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Big Companies are Collecting and Using Your Data Against You

You have prepared for a great night at home: you’ve made some spicy popcorn, you’ve got a cold soda from the fridge, and now you’re anxiously waiting to watch one of your favorite movies on your big screen TV.

Image source Pixabay

But the frightening reality is that your TV may be watching and listening to you as well! More and more TV manufacturers have started to capture the audio in the room, and then send it over the Internet to their headquarters, where they can keep it for themselves or share it with their partners. I’m not joking, this piece of information may be included in your TV’s documentation. It’s true that the info can only be found in the fine print, and who reads that tiny text anyway?

As TVs have gotten smarter, their abilities of spying on us have extended as well. Many modern television sets make use of voice commands, which enable us to get rid of the remote control for good. It would be a fantastic idea, if the captured audio wasn’t also sent outside our homes. Not to mention that your TV can record everything that’s being said in the room, besides the needed “turn on” voice command.

Voice spying isn’t limited to TV sets, though. Some of the world’s best-selling game consoles and even the highly-acclaimed voice assistant Cortana can capture your voice and send some of the info to its mother company.

These businesses promise to do their best to keep your data private, but the reality is that their servers can be hacked anytime, and thus expose your private conversations.

Sadly, things can get even worse, as web cams and facial recognition software improve and become the standard for smart TVs. Of course, television sets manufacturers promise to use your images with the single goal of remembering your favorite settings.

It’s an intelligent idea to have the TV increase its volume automatically the minute your grandmother enters the room. But who knows what the next version of the TV documentation fine print will bring? And who knows how hard will it be to hack those smart TVs?

Don’t throw your TV out of the window yet, though. There are many more devices and applications that are spying on you. Researchers from Data Alliance state that almost any device that’s got a voice recognition feature can also be used to spy on you. We are very close to the era where a simple “we got to see Paris this summer” conversation in your living room will trigger lots of targeted ads in your Internet browser and – who knows? – even customized TV ads.

Looking back, it’s clear that everything began with free email. If you’re like me, you are using one or two free email accounts right now. They may be free, but the companies behind them have created robots that can read all your emails, and then display targeted advertisements whenever you log into your email account.

What about the Internet of Things? It’s a newer concept that refers to regular devices, which can connect to and exchange data with the Internet. Some of these devices are really useful. Think about a heating thermostat that can be turned on using a smartphone the minute you leave the office, for example. Who wouldn’t want to walk into a warmed up home after a long day of work?

The reality is that the info we’ve provided can be used by the manufacturers and even by hackers to figure out when we aren’t at home. As you can imagine, this piece of information can lead to a lot of trouble if it falls into the wrong hands.

Most fitness devices also come with a companion app which is supposed to help you keep track of your progress, but can also share your exercise patterns and sleep progress with their manufacturers.

So what can we do about all of this? Not too much, I’m afraid. Newer generations grow in an environment which teaches them that personal information can be given away anytime it’s requested from us. The only way of fighting back is to stick with old technologies, and thus lose some of the advantages brought by the so-called “progress”.

By Boris 

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