Navigating The Internet: A Dive into Cybersecurity and Privacy

Navigating The Internet: A Dive into Cybersecurity and Privacy

Stay safe online with our guide to Internet privacy and cybersecurity. Discover truth about AI assistants spying on you, make yourself tech-savvy and protect your personal data.

This article covers the following information:
  • AI Assistants and Privacy
  • AI Assistant and Strange Phenomena
  • Cybersecurity Ads
  • Smartphone Spying Debate
  • Automated Ads
  • Social Media and Privacy

Welcome to today’s exploration of the often nebulous world of the Internet, where we quiz ourselves on the persistent question – what, indeed, is left of our privacy in the digital age?

In this world of smartphones and social media, where artificial intelligence inhabits our very living rooms, we can’t help but wonder if somewhere, somehow, someone is watching us.

  • Is Siri eavesdropping on our conversations?
  • Is Google Home quietly recording our conversations even in our most private moments?
  • Is there any escape from the unseen eyes and unknown ears out there?

Before we delve deeper, let us temper our assumptions with the caveat that we are not cybersecurity experts and some of our explanations may be oversimplified, with the sole aim of creating awareness and promoting education. Your curiosity about online privacy and security would be better satiated by visiting dedicated online resources.

With that said, let’s unmask the daunting world of Internet privacy and cybersecurity!


The Unseen Listener in Your Home

Virtual assistants are the new, ubiquitous member of many a household, but here’s something they don’t often tell you – they are always listening. How does Google or your Amazon Echo do this? Well, the bugbear here is what’s known as a “false accept,” where your AI assistant mistakes routine background noise or conversation as commands.

To illustrate, consider the peculiar case of a couple from Portland who discovered their private conversation recorded and sent to a contact by their Amazon Echo. In this instance, Amazon explained that the Echo activated when a background conversation was misinterpreted as the wake word, “Alexa,” resulting in this innocent yet unnerving mix-up.

But the burning question here is – do companies like these use our data inappropriately?

In a statement about information gathering, Google’s product manager, David Monsees, declared the objective to improve language understanding rather than spy. He confirmed that the collected data – about 0.2% of all queries – lacks user-specific identifiers and includes instructions to transcribe snippets directed exclusively to Google.

But, are we out of the woods yet?

Not quite, as things could sometimes go awry, like in 2019 when a Google contractor leaked confidential Dutch audio data including conversations recorded without the command ‘OK Google.’ Unfortunately, while companies hold onto our audio data with the best intention to enhance their service, we can never 100% guard against misuse.


Is Your Smartphone Eavesdropping?

Many of us have experienced the eerily accurate online ads following a real-world conversation. Does this imply our phones are spying on us?

An experiment in 2018 provides an intriguing insight. Vice writer Sam Nichols repeatedly said phrases that theoretically could trigger such ads for five days. His experiment drummed up startling results – ads for mid-semester university courses and cheap clothing appearing after uttering thoughts of returning to university and buying inexpensive work shirts, respectively.

Despite this, a 2018 study by cloud security firm, Wandera, and a comprehensive test involving 17,000 smartphone apps by researchers at Northeastern University, led by computer science professor David Choffnes, found no evidence of any app recording and leaking audio data without permission. Moreover, recording audio for market research is computationally inefficient, and more often than not, the ads you see on Facebook for products you only mentioned in passing are likely due to your online activity or location services rather than your private conversations.

  • So, should we be paranoid?
  • Or does caution border paranoia when we increasingly find ourselves turning into the products of the free online services we enjoy?
  • Can we differentiate between reasonable vigilance and debilitating fear?

Many big tech companies insist they merely use our data to target ads or improve their services, but who else might be buying our precious data?

For example, major scandals like the Cambridge Analytica data breach or the Equifax credit card breach remind us that we live in a digital age fraught with potential pitfalls. From innocent family gatherings to private financial transactions, we must tread carefully to ensure that we don’t inadvertently expose ourselves to potential harm.


Taking Control of Your Online Privacy

In a world where online privacy feels like a thing of the past, we must take control and equip ourselves with the necessary tools to ensure our digital security. Using encryption services such as NordLocker, a simple solution to file encryption, allows you to reclaim your online privacy and security. With an intuitive drag-and-drop interface, NordLocker guarantees super-fast encryption for files of any size, utilizing end-to-end encryption, meaning that only you and designated recipients can access your files.

In today’s digital age, the best way to ensure your online privacy is to take an active role in protecting it. Don’t forget, as we navigate this new digital age brimming with exciting opportunities and hidden hazards, awareness is the key to safe and secure online experiences.

Remember, in a digital world where you don’t pay for a service, you are the product. Use online services with the knowledge of what exactly they ask of us in return.

To conclude, is our phone spying on us? Or are we volitionally handing over our data to be quantified and monetized? It’s food for thought.


Quick takeaways!

The author discusses privacy concerns related to the use of smart devices, particularly voice-activated AI assistants like Google Home and Amazon’s Echo known as Alexa. These devices can misinterpret background noise as their trigger phrase and proceed to record and interpret conversations. While Google and Amazon openly admit to using collected data for product improvement, security breaches like the 2019 leak of Dutch audio data to VRT News raises concerns over how the collected data could be misused.

The author also addresses concerns related to targeted ads resulting from specific phrases discussed privately. However, recent studies, including those by Wandera, a cloud security firm, and Northeastern University, have found no evidence of unwanted audio recording, attributing the targeted ads more to user behavior and use of location services.

Social media is mentioned as a tricky area because while it helps people connect, it also collects substantial amounts of data for commercial use. Big tech companies claim this data is used for targeted ads or to improve their service, but controversies like the Cambridge Analytica scandal and Equifax credit card breach raise questions about who is buying our data and for what purpose.

To improve personal security, the author recommends using services like NordLocker, a tool that allows users to encrypt and share files securely with 24/7 tech support. They highlight that the best way to maintain privacy is to limit sharing personal information and be cautious of digital services that are freely offered but demand personal data in return.