Technology continues to perplex and challenge me, even as I advance in my usage of it.

Some of the smartphone features are downright creepy. And even though I used to jokingly say my phone isn’t that smart, I will now retract any such statements. It’s pretty smart after all.

As previously shared, I recently acquired a later model phone. This one tracks my travel habits and somehow knows where I am going when I get in the car.
If I happen to get behind the wheel around 5:30 a.m., it tells me how long it will take me to get to the Y. But be assured I lock the thing away once I get there so it won’t tell on me if I don’t go through my complete workout.

My work involves travel both to downtown Nashville and to another city. The phone seems to know the days I am traveling to either place and will tell me – without my asking — the traffic conditions and about how long it will take me to get there. That’s crazy.

I also get news alerts. I am sure there is a way to turn these off, but I rather enjoy them. Some of the alerts contain late-breaking legitimate news, such as the latest
resignation/dismissal in the Trump administration. That phone has to be smart to keep up with that.

But other reports are almost tabloid-ish, such as, “NASA searches for Planetary Protection Officer to save Earth from alien contamination,” or, “The Queen indulges in 4 cocktails a day.”

I suppose there is, by design, some balance between what will inform and what will entertain.

My adult children have tried to help me with turning on and off the “location services,” which track my every move. But that’s way too much trouble. When I use the GPS feature, I want it to use my current location and I don’t want to have to go in there and activate it every time I use it.

But do I want that silly phone to always know where I am? Because behind that phone is a massive big brother-ish conglomerate that’s keeping track of all my habits and everywhere I go. Laugh if you will, but you know it’s true.

I have nothing to hide, but it makes me more than a bit uneasy. I decided to look into it.

I went to the “Settings” icon on my phone and looked under “Privacy.” With regard to “Location Services,” I am told that these services use “GPS, Bluetooth and crowd-sourced Wi-Fi hotspots and cell tower locations to determine your approximate location.” (And I almost understand what all of that means, minus the “crowd-sourced Wi-Fi hotspots.”)

According to the fine print I was able to find, this all works to my advantage: “An app might use your location data and location search query to help you find nearby coffee shops or theaters, or your device may set its time zone automatically based on your current location.”

So why would I not use “Location Services” when they put it that way? Why would I limit myself and drive around for hours looking for a coffee shop or theater when the phone will all but deliver me there?

Here’s how the phone knows where I’m going: “Your iPhone will keep track of places you have recently been, as well as how often and when you visited them, in order to learn places that are significant to you. This data is kept solely on your device … and will be used to provide you with personalized services, such as predictive traffic routing.”
So there you go. And it might be “solely on my device,” but don’t tell me somebody somewhere isn’t watching.
I picture this big command center where they are observing me, saying something like, “He’s going to the Y again, but he’s only been there once in the last week. Let’s remind him again of the distance, but let’s also include some pop-ups about weight-loss plans.” (They all have a big laugh over that).
Of course my carrier is not claiming responsibility for any of this.

Even though I should definitely use “Location Services,” I’m “subject to the terms, privacy policies and practices” of whatever third party apps and websites I might use or to which I gain access (and to whom I am giving access to my location), and I better consult with them about all of that if I am concerned about any infringement of my rights.

You see, that phone is pretty darn smart. It knows how to blame somebody else.

Bob McKinney is a longtime Brentwood resident, husband of one, father of three, father-in-law of two, grandfather of one and soon-to- be grandfather of one more. Email him at

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