Can Phones track your Moods and spy on your face without you knowing?

In 2016 Mark Zuckerberg celebrates 500 million monthly active users on Instagram – but he also revealed a lot about himself by leaving his laptop in the background Photograph: Facebook

This is a very interesting topic. And one I have always been cautious of. Anyone remember the infamous Mark Zuckerberg electrical tape blocking his Laptop Camera? (See above).

Well, most people seeing this thought, “well if he has one of the best software teams on the planet and he is worried?!” Well you can see my point.

Fast forward to 2024 and the ChatGPT revolution, the ability to fake your voice with just a few samples from say your YT video blog? To the fear of Western Governments over TikTok and their banning of the App on Government devices? This is now more than a fun filter on your phone. This is about recording, logging, data harvesting and biometric gathering.

Shane does a good summary here.

Lets take your average smartphone today. It has face recognition. How does it do that? Well the best way to see what it does is to use an Infra Red camera (most people have a CCTV camera these days so try this in front of that)? Or dig your parents old Sony IR camcorder out of the closet. Your phone fires an IR burst that basically captures your face print. It does this a lot! It can then track your bio changes over time. If say you grow a beard? Or wear glasses? It will know it is still you. Of course link this to your fingerprints (that most do not even want the police to have let alone some Dev in his basement) and eye movement and a wearable like a watch and they now have your heartrate and more!

Now, this is all incredible and really interesting. However, anyone who has read the TOS terms and conditions of these popular apps (nobody does right? Anyone who has seen ‘that’ episode of South Park about the iPad will know what I mean!!!) will be shocked to discover not only are you handing over your data, but also bio data and even key strokes! This can mean keylogging as in typing passwords and so on. Of course this also has a microphone which is able to listen to your voice which can convey mood. If a person asked you in the street for all this information you didnt know would you hand it over? Well you do and probably willingly doing so right now reading this on your phone! (not to me obviously). It is ironic in the UK the people would almost riot over their right not to carry ID cards yet allow some guy in another part of the world all they want? Some dude (and they are some dude usually) who only wants to sell all that to the highest bidder or at worse rob you of your identity and bank balance)! Phishing. Nigerian Princes and spam is all but dying out, why bother when they can create an app and just wait for you to log in to your bank? And guess what your phone is sent the code to do your two-factor identification… and what is the app on? Your phone.

Lets say you are crying over a loss in your life? You log in to say Spotify or iTunes (this is just as an example, but Spotify is investing in this) your app then suggests music to cheer you up. It will also know you might need to buy ice cream or recommend a therapist app? This at first glance seems like very caring even charming? But this is anthropomorphism! It is also further pushing you into emotionally investing in the device and the app. We already know about chatbots and AI Girlfriends (there have been many movies along those lines) that are now getting very serious, in some cases isolate men and damage their ability to socialise. Elon Musk warned that population implosion is the biggest risk of the 21st century and once it starts will be almost impossible to prevent. You need a LOT of young workers to support 8 billion people!!! If most of that 8 billion are retired… well you can see the problem right here. It has already started in Japan.

So smart devices whilst appearing to be your friend, are via advertising (mainly) influencing you and you have not the faintest idea it is happening. Most trust large corporations. If you do not you will have to literally ‘go dark’ and have no social media life whatsoever! But some are now saying stick a piece of tape over your phone camera (eh Mark?) limit your social media use. Buy your own website/domain and upload photos to that as although harvestable (you can inform bots to not follow of course) they remain your copyright. Many images you put on social media are in effect handed over to those corporations to be free to use too. When there is a crime, the first place the media go for a image grab for the news is Facebook (or X) to see if they have a photo and just take it!

So this software is not your friend, it is looking for more and more ways to discover more about you from your elevated heartrate when watching say BTS! To your voice sounding depressed making a call to a friend. To scanning your face every few seconds to listening and keylogging everything you do! Edward Snowdon warned of this 10 years ago!

So what is the solution?

Put a privacy slider over your camera or keep it in a case. Slow down on social media. Do not install apps that demand everything. Treat your phone as a spy on your life you do not trust! Imagine everything that phone can hear or see is going to be used against you one day it is happening every day this was probably the first over 10 years ago but it has got far worse already since! Imagine shouting it all in the street to strangers! Would you?!

Yeah… It is not easy! Some say go back to a dumb phone. But can you really do that?

Have fun and ‘happy’ days