I never had a phone in my room growing up. When visiting at the homes of my friends, I remember looking longingly at their pink princess phones perched invitingly on their bedside tables, thinking how cool it was that all they had to do was roll over, grab the phone and dial – in complete privacy, knowing that no one would be able to overhear their conversations.

We had two phones in our house – one on the wall in the kitchen and one on a telephone table situated on the staircase landing outside our bedrooms. Unlike my friends, I could never be sure if my two older brothers were lurking somewhere nearby trying to hear a bit of something that they could use against me in the future.

Today it is almost unthinkable not to have a phone with you, on your very person, at all times. But how secure are our phones? While the threat of my brothers overhearing anything I choose to communicate is now nonexistent, a new threat to our communication security has been discovered.

The New York Times reported this week that some smartphones in the U.S. have a “secret backdoor’ that sends users’ personal data to China every 72 hours. There has been some sort of software pre-installed in the questionable devices that enables China to “allegedly” monitor users’ travel details, e-mail and text messages, among other things. Makes one wonder just what “among other things” means.

American authorities say it is unclear whether Chinese officials are using the stolen data for advertising or for more nefarious intelligence purposes. Really? Who are they kidding? Sure, the Chinese advertising community would profit from this information but are we to believe that the data isn’t being used for just plain old spying?

Whether industrial or personal, the threat and ramifications of all this data being in the hands of the Chinese is extremely troubling.

Apparently, those most vulnerable to the affected phones are international customers and customers with prepaid phones. But, we aren’t talking about a limited number of people being spied on out there. Shanghai Adups Technology Co., the Chinese firm that wrote the software, says its code runs on more than 700 million phones and other smart devices. 700 million!

Our own country has similar data collection capabilities, capabilities which are, no doubt, being used on millions of Americans daily. This is really disturbing in and of itself, but somehow the thought that China has nefariously gained access to our personal communications and data is just scary.

Not that anyone would find my texts or emails the least bit interesting, the thought that they could be indiscriminately culled by a foreign nation for whatever purposes they choose is downright infuriating.

Quite frankly, I yearn for the days when my brothers’ snooping was my only privacy concern. I hate to sound paranoid, but with all of the evidence of the vulnerability exposed by our new technological communication methods, do we really know who’s listening?

Wendy J. Levenfeld is a published novelist, playwright and columnist. Send comments to wendylevenfeld@gmail.com. Visit Wendy’s website at www.wendylevenfeld.com.

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