Curb your digital assistant’s enthusiasm: Three ways to protect your digital privacy

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New Delhi | Updated: December 19, 2018 8:57:32 PM

Here’s how you can still control what you share with these devices.

Another year is coming to a close and so are the stocks. Chances are that before the year comes to a close, you will be unboxing many electric devices and in this age of internet, there is probably no electric device that does not work without being connected to a Wi-Fi network.

But are you ready to forgo your privacy? Oh yes, did we mention that these devices open your home to a 24X7 surveillance?

They very much do! Those companies know when you sleep, when you wake up and even when you are planning a vacation. So much so that more privacy concerns were raised after Facebook filed a patent for a new technology which will be able to predict where you are going even when you are offline. Similar concerns were seen with Amazon’s Alexa, the virtual assistant that does whatever you ask it to do- search the web, make phone calls, send texts, create lists, shop online, weather reports and all the other things you do on your smartphone manually.

So, how can you escape this unwanted but seemingly inescapable surveillance you did not ask in the first place? Here’s how you can still control what you share with these devices.

 

The settings is your key to the things you want to control
Keep in mind that you don’t have the obligation to accept the default settings. Take your time and look into all the settings of your devices, and see what features you can control because chances are you can easily turn off some settings for instance you have the option to turn off the settings that want to give you “personalised adverts” and take controls of the data these devices are using.

 

Don’t sign up for things you really don’t need to
Do you really want to share your contact list with any company? If no, then simply say no to to the voice-controlled Alexa prompt of the making phone calls feature and your address list. If you change your mind, you can always come back and change the setting. This is the case with other internet-based technologies too. You have every right to decide what you want to the device to do and not do. Check the e-mail you are using for Facebook as your login username and the ones you give to your professional network because if you have selected “Everyone” for Facebook’s “Who can look you up using the email address you provided?, your Facebook profile is discoverable to anyone who has your e-mail ID.

 READ ALSO | Cybersecurity menace! NASA confirms data breach that compromised personal data of employees

Know when you can’t do ANYTHING!
Some devices and technologies just can’t be saved. Remember when it was reported that Alexa recorded and sent out private conversations of a family in the United States.

Although, the company came with an explanation that Alexa may have misinterpreted its own designated prompt word. It still remains a serious issue.

In 2016, it was reported that Fisher-Price smart bear had allowed hacking of children’s biographical data. Although the company fixed the issue, it cannot be denied that the data breach still happened.

According to some leaked reports, Facebook shared “the ability to read users’ private messages” with Netflix and Spotify, according to a report published by New York Times. Facebook also let “Microsoft’s search engine – Bing – to access the names of their users’ friends without any need for requisite permission. Not just that, Facebook also “allowed Amazon find users’ names and contact information through their friends on the platform”, The New York Times reported on Tuesday.

It would be just better to not trust that technology or a device to take care of your data. Keep tabs on what you share with those technologies and you would be better off.

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