Out of all of the electronics we own, our cell phones tend to be the most personal. Seeing as they are rarely more than an arm's length away, we tend to keep a lot of sensitive and private information stored on them for easy mobile access. While this might make it easier to access financial information on the fly or quicker to keep in touch with your loved ones, it also means that your private data is always at some sort of risk.
Generally, there isn't much to worry about if you keep a white knuckle grip on your phone and never leave it behind. And there is even less to worry over if you password protect your phone or use security software that enables you to wipe all sensitive data remotely in the event you lose your phone.
However, it doesn't take a lost or stolen phone for your information to fall into the wrong hands ... or cross the wrong eyes. If a friend picks up your phone just to check it out, there's no telling what they might find. Anything from the Web sites you were browsing and the apps you have installed to the people you have been texting – even the contents of your ongoing conversations – has the potential to be pretty embarrassing ... or sometimes worse. I'm willing to bet a couple relationships and probably several marriages have come to an abrupt end over a couple espied, out of context messages.
Back when I was working in the wireless retail business, I learned pretty quickly that you never want to keep anything too sensitive on your phone, at least not anything that is easily accessible. And it was never that I had anything terribly incriminating or inappropriate on my phones. But it doesn't take a lot for me to feel as it someone is encroaching on "my space." Just like when someone walks into my room in my house, I feel uneasy. There's no logical reason to it, but it just doesn't feel right. And while I never minded giving customers a run-down and quick tour of my phone, I never liked letting them hold or play with my personal device.
Nonetheless, it always seems as if people come to me when they need to borrow something – phones, tablets, etc. Just a couple weeks ago, I was sitting in Starbucks and a stranger asked me if he could borrow my headphones for a minute. (There's no possible way he was firing on all cylinders if he even remotely thought I was going to share my headphones with a complete stranger. But I digress.) Maybe it's because people know I always have a ton of gadgets on me at any given moment and that I might have one to "spare" for a second. Chances are, I do. But that certainly doesn't mean I want someone – friend, foe or stranger – snooping through my stuff, despite there being nothing embarrassing or sensitive on any of my devices (aside from work email, which does usually consist of some confidential information, and all of my social media accounts).
Early Saturday morning, the guys from Android Central ran a poll asking readers if they let other people use their phones. Out of the 9,500 respondents at the time of this writing, 40.2 percent voted "A select few" while 48.6 percent simply said "No." But what is surprising is that 11.3 percent said that they do let other people use their phone.
I, of course, chose "A select few" as I have several close friends that know pretty much everything about me and who I talk to. There's no reason for them to go snooping on my phone anyway. I have nothing to hide. But if a complete stranger were to ask me for my phone, I would have to decline. Respectfully, of course.
However, if all mobile operating systems adopted a guest mode, much like the Privacy Mode in MIUI, I probably wouldn't have a problem with it. This particular Privacy Mode hides all text messages and call logs, and it disables the editing of the home screen. It isn't perfect and I would like a few more features to be added, like a PIN protected address book and the ability to password lock specific apps. But if there were something like this on iOS and/or Android, I would probably have no issues with letting a passerby use my phone for a quick call – that is, if they weren't sketchy or looking like they might run off with one of my beloved phones.
A guest mode, or multiple user support, is also something I've been saying needs to be brought to tablets, too, as they are often used by more than one person. I imagine something like this wouldn't be terribly difficult to execute and the benefits are abundant and obvious.
What say you, ladies and gents? Do you let people (friends, family or strangers) use your phone? Would you if there were some sort of guest mode like on a PC? Has someone ever come across something private or embarrassing on your phone when you have let them use it?