In the wake of Apple’s FaceTime privacy bug, we should learn from the superstar who predicted such breaches.
It’s hard to convince people to take data safety seriously. Installing updates, changing passwords, refusing permissions: it can be exhausting, and it’s hard to stay motivated when the work seems endless. That’s why Taylor Swift is the information security icon the world needs.
The superstar has long spoken out about her desire to stay secure. More than a typical celebrity’s fondness for the sort of privacy that involves massive propertes to defeat the long paparazzi lenses, Swift has frequently shown a keen understanding of why – and how – digital security is important to her. In a Rolling Stone interview in 2014, she revealed that she kept the only full version of her forthcoming album, 1989, on her iPhone – and would only play it on headphones, for fear of wiretaps. “Don’t even get me started on wiretaps. It’s not a good thing for me to talk about socially. I freak out … I have to stop myself from thinking about how many aspects of technology I don’t understand.” The article continues: “‘Like speakers,’ she says. ‘Speakers put sound out … so can’t they take sound in? Or’ – she holds up her cellphone – ‘they can turn this on, right? I’m just saying. We don’t even know.’”
Sound familiar? It’s only Swift more or less predicting this week’s iPhone “hellbug” that briefly let anyone with your phone number call you on FaceTime and listen in via your phone’s mic before you picked up, without your knowledge or consent. Maybe we should have listened closer.
In 2017, Ed Sheeran revealed that collaborating with Swift involved NSA-level security: “I was in San Francisco and they sent someone with a locked briefcase with an iPad and one song on it and they … played the song I’ve done with her,” he told the Brazilian magazine Capricho. “They asked if I like it, and I was like, ‘Yeah,’ and then they took it back, that’s how I heard it.”
Swift’s extreme caution has even led to the creation of a Twitter fan account, SwiftOnSecurity. It is genuinely the most informative cybersecurity resource on the internet. But if you don’t want to follow Swift on tech security, just steer clear of her celebrity foe, Kanye West. Greatest rapper of his generation, yes, but no one whose iPhone passcode, reports say, is 000000 should be trusted with data protection advice.