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Do Tech Companies Take Your Privacy Seriously?

Thursday, May 9, 2019

TL;DR: They don't.

A recent article in the Washington Post discusses the author's privacy concerns with Amazon's smart speakers. If you've taken my Tech Security class, you know that smart speakers and virtual assistants can be a concern, but in many cases there are things you can do to protect your privacy a little better.

First, be careful where you place the speaker. Second, remember that the speaker is listening all the time. Third, regularly check your history to see what the speaker is picking up that you didn't realize.

But while you're doing that, it's also a good time to go through all the privacy settings on the major sites that are collecting your data:: Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft.

All those companies collect your user data, but there are steps you can take to safeguard your data.

Most important is to go through the privacy settings for each service and lock down everything you can. (The articled linked above has steps for doing this for each of the major services.)

You should also seriously considering using multiple web browsers and installing privacy and security add-ons for those web browsers, that can help place web pages in silos to keep them from spying on what you're doing on other web pages.

And the one I emphasize to everyone I know: Don't use the Facebook app or Facebook Messenger app on your mobile device. I know it's easier, but to keep Facebook out of everything you do, you should really visitthe site in a dedicated web browser (I personally use Opera for this) so it can't access the cache and cookies or all the other sites you've visited.

Microsoft Account Privacy Webpage
Google Privacy Check-Up Webpage
Apple Privacy Settings Webpage
Instructions on How to Check Your Facebook Privacy Settings

As with the invention of electricity and the automobile, there are costs and benefits to any new technology, and we have to learn to make the benefits outweigh the costs.