I’ve read that 50% of teens say they are addicted to their smartphones. While that’s a self-diagnosis at best, it rings true for most of us in modern society. We simply cannot live without our phones.

They do everything for us, but does this convenience come at a price? Our phones allow us to carry our planner, to-do list, and phone book in our back pocket, but are they also invading our personal space?

Then there are the apps that make the phone unique to us and our daily routines. They keep us connected to our friends and help us plan our day. But when we give these apps certain permissions, is it at the cost of our privacy?

I ask, is Big Brother really watching us? And if so, do we make it too easy? Here’s a few creepy things our iPhones do, and what we can do to stop them.

It Listens to Us

Have you ever been talking about something with your friends only to have it pop up in your timeline hours later? Well, that’s because your phone is listening.

That’s right. The Facebook app (as well as Instagram) is listening to you, but not without your permission, of course. If you’ve given your phone’s microphone access to certain apps (think Facebook or Instagram), then you’ve turned this feature on yourself.

The feature was created to allow users the ability to share what they are watching or listening to without having to type. The app requests access to your microphone to listen to background noise. It then assesses this ambient noise to identify music or TV shows that you may be enjoying. While this is unsettling, Facebook says it’s only active when a user is typing a status update, and that it doesn’t store any information about what is heard or identified.

How do you turn it off? Go to ‘Settings,’ and then ‘Microphone Settings’. Then, make sure none of the apps listed have microphone access.

It Tracks Us

If you’re like most people, you probably have your iPhone in your pocket every second of every day. Haven’t you noticed that your iPhone can tell you precisely how long your morning commute will be?

That’s because your phone is tracking everywhere you go. If you want proof, go to the Settings section, and hit the ‘Privacy tab. Then, click ‘Location Services’ at the top, which will probably say ‘On’. Next, scroll to the bottom of the menu and click ‘System Services.‘ Finally, press ‘Frequent Locations,‘ the very last option available. Then, you’ll see a complete list of your frequent haunts.

If you don’t want your phone to track your daily movements, just switch the setting to ‘Off’ in this screen.

If you don’t want your pictures to carry the evidence of where you’ve been, then I’d suggest you turn off Location Services I recently discovered that if you go to your photo album and click Photos, your phone will keep track of when, where, and what time each of your memories was snapped. So if you don’t want people to know where you are or where you’ve been, turn it off. Note: Disabling this feature gets rid of the geotag in the photos you take from that moment forward, but not previously taken photos.

It Uses Our Location for Ads

Your phone will also use its location tracking to target ads to you. If you’re using public wi-fi to power your internet browsing, your phone will use your device’s location to target the most relevant ads to where you are, and even what you’re doing. Facebook states that the site “uses information from multiple sources such as current city from profile, IP address, data from mobile devices if location services are enabled, and aggregated information about the location of friends”

To turn this setting off on your iPhone, go to ‘Privacy Settings, click on Advertising and turn Limit Ad Tracking off.

It Tracks Airplanes

While this doesn’t really invade your privacy, it is a strange feature. Your iPhone can tell you which plane is flying above you at any given moment. All you have to do is ask Siri, “What flights are above me?”

If you don’t want to know what happening in the skies above, just don’t ask Siri for this information. I’ve scoured the internet, and I have yet to find a way to disable this feature. But it is a little scary, especially for those who travel a lot. If Siri can tell you what flight is up ahead, will she one day be able to tell you who’s on it? (Probably not, but it’s something to think about.)

I’m not saying we should go back to the flip phones of yesteryear. Instead, I’m saying we need to be more diligent about which apps we let into our lives, and which permissions we grant them. While our phones can be our greatest asset in our daily lives, they can also be the greatest downfall to our already dwindling privacy.

What’s the weirdest thing you’ve noticed your smartphone doing? How have you stopped it? Leave your experiences in the comments below.

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