Smartphones and Privacy


Privacy in the modern world of technology and science is a highly acute topic these days. With the appearance of the Internet, the popularity of smartphones and other equipment, as well as an increasing number of cameras, every person is at risk of losing confidentiality. However, confidentiality includes inviolability of private life that is provided by the human right to protect one’s privacy. Being one of the most important human rights, privacy is threatened because modern smartphones constantly collect information about their users.

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Smartphones and Privacy

History of the Problem

Today, smartphones are considered the major devices that can provide access to the Internet resources. At the end of 2010, more smartphones were sold than personal computers (Au & Choo, 2017). Moreover, at the end of 2011, sales of smartphones in unit terms exceeded the sales of usual mobile phones in the United States and Western Europe (Au & Choo, 2017). There are approximately 6 billion mobile subscribers around the world with more than 800 million smartphone users worldwide (Au & Choo, 2017). Nonetheless, this number is constantly growing. With the advent of the first smartphones, there appeared a problem of encroachment on the privacy of the person.

Determination of Location

The most serious threat of confidentiality created by smartphones usually does not attract attention. It is the determination of location. Smartphones transmit signals round the clock. Other people have four methods to track the location of one’s phone. The first one includes tracing of the signal by the towers of cellular communication (Frith, 2015). In mobile networks, the operator has a possibility to locate the phone of a specific subscriber when the device is turned on and registered in the network. This characteristic of cellular communication is called triangulation. In this case, the government can request data on the specific cellular tower. The operator then makes a list of mobile devices which were in a particular place at a particular time. This information can be used for various purposes. Another method to trace the location is tracking a signal with the help of the IMSI trap (Frith, 2015). The government or other people with the required technical means can gather data on the location of the smartphone from the cell towers. For this purpose, they use IMSI-trap. It is a portable device, which acts as a cell tower. This devise is used with the same purpose – to locate a particular phone. One more method is tracking a signal with the help of Bluetooth and Wi-Fi (Frith, 2015). Except for cellular communications, other wireless transmitters are used in modern smartphones. Common technologies include Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. However, they have less power than that of cellular communications and their signals extend over a small distance. The last method is the leakage of location data while surfing the web and using applications (Frith, 2015). Applications usually request the smartphone its coordinates and apply them to accord certain services such as showing the location on the map. Applications can transmit the data over the network to the service provider. In turn, the latter allows other people to know the location. These four methods of tracking pose a great threat to confidentiality.

There are a great number of examples of such tracking. In 2013, The Washington Post made a report that the National Security Agency of the United States has different instruments for the collection of a huge amount of information regarding the location of mobile phones worldwide (Frith, 2015). Generally, the agency’s attention is paid to the infrastructure of telecom operators (Frith, 2015). It explores at what time and to which towers particular phones are connected. This example proves that the government of every country can track the location of its citizens.

The Essence of the Problem

Many researchers are sure that users themselves should be blamed for the loss of privacy. It is connected with the fact that users install applications on their smartphones not knowing about the potential consequences. More than 60% of people do not read the license agreement before installing a new application on the smartphones (Au & Choo, 2017). Besides, every fifth person never reads messages while installation applications. They bypass this step by pressing the buttons “agree” (Au & Choo, 2017). A survey of 18,000 users regarding their online habits demonstrated that a large number of people leave data on their phones; thus, their privacy is highly assailable to cyber threats (Au & Choo, 2017). It is associated with the fact that people do not install applications on their smartphones in a secure way. When people do not read messages or license agreements during the installation of the application, they usually do not know what they agree to. Certain applications violate the confidentiality of the person and cause the installation of other applications because the user agreed to this in the process.

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The survey also demonstrated that half of users are usually at risk because of the applications on their mobilephones as they are not cyber literate to limit the right of access to applications when installing. About 15% of survey respondents do not limit what their applications can do on their devices while 17% provide the right of access to applications when they get a request but then forget about it (Au & Choo, 2017). Moreover, more than 10% of people believe that they cannot change the right of access (Au & Choo, 2017). However, if a person does not check the access right of the application access, the latter can legally gain access to private and personal data on smartphones – from photos and contact details to the location. In such a way, users themselves are frequently responsible for endangering their privacy as they do not read the agreement while installing applications.

Some people are sure that all the methods used to track their smartphones are of the great benefit for the users themselves. It is connected with the fact that when the phone is stolen, it is easy to find it with the help of tracking systems. Another advantage is that it is possible to track criminals and terrorists; thus, smartphones keep people safe. According to my opinion, despite these advantages, smartphones represent a threat to privacy. In this case, they violate the basic human right to freedom.

Functions of Security

Authentication, integrity control, and the provision of confidentiality are the most important functions of smartphones security. The majority of devices support synchronization with the computer. In this case, people have a potential access to the file system of smartphones. To retain confidentiality of information on the smartphone, it is necessary to apply encryption and shun storing sensitive data in the form of a clear text (Dale-Marie, 2014). Devices should block unauthorized requests for the access to information and provide mechanisms to retain continuity of the system. The service of authentication for devises can protect people from the counterfeit attack (Dale-Marie, 2014). Stations of mobile communication designed to serve an apartment or office to improve the capacity and coverage of the mobile network can also be applied to create fake networks. Authentication protects a user from the connection to this network. In such a way, there exist various methods to protect information of the smartphone.


Mobile phones represent a highly widespread form of communication. Nowadays, they are designed not only for telephone calls but also for recording all kinds of events happening around the world, text messaging, and free access to the Internet. Unfortunately, mobile phones were created without considering privacy issues. They do not guarantee the protection of communication. What is worse, smartphones expose a person to new risks of surveillance, particularly with regard to his/her location. There are several possible methods how a person can be protected but still no one is immune from attacks on confidentiality.

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