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Technological advancements are making it easier to store and share personal information on the internet, but how well is that information protected? What do companies like Vizio, Amazon, and Apple do with our information?

This article by ProPublica calls attention to aggressive monitoring of users’ viewing habits by Visio’s Smart TV. The “Smart Interactivity” feature shares information with advertisers, yet the feature itself is not advertised, and users have to opt-out to disable it.

Vizio denies passing on any information that could lead to a user’s true identity. Regardless, the company was fined $2.2 million by the Federal Trade Commission for “surreptitiously collecting details on viewers’ watching habits.”

Vizio’s privacy policy classifies IP addresses as “non-personal information,” however, in most cases, IP addresses can easily be used to identify the specific people they are associated with.

Craig Ashton of Ashton & Price, LLC, explains, “That’s especially true if you are a data broker — a type of business that specializes in this kind of ‘data enhancement’”.

Other devices that record user data include personal assistant devices that use voice recognition, such as Apple’s Siri or Amazon’s Alexa. It may not be likely that Siri or Alexa are recording your conversations, but that doesn’t mean it’s not possible.

 

What can you do to protect your privacy? Take the following steps:

  1. Before you buy, research the company’s privacy policy.
  1. Mute internet-connected services when not in use. A physical mute button is located at the top of the device. The “always listening” microphone will be disabled until physically unmuted.
  2. Refrain from connecting important accounts to your Echo. Don’t give your Echo or other devices access to anything with which money can be spent or sensitive information could be divulged. The Internet is already piling up with complaints about children using Alexa to shop online unbeknownst to their parents, for example.
  3. Delete old recordings and history. Amazon recommends against doing this, however, as it will result in a less personalized experience and poorly tailored responses.

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