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Back Page 6/9/2021

Dear Almanzo,

Are our phones spying on us?

Greetings, Musketeers! 

I recently got an anonymous email from a person calling themself callahana2@xavier.edu, asking: “Are our phones spying on us?” 

This is a great question and one that plagues lots of ridiculous conspiracy theorists. No, President Joe Biden isn’t keeping track of what time you go to bed, but if you pay attention, you’ll notice some undeniable coincidences. These suggest that our data is being shared by our phone providers. 

For instance, I looked at running shoes on dicks.com, and the next day, while on a news website, all of my ads were for Nike Air Max. I listened to the cast album of Evita on Spotify, and then all my YouTube ads were for the revival tour of the show. My wife divorced me for her co-worker, and then Olivia Rodrigo released an album based on my misery.

The reason you might see ads for items you put on your Amazon wishlist — or why Rodrigo would include a lyric like “You said forever, now I drive alone past your street” that plays on the radio right as I sit crying in my parked car in front of my ex-wife’s house — is because companies often buy this data so they can market certain products to you. 

A company that sells maternity clothing doesn’t want to market its products to the whole internet; it wants to know which customers are pregnant so it can target them. Rodrigo doesn’t want to just write another bland break-up song; she wants to incorporate real details about my love life, such as experiencing “Déjà Vu” when I see Instagram posts of Laura and frickin’ Stu doing activities we used to do together, so that I relate to her song better.

There has been a lot of controversy around collecting user data, with many angry about being monitored and manipulated. Some say it’s an invasion of privacy for Google to sell our search information to other corporations, or that Rodrigo would know that “I’ve spent the night crying on the floor of my bathroom” while my ex-Laura is so unaffected, and I really don’t get how she could be after seven years of marriage and then Rodrigo would include it in her second hit single “Good 4 U.”

There’s certainly a good argument that this infringes upon our Constitutional rights, but there are also benefits to this data sharing. For instance, Waze and Google Maps collect much more user data than Apple Maps, and that’s why they are superior GPS apps. And if Rodrigo hadn’t been bugging my home to see vulnerable moments of me telling Laura’s photograph that “all I ever wanted was to be enough for you,” then I wouldn’t have such a beautiful collection of music to help me cope with my breakup.

Whether you like it or not, private data is being shared, and I don’t see Congress being able to stop powerful players like Amazon, Google, Rodrigo or Apple anytime soon. You can either be willfully ignorant by convincing yourself that the super specific spatula ads showing up right after you view the Food Network website, or Rodrigo being able to write an album so relatable to my complex emotions ranging from angry songs such as “Traitor” to more forgiving songs such as “Happier,” are just a coincidence. Or, you can just accept that we live in a new era where constant surveillance is possible and you must be careful of what you do online. And you can hope that “Drivers License” has softened Laura’s heart and she’ll see that I still f*cking love her and maybe she’ll leave that blonde bastard Stu and come back to me.


Horoscopes

Aries: The stars think you should get out more. I mean, you’re reading the Newswire in the middle of summer — your life can’t be that exciting.

Taurus: Take heed of this wise ancient proverb: “I don’t know what they want from me/it’s like the more money we come across/the more problems we see.”

Gemini: Sell all your bitcoin; no one cares about cryptocurrency anymore. The Beanie Baby market is about to hit an all-time high.

Cancer: Watch Bo Burnham’s Inside on Netflix. This isn’t even a horoscope, it’s genuinely the best thing you’ll watch all summer.

Leo: Happy Pride Month! The sun wanted to give a special shoutout to Leos, as all Leos are gay. 

Virgo: Mercury commends your recent sock purchase. They are understated yet stylish — perfect for any business-casual event. 

Libra: Don’t watch the new iCarly reboot. It will just remind you that it’s been 10 years and you’re still sitting around watching silly sitcoms. 

Scorpio: Do some summer reading. Mars recommends one of those spooky internet stories about a haunted episode of SpongeBob Squarepants or something.

Sagittarius: You’ve made some unwise financial decisions this week, but at the very least, you didn’t pay 50 bucks to watch Logan Paul and Floyd Mayweather hug for 30 minutes.

Capricorn: Jeff Bezos is going to space and the stars are pissed. They don’t want him either!

Aquarius: Find a new hobby. Growing a bean arch is a healthy way to liven up any garden and will yield you many beans for the coming winter.
Pisces: Never, and I mean NEVER, give up. Did R.L. Stine ever give up? No, he’s still writing Goosebumps books after 30 years. That’s dedication and that’s the energy we’re manifesting this summer.

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