Do you have a smart phone? If so, did you know that Apple phones and Android phones have the ability to find your phone if you lose it? The technology is pretty neat. If you can’t find your phone, you can enable it to show you on a map where it is, and, on some models, it can make a loud sound, even if the ringer is turned off. We discovered this week what happens when an earthquake causes tsunami warnings. Did your phone go off and alert you? Many folks were woken from sleep in Alaska to alert them of a possible incoming wave. On Saturday, the Marshalls visited some clergy friends. The directions I had seemed to miss a step. I asked my phone to give me directions, which it did; come to find out we were very close to his house. That technology is pretty neat.
There is another side, however, that as your pastor, I think you should know about. In an article written by David Yanofsky, he and a team of researchers discovered some of what your phone knows and what it tracks. The list is pretty astounding. Using a variety of different manufactures, the researchers found out that your phone predicts the likelihood of you walking, riding a bicycle, traveling on a bus, on a train or in a car. Your phone records the barometric pressure and elevation of your location. It records whether or not you are connected to a Wi-Fi signal, the frequency strength of the signal, the signal strength of every other Wi-Fi signal near you, the location, name and strength of other Bluetooth beacons, the voltage of your battery, how much power you have left in it and whether or not you are charging your phone. This information is all logged into your location history. Additionally, your phone is always listening. Always. If you say certain key words, it will fire up to do a requested action. This past week, my phone has responded twice during meetings asking if I wanted to perform some sort of task. I no longer keep my phone near me (within ear shot) when I have a pastoral meeting. Your phone also knows your voice and can read your finger print. This is the type of stuff that George Orwell, in his famous book, 1984, could not even dream of. Yet, it is happening right now in your pocket, your purse, or wherever you keep your phone.
There is a way to “turn off” this stuff. Find the Location History in your phone and opt out. The reason why I put in quotations “turn off” is because I don’t think it really turns it off. When you delete a file from your computer, it is not really deleted. What is removed is the title of the file. The information remains. Imagine it like this. You have a file drawer with 20 files in it. Instead of throwing away a file, you just simply remove the title. Eventually, you’ll need the space so you will remove a file when you need the room. But, until that time, the data, or pages, remain. I think even with opting out of location history, your phone does what it does, it tracks, listens, records and waits.
A couple of Sundays ago, I preached on Psalm 139. After reading about what my phone does, and most likely yours too, I read verse 1 and 2 in a new way. “Lord, you have searched me out and know me; you know my sitting down and my rising up; you discern my thoughts from afar.” The difference I see for Christians is this, God doesn’t need special technology to know these things about us. God simply knows. God created us, knows us, and watches over us – not for commercial gain (like selling advertising space on your phone because it knows you are near a particular store) – but for love. Another difference is this, we can’t opt out of God’s love or God’s watching over us. And really, why would we.