Google devices listening always

“Hey Google, is all my data safe?”

Thursday 24 June, 2021

Data protection is a vital part of your mobile security and privacy online.

Do you know how much of your data is being stored, by whom and how it’s collected?

Virtual Assistants privacy risk

There has been a huge rise in the popularity and use of voice activated Virtual Assistants, particularly from the large tech giants such as Google, Amazon and Apple.

Data collection is not only happening whilst you are actually using the device or smartphone. It’s happening 24/7.

For example, Google will combine Virtual Assistant data with further information it has collected about you with regards to online searches, your Gmail data, websites that you have visited and even as far as to which YouTube videos you have watched, in order to build a huge “personalised” profile of you and the people you are in contact with.

Data that is being processed from these devices could well be on servers outside of the EU. Which then brings in to question the security levels of those servers and what could happen if they were hacked.

Any of the data that these devices and associated services collect about you, require you to delete it from your account, as they do not.

It is worth remembering, that these devices and smartphones have a microphone continuously switched on and listening, ready for the activation words. Therefore, you are being listened to all the time. The technology also has particular flaws, in that it can mistake words in conversation or mistake the radio or TV as a command, then activate without you actually knowing it. These conversations can then be recorded, processed and stored by mistake, adding further to reduced privacy.

It is important to understand that your smartphone: iPhone or Android phone, is also a personal assistant.

Who else is spying on you?

In January this year we wrote an article Is my smart home spying on me? in which we looked at the data being collected by a whole host of everyday home appliances. These included seemly innocent devices such as TVs, Ovens, Fridges and even some doorbells.

It was found that literally thousands of DNS requests were made to these devices every day. These requests collected data that were then able to establish information such as locations and browsing habits.

When you consider totalling the amount of data being harvested from a wide range of devices, it doesn’t take a stretch of imagination to realise that quite a detailed picture of your locations and behaviours can be formed by third parties.

Smartphone App privacy risk

Now consider the Apps you have on your standard smartphone and the data that is being collected and stored by them.

Again these third party apps pose a smartphone security and privacy risk, as, more often than not, the data collected is stored on third party servers. These servers can, and have, then been targeted by hackers to steal the information for sale on the dark web.

In addition, the apps themselves often sell the information to others for their target marketing activities.

What to do about data security and privacy?

Firstly, it’s worth trying to evaluate whether you actually really need this type of functionality on the devices. Wherever possible it would be worth switching off the online aspects of the device, especially on items such as ovens and fridges where it’s not as impactful.

Then you need to ensure that the virtual assistants have been set to not operate whenever you don’t need them and then to ensure you delete the data that has been collected.

Above all, the most important step is to secure the device you are likely to be using the most… your smartphone.

Changing your standard smartphone for a Blackphone PRIVY will ensure that you will have a smartphone specifically designed for security and privacy. It will eliminate the risk from hacking, and once fully set up, no app will be able to harvest your data.

Then consider the security features such as reverse wipe, locked bootloader and duress password. It will protect your data if your smartphone is lost or stolen.

If you would like to discuss changing to the Blackphone PRIVY to help support your business or personal information, please give us a call and we’ll be happy to help.

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