Are your devices spying on you?

Modern technology is a convenience many of us enjoy and rely upon; however, the invasive monitoring by that same technology is another story. Here’s how to stop your devices from spying on you.

Facebook ‘likes’
When you share information about yourself on Facebook, it learns a little bit more about you. Every time you ‘like’ or ‘share’ something, Facebook is able to track and trace your data, so it can provide you with more content. And since we give Facebook our most personal information such as our birthday, email and contacts, each time you use your account to log into a new app, all this information is passed on to third parties too. 

To turn it off: Denying third party apps from connecting to your Facebook account is a good way to stop your information from being shared. Your other strongest option is log out of Facebook when you’ve finished using it, to block the website’s ability to keep track of your other web browsing data.

Web browsing (ads)
Ever noticed how after you’ve researched something specific (say, the price of a sewing machine on eBay), that suddenly the advertising bars on other websites are filled with sewing-related ads? This is because, like Facebook, the websites you visit track your data and use it to make you buy and look at things on other websites. They do this by storing ‘cookies’ (bits of data) on your computer, meaning they can track your browsing activity across a number of websites. 

To turn it off: You can block all or just third-party cookies by disabling them through your Internet browser settings (e.g. on Firefox, Internet Explorer, Google Chrome). The downside of turning off all cookies means some convenient settings will no longer work, such as ‘remember my password’ and handy auto-fill information options.

GPS and location services
On your iPhone, when you click settings > privacy > location services > system services > frequent locations, you will see a list of all the specific places you have visited and the dates you were there. Another click will provide you will the exact addresses and how many visits you have made and what time you were there. Android users also have this information kept too, but it is stored on the cloud, where it can be subpoenaed by law or hacked into by someone else. 

To turn it off: On the iPhone, simply click settings > privacy > location services, and turn location services off by swiping the green button left. On Android the process is similar. Click settings > location and turn it off.

Facial recognition
Facebook’s tag suggestion feature is a modern technology marvel. It uses information gathered from your other photos to (mostly) accurately find your face in a newly uploaded photo. Google has also been running facial recognition software on users’ photos for a number of years. It’s a quick and easy way for people to tag photos of you without searching for your name on a list. It also means people you may not know can easily find out information about you (such as your name and any information on your Facebook profile) without your knowing.

To turn it off: One option is to not have a Facebook profile altogether. Another is to turn off this feature on your profile by editing your privacy settings on the ‘Timeline & Tagging’ page.

Find out more at The Guardian.

This article was previously published as How to turn off your spying tech.

Related articles:
Protecting your privacy
Ten best security websites
Facebook privacy update

Amelia Theodorakis
Amelia Theodorakis
A writer and communications specialist with eight years’ in startups, SMEs, not-for-profits and corporates. Interests and expertise in gender studies, history, finance, banking, human interest, literature and poetry.
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