One of our readers expressed concern over people using smartphones in medical waiting rooms. He writes: Every time I see a waiting room full of self-absorbed twits tweeting, texting and otherwise pecking away I wish I had the power to generate an EMP in the immediate area, just to see the look on their vacuous faces. I can touch upon why I don’t like people having Smart Phones on in medical waiting rooms.
(1) They have cameras. And microphones.
(2) They may interfere with medical devices.
(3) They can be used to make notes and send texts about who’s there and what they are there for.
In non-medical waiting areas or in lines, the phones are more of a hazard for the owners than for anyone else. Just letting thieves know you have a phone turns you into a target. I am writing this from near Chicago, which has had a particularly nasty string of very violent iPhone thefts on Public Transportation platforms.”
I’d like to address your most serious concern first: Smartphones interfering with medical devices. While in the past phones interfering with medical devices were an issue, with modern phones and modern devices, this isn’t really a concern. You’ll notice that hospitals no longer have signs forbidding the use of phones on the premises. If there were an issue with phones interfering with medical devices, there would be signs posted in the office.
You’re right that phones have cameras and microphones, though it is usually pretty obvious when someone is taking a photo or video with a smartphone. They need to get the lens in the right place. But if someone is determined to record people in waiting rooms, they certainly don’t need a smartphone to do it. There are many small and inexpensive hidden camera devices and recorders that can do that job.
You certainly don’t need a phone or a camera to make note of what you see in a doctor’s office. On the plus side, the phone can be a valuable tool at the doctor’s. You could record instructions or make notes about treatment. There are also many apps that allow you to share things like blood sugar levels and blood pressure with your physician.
As for making users a target for thieves, I suppose you could also say that having a car or a wallet or a purse, especially a nice one, makes you a target for thieves. Stolen smartphones are becoming increasingly useless to thieves due to technology that can remotely shut them down if they’re stolen and that can also be used to locate them in the hands of the crooks.
I will agree that a world where folks have constant access to cameras and also to the Internet, is a less private world. And that people often use their phones to avoid interacting with other people. But I don’t think looking at the Internet in a waiting room or playing a game is any more vacuous that reading a four-year-old magazine.
But, to each his own.