are done via mobile phone. Spending on mobile ads is expected to reach $212.4 billion by 2021.

In short, the influence and economics of smartphone use are mind-boggling. Much of that power flows from our consent to let our lives be bugged by our own devices.

Jeb Bladine can be reached at jbladine@newsregister.com or 503-687-1223.

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