Debate Forum Left: 5/3/11

That’s “Therapists,” and I Hate You

By Ben Tompkins

Benjamin Tomkins

Conspiracy theorists are an interesting bunch. I don’t recommend talking to them for long periods of time, because very quickly you realize that if you distill the content of their conversation, conspiracy theorists don’t talk about conspiracies. They’re really talking about themselves and their massively overblown sense of self-importance in the world.
So I’m not surprised that a whole lot of people are up in arms over Apple and Google using GPS tracking technology to record our moment-to-moment locations. Now, because this information is not sufficiently encrypted, assassins can steal your phone and study your movements. And not just any assassins.

Ninja assassins.
Yep, you talk to conspiracy theorists long enough and what seems to make a lot of sense at first inevitably winds up being founded on total lunacy. So let’s get a few things out in the open regarding this iPhone/Android GPS tracking stuff.
First, this information is stored on your phone in a little file that’s hard, but not impossible to access. The data consists of a time stamp and GPS coordinates, and approximates your location in a way that is traceable over time. Is this good? No, but not because of the fact that it’s happening. Phone companies have been doing this for years because they can increase service speed by triangulating your position against cell phone towers.
So we already admit the fact that this is happening is not the issue. The real problem is information, which previously required a warrant to access, can now be accessed by the public. Apple has acknowledged this is bad and is working on an upgrade to fix the problem. OK, fine. So … so what?
Seriously, stop and think for a second. What would any individual, besides a ninja assassin, want with your travel history? The first, best thing the two guys who cracked that file in the first place could think of was “jealous spouse,” which leads me to believe they were checking their phones out for a reason. Look, whether you’re cheating on your wife or she’s just a crazy, controlling bulldog, it doesn’t really matter. You probably need a divorce. Besides, even if a thief wanted that info, in order to get it they would have to steal your phone in the first place, and that should make them pretty … easy … to … find. But that does lead me to my second major point.
Do you think Google and Apple want to rob your house? If you think they do, then you probably also think they will use their ninja hit squad to do the job. I can’t help you. But for those of you who live in the veiled, blind world of “reality,” you can probably imagine they will use that information to craft the bombardment of advertisements the digital age hurls at you based on location-specific circumstances. My response to that?
Duh. That’s what advertisers do.
If you have a problem with that then I recommend you kill yourself right now. If you don’t believe me, all you need to do is drive 45 minutes west on I-70 and notice where Tom Raper chose to erect his 30,000 “Buy an RV” billboards to realize that marketing is region-specific. (Sidenote – the proper term for someone who assaults you with that many advertisements is “rapist,” not “raper.”)
Besides, do you really think it’s a coincidence that the second you get to Chicago or L.A. or wherever, all of a sudden 15 hot local girls want to chat with you? Ha! Sorry Justin Bieber, the ladies aren’t using your cell phone data to find out when your homely ass is showing up in Dallas so they can fulfill their life’s ambition of sleeping with you. Your computer knows you are in Dallas, which means every advertiser on earth knows you’re in Dallas, and that means it’s time for the lice to feed. Welcome to the digital age, my friends. There’s no going back.
But that right there really gets to the root of the outrage. Once you understand how this whole advertising thing works nowadays, you can begin to understand how and why people blow this stuff up into something it’s not. Everything today is about customizing the individual experience. What does that mean? It means that companies want you to feel like the world cares about you as an individual. And do you know what the most addictive advertising drug is? Flattery. Tailoring your experience boosts your sense of self-importance, and once they control your state of mind, they can sell you anything. Ironically, this inflated sense of self-worth is exactly what results in the wacky conspiracy theorists in the first place. Once you start believing you are the center of the universe, there’s only one place left to go:

Benjamin Tompkins is a violinist, teacher, journalist and critically acclaimed composer currently living in Denver, CO.  He hates stupidity and generally believes that the volume of one’s voice is inversely proportional to one’s knowledge of an issue.

Ben Tomkins is a violinist, teacher, journalist and critically acclaimed composer currently living in Denver, Colorado. He hates stupidity and generally believes that the volume of one’s voice is inversely proportional to one’s knowledge of an issue. Reach Ben Tomkins at

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