About 61 percent of people check their phones within five minutes of getting up in the morning. You probably grab your phone to check for social media updates, monitor the day’s weather, peek at your schedule, take a look at traffic, or read the news. You might wander into the living room and ask Alexa or Google Home to read you sports scores or check something.

As we interact with these devices, they record bits of data about this. Your internet browser remembers your history, making it easier to type in the URL you visit daily. Your phone makes a note of your location so you can find the easiest route to work today. And thus begins the age-old debate: how do we balance privacy, security, and convenience?

Technology has become such a part of our lives that you probably don’t think much about it. But it’s thinking about you — and so are the big companies who manage it. Here are some of the things your devices and other tech “know” about you:

  • Your Internet activity from Maps searches to YouTube videos you’ve watched.
  • Location
  • Gender
  • Age
  • Your phone call history, which is saved for at least a year
  • Your voice searches through your smart TV or requests from home devices like Alexa/Google Home
  • Your energy consumption, if you use apps to control your home
  • Your food consumption, if you have a smart refrigerator
  • Possibly your height and weight through apps such as Fitbit or your Apple Watch if you use them for fitness tracking
  • Your TV viewing

Devices such as your networked gaming system, laptop camera, baby monitor, and home security camera could potentially be hacked to spy on you.

In some cases, you might want an app to know what you’re up to, at least if you have a reason to worry you might need an Alibi. That’s what the makers of an app with that name hope, anyway. The Alibi app records photos, videos, location, and more when you tell it to do so.

Who is Spying?

You may be wondering who cares about your daily run to the coffee shop. First, the government, according to WikiLeaks, which is using devices to spy on people. Of course, as one person is quoted in that article, “The idea that the CIA and NSA can hack into devices is kind of old news.”

So is the idea that Google and Apple are using our data. They, along with most app creators, are the others keeping an eye on your data.

In some cases, that data is anonymous and used to improve an app’s experience. If you built an app, for example, you’d want to know when it crashed so you could fix bugs. The data are also used for functionality. Location data is critical to a GPS app, obviously, just as Instagram must have access to your camera. Your data may also be collected after the fact if you are ever involved in a lawsuit.

But a lot of that data is there so they can sell it or use it to sell advertising. According to the Scientific American, seven in 10 apps sell your data to third parties. App creators explain what data they collect from you and how they use it in their privacy policy. (Here is Google’s, for example.)

Minimize Your Risk

Technology brings with it many benefits, some of which you’re probably not willing to lose. These issues are coming to the forefront more often, meaning the laws surrounding privacy will likely start to change — but that could take awhile. In the meantime, you can maximize your privacy by taking these steps:

  • Put a piece of tape over your laptop camera when not in use. That way, if anyone ever hacked it, they wouldn’t see much.
  • Go through all the privacy settings menus on every app and device you use. Restrict as much as possible.
  • Use the lockscreen on your phone.
  • Don’t use default passwords; create new ones that are at least eight characters.
  • Disable the voice assistant on your phone.
  • Turn off location sharing on your devices when you’re not using GPS-based apps.
  • Disable any data and voice tracking features on your smart TV.
  • Disable any unused features of smart home devices.

If all else fails, go without. If you’re not comfortable with an Alexa or Home device recording your queries, just don’t get one.

Questions about technology? Contact us to learn more about the good things it can do you for your business.


Pete Peranzo

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