Who really owns your device?
You go to the store and buy an electronic device, paying hard-earned money for it. You take it home and begin to use it, and then the question arises: “Who really owns this device?” I ask this question because of my own personal experiences with cellphones, tablets and computers.
With my last cellphone carrier (yes, I got rid of one of the biggest carriers in the U.S. due to horrific customer service — a story which could fill another column), all the branded apps on my cellphone (aptly called bloatware) which I could not remove without unlocking the device and voiding any warranty were unbelievable. And even when I turned them off in the app manager, they kept coming back and updating on what seemed to be an almost daily basis. And my battery power seemed to just drain away even if I didn’t use my phone much. When I switched carriers, I was surprised to see that my much newer iPhone has no carrier-specific apps loaded on my phone. I can download some if I choose, but it’s my choice and not my carrier’s, and I like that. And battery life, too, is good. I can go a few days without charging instead of wondering if I’ll make it through the day.
And, by the way, it seems to me the iPhones do a lot better on battery life than Androids. At least, that has been my experience. And, sometimes I think Mrs. Griz wishes she had opted for the iPhone instead of the latest Samsung. At least she growls a lot more about her phone than I do. To be honest with you, this is the first smartphone I’ve actually liked. When I had Android models, I often switched back to my good old flip phone because I like a phone that works as a phone and is user-friendly, too.
Then there are those tablets. My wife bought me a Kindle Fire several years ago, and it was a handy device to have. It worked nicely to take along on pastoral calls to the hospital because it made reading Scripture lessons in a darkened room easy (I use often my cellphone for this now, too). But there is that question of ownership since it displays ads on my login and home pages. I could turn them off but would be charged $15 by Amazon to do so. Can you believe that one? The grandkids use the device now, along with a second one, and haven’t managed to break one yet. The tablets are tough. I have an android tablet for my church work — meetings, calls and such — and it works pretty well. I feel I have a bit more control and no ads pop up on my device when I log in or work unless I download an app with ads in it. I think I’ll give the iPad a try if I upgrade again.
Then, there are computers! If you go and buy a PC, whether laptop or desktop, it usually comes with Windows 8 or 10 loaded. What happened to Windows 9 I don’t know. Since Windows 10 is really Version 6.4, I’m wondering if the folks at Microsoft have adopted some new form of modern math. Whatever they choose to call it, the new Windows is a nightmare! It works so well that the first thing I do is remove it from any PC I buy and install another operating system — usually some version of Linux that will do all that Windows can do, only better and in an easier-to-use format.
But back to my question of who really owns that new PC. Have you noticed that Microsoft scans and analyzes all your documents and tracks your usage — supposedly to make future Windows versions and apps better? And, when Microsoft says it’s time for an update, you better close out quickly or save often if you don’t wish to lose your work. And there are compatibility issues. Say, you want to share your work with others not running the latest version of Windows. What happens? In many cases, your files are saved in formats unusable to others not running Windows 8 or 10. That’s kind of snobbish of Microsoft, don’t you think? There are workarounds, but they can be a pain too.
Of course, you could just go with Google Chrome. Document storage and sharing are easy. Storage is in the Cloud. But what does Google do with your documents and files? It analyzes them and uses your private information to sell advertising targeted specifically toward you. I use Google because it’s hard to beat Google’s efficiency; but I do so, knowing Google is also using me and my information to sell advertising aimed specifically at me. Of course, the same is true of most social media platforms — I won’t even go there today!
Yes, usually for a little more up front, there are Macs. Apple offers Cloud storage too but not to analyze your data. The Apple format is more basic than the latest versions of Windows and the programs and Apple operating systems are usually more stable. Since programs and applications for Macs (unless one goes outside the safety and security Apple provides) are usually checked and approved by Apple, there is more protection against malicious software being downloaded and installed on a Mac. Apple, it seems, is much more focused on providing its customers with good hardware and reliable software, as well as greater security and protection of the user’s data.
And, for those who wish to be in total control of their computers and their data, there is Linux and its many distributions. Some distros are as easy to use (or easier) than Macs and Windows. Others require
some level of skill in installing and setting up one’s own system. I run a simple version of Linux for my personal computing needs and enjoy trying out new versions from time to time. Since most of the Linux operating systems and software are open source, a fellow can try them out and use them for free.
So, who owns your computer, tablet or phone? You may have paid for it, but who accesses your data, determines what apps you have or decides when it’s time to upgrade your OS and software?
Randy Moll is the managing editor of the Westside Eagle Observer. He may be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Opinions expressed are those of the author.