1. We think they should be called trackers because we’re no longer using them as phones. There was a study done by a British cell phone carrier quite recently, which asked smart phone users, ‘What are you actually using these devices for?’ And making phone calls was actually the fifth most popular thing that smart phones are being used for. More popular was checking your email, checking your social media, listening to music, playing games, things of that sort. So phoning people on your smart phone is really not what most of us are using these devices for, so it’s not accurate, in a way, to refer to them as phones, when what we’re using them for are things other than making phone calls.

    But, more important than that, in some ways, is our understanding of what these things are when we call them phones, we think of them as phones. This is the whole idea of framing. In politics, if you call something a death panel, that influences what people think about it. If you call something ‘Obamacare,’ that influences what people think about it, positively or negatively. So with these smart phones, given that they do so much tracking, in the sense of, ‘We’re keeping track of our lives, we’re keeping track of the news, we’re keeping track of our friends, and corporate and government entities are keeping track of us,’ if we call them trackers, then we’re doing a much better job of informing ourselves what these devices are actually doing, and what we’re really using them for.

    — ProPublica investigative reporter Peter Maass on why we should call our phones “trackers”

  2. cell phones


    Peter Maass