Pushing buttons inadvertently....

Still recovering from an embarrassing moment just a couple of hours ago.

I had a little "accident" with my cell phone. It was in the pocket of my blue jeans, which are tight, and somehow, my moving around caused it to automatically redial the last person I called -- not once but three times. I was with someone else, and fortunately I was not doing anything which might have been really embarrassing. But the idea of calling up someone and having that person just listen in to whatever the hell you're doing or saying without even your knowing about it -- well, that is more than a little embarrassing. It's downright creepy!

Betrayal by cell phones is not a new topic, but I never thought about the fiendish possibilities until this happened earlier today. (Who else might I have called and broadcast my life to? And this was with my flip phone, the one shown here; such things are not supposed to happen!)

It could have been worse, of course.

Much worse:

The call, received before anyone had found the brothers' bodies, came from a phone stolen from the Wyches during the murder, the police report says.

Police believe that the defendants inadvertently pressed a button on the cell phone, which automatically dialed a relative of the victims. The relative wasn't home, so an answering machine began recording the ensuing conversation.

"On this voice mail the individuals discuss how the victims were killed and their appearance," the report says, adding that the defendants also talked about their involvement in the shootings.

Detectives wrote that witnesses quickly recognized the voices on the message; they have known the defendants for years. They also picked the men out of a photo lineup and identified them as Willie E. Mitchell and Shelly Wayne Martin of Randallstown.

Here's another case where a cell phone automatically redialed the last number a rape victim had called, and left a live recording of the crime on the victim's friend's answering machine. Click here to listen in.

Of course, it's a good thing if your cell phone inadvertently thwarts a crime, but I can see situations where accidental dialing might trigger a crime. Or at least ruin a reputation, perhaps a life....

The Heiress is one of my film noir favorites; a true tragedy of errors. But another silver screen gem illustrates why heiresses have to be particular, if not downright careful.

Lucky they didn't have to worry about cell phones back in the 1890s. Telephones had barely been invented. People had to go and actually knock on doors. No one does that by accident.

Whoa! It's almost midnight, which means I'm almost a pumpkin.

UPDATE: One Fine Jay adds that you don't want to be a Meredith Johnson (Crichton's Disclosure) in a situation like this. Anticipating a situation like that, you might preset your phone to "redial" your own machine whenever you give it a little squeeze, thereby broadcasting the entire transaction into your answering machine.

Almost all people today have: a) a cell phone; and b) an answering machine. So....


NOTE: I do not advocate doing anything illegal. Laws may vary. Please obtain advice of counsel before hitting "redial" -- unless of course you do so by accident. (And as a practical matter, I doubt crime victims would be charged under any of the applicable anti-wiretapping statutes. But could they be???)

posted by Eric on 11.07.03 at 11:58 PM


Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Pushing buttons inadvertently....:

» Spy phones from One Fine Jay
Eric Scheie notices that cellular phones can dial themselves. There’s a reason for “keylock,” dear friends, especially when you have a cheap cellular whose said feature you need to turn on manually. The habit grows on you. Besides. You don’t want to... [Read More]
Tracked on November 8, 2003 7:57 AM


This is why God, or at least Nokia, gave us the ability to lock the keypads on these little monsters.

CGHill   ·  November 8, 2003 7:09 AM

Yeah, well, I got my phone on eBay for $8.00. It needs a code to access the "lock" feature, and I never had that. I just went out and bought a SIM card, inserted it, and started using the blasted thing, figuring the flip cover would "protect" me. The design (it turns out) is flawed, and the plastic can bend to press the "yes" button. I should probably spring for a new phone. Might have to pay a little more. (I never really wanted a cell phone anyway, so I may be playing a passive aggressive game with myself, in protest against the increasing demands placed upon me by hi-tech culture. Yet I hate Luddites!)

Eric Scheie   ·  November 8, 2003 9:08 AM

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