It's a paradox of our times that most of these devices seem to have some direct or indirect support from the military. Gryphn's board of advisors includes a former Navy Lieutenant, and Wickr describes its service as operating at "NSA top-secret level encryption." We have become accustomed to accepting that military and government uses of technology must come shrouded in secrecy and privacy controls, but technology available to everyday people must be commercialized in a way that depends on cataloging user's information.
There may well be some pathos that connects the privilege of using digital wonderments like computer phones to the expectation that such an experience be paid for with invasive surveillance, regardless of whether the services and devices have already been paid for by the consumer. The capacity to not just deliver information, but also take it, seems intimately connected to our subconscious understanding of all our mobile computing devices, and adding time constraints or blocks to data collection reveals the superfluity of most of our uses of these devices. In many ways, the text message is the optimally superfluous use of digital technology, encouraging users to communicate first and think second, to record a moment and choose someone to transmit it to before thinking about why they should really want to transmit it.
The unacknowledged context of using an always-connected computer phone is that there is some larger, unseen authority figure piecing together some narrative of our lives based on the fragments we send through them, and this witting consciousness of being watched helps define how we use these devices in the first place.
In mobile computers, transmission is as close to immortality as we can come, and so the compulsion to continue sending out marginalia and the obscure crumbs of experience in our daily lives becomes a manic thrill of imagining them becoming something other than ham sandwiches and bad puns playing off stereotypes and social coding that's been given to us from movies and television shows and media distribution bullhorns that turn an isolated thought into a self-replicating Internet joke.
The unacknowledged context of using an always-connected computer phone is that there is some larger, unseen authority figure piecing together some narrative of our lives based on the fragments we send through them, and this witting consciousness of being watched helps define how we use these devices in the first place. It is not surprising then that, after the Snapchat and Facebook Poke sensations reside, what will remain will be a handful of corporate encryption tools that lets workers pay more of the bill for the work phones. There is only so much of our own ephemeral qualities we can bear to be conscious of at once. It is almost worth paying to offload the carriage of that weight to someone or something else, real, imaginary, or somewhere in between.
Michael Thomsen is Complex.com's tech columnist. He has written for Slate, The Atlantic, The New Inquiry, n+1, Billboard, and is author of Levitate the Primate: Handjobs, Internet Dating, and Other Issues for Men. He tweets often at @mike_thomsen.