The Back Door

A young woman walked into the Starbucks where I sat last night and asked if she could borrow my phone to place a call.

She didn’t seem like an obvious con artist–whatever that means–and in any case she didn’t look that hard to catch, so I unlocked my phone and handed it to her. But I felt distinctly uncomfortable about it.

Think about that. Forget the mobility aspect for a moment: fifty years ago, my greatest concern over sharing my phone would have been around the size of the resulting phone bill. In 2019, that isn’t even a consideration: my calling plan features unlimited talk time in the US. No problem.

These days, many of my concerns are less tangible. Beyond simple theft, my fears centered around privacy: what could this person do, while holding my phone right in front of me, that could open me up to some kind of exploitation?

It didn’t take long to come up with a list:

  • Install a spyware app.
  • Paste something sensitive into a text message.
  • Call a hyper-expensive toll number.

Plenty more where that came from.

Meanwhile, the young lady was clearly having an argument on my phone. Then she hung up, took a text message, sent a text message, and placed another call, apparently to continue the argument.

All the while my tension level was rising. The red flags, that didn’t quite pop when she walked in the door, started waving furiously. Eventually I asked for my phone–she ignored me–then demanded it. Just as I was calculating how best to take it from her without buying an assault charge, she hung up the phone, handed it to me, and walked away without a word.

So. Rude, right? Frigging millennials.

But on another note: I had no idea how sensitive I have become to seeing some stranger muck about inside my phone. My phone may be the anchor of my digital life, but it is also a back door thrown wide open to anybody with a key… or an ill-considered invitation.

A stranger in my private doorway, silhouetted against the dark. If that image doesn’t make your skin crawl just a little bit, try living a few more years and check again.

Tell me why I'm full of shit!