Are Google and Facebook Really Spying on You?

Staff Writer / 10-02-2020 / News

Privacy has become a major concern in the always-connected age of smart devices and ever-present social networks like Facebook and tech giants like Google.

Most people do not want devices listening to their conversations, storing them, or worse, sending these private conversations back to social networks and developers through their apps. But this seems to be exactly what’s happening! So, are social networks like Facebook and search giants like Google really spying on you through their apps? The quick and easy answer to that is, “yes, they are”, but probably not in the way you think.

There’s been many reported occasions where users have had private conversations and then had adverts relating to that specific topic turn up on Facebook or even on search engines like Google. Dutch publication VRT NWS reported that Google hires independent contractors from around the world to listen to and transcribe audio recordings from Google Assistant in order to improve the technology. Amazon has also been shown to practice this with its Alexa smart assistant.

Your smartphone ‘listens’ for trigger words such as ‘Hey Google’ in order to record what you’re saying, decipher it and deliver accurate results. Without the triggers, your voice recordings are just stored on the device for a certain amount of time before being overwritten; however, the concern is that these recordings may not be out of the reach of third-party apps like Facebook or WhatsApp who use this data to target you with customised, highly specific ads.

Jason Nurse, Assistant Professor in Cyber Security at the University of Kent explains this idea further, saying, “Imagine you have just started to think about where to go for your next holiday. You spend the morning visiting travel agents to discuss the latest deals and then visit your favourite restaurant, a popular Caribbean food chain in the city. Excited about your potential trip, later that night you watch mostly TV shows on the tropics. The next day, your social media feed contains flight, hotel and tour ads with deals to Barbados. Essentially, this is how data is gathered from your smart devices and then advertisers grab the opportunity to target you.”

Surely by now you’re asking, ‘Is all this legal?’ It absolutely is. Remember those terms and conditions you accepted without reading? This is where you’re agreeing to let companies share your data with third parties. Even with new laws that try to protect people’s information, tech firms are constantly looking to push the boundaries of data gathering and algorithm design in ways that can feel invasive.

There is a way to control what Google hears. Since it’s reliant on voice-activation when it hears the phrase ‘Hey Google’, disabling its access to your microphone would put a stop to the app listening and recording your voice. Tech website komando.com states that Google introduced a new My Account tool that lets you access your recordings and delete them if you want. You can also ask Google to permanently stop recording your voice.

Here’s how to turn off the "OK Google" wake phrase: On Android, just go to Settings >> Google >> Search >> Voice and turn “OK Google” detection off.

There is also a way to disable Facebook's access to your microphone. For Android users, go to Settings >> Applications >>Application Manager >> Facebook >> Permissions >> and then turn off the mic. Disabling this will affect how you use the app itself as some of its features will not be available, such as Live Video.

To be fair, these tech firms listen to your conversations to train their AI to be better at understanding you and delivering accurate results. It also streamlines their advertising campaigns to deliver online ads that are relevant to you. The problem is that they haven’t been entirely honest or forthcoming about how these technologies work, which has understandably angered a lot of people. However, if targeted ads and an accurate AI are not important to you, a simple fix is to just shut off these services as described above, or you could just watch what you say in the vicinity of your smartphone!

TECH NEWS

previous
We Grow South Africa unlocks the door to nationwide education

With a predicted school drop-out rate of 60%, the value of online learning is indisputable, and it’s only proven itself even more so in 2020. As we ride the waves of uncertainty and race even faster towards a self-empowered, technology-fuelled future, we can look to online learning platforms as anchors of investment in ourselves, our communities, businesses and society at large. Studying courses and obtaining certifications online has allowed so manymore people access to education, simply because they can now learn on their own terms, in their own time, in their own space; and the content options available grows every day. Career switches and advances are more available than ever before, with anything from short skills photography courses to business management to technology coding, all available online with a click of a keypad. ‘Growth’ is the keyword, and no one gets this better than We Grow South Africa - a community dedicated to broadening access to online education. We Grow South Africa is a virtual campus of exclusively discounted e-learning deals for over 2500 (and counting) online courses, from top tertiary institutes. We Grow South Africa multiplies accessibility to education by providingunbeatable discounted deals to millions of people across the country - for adults, children and everyone in between. This community of techo-neers put enrichment at the heart of everything they do, and spread the joy of online learning exponentially through two key areas: · Affordability - creating exclusive, matchless discounts on online courses. · Partnership - partnering with banks, telecoms and big retail brands to bring online courses closer to home, at discounted prices, through retail channels such as Mondo. We Grow SA’s virtual campus is a one-stop community of affordable online learning for adults and kids of all ages. We Grow SA is a community-driven platform, enabling an option that allows you to share your voucher code with a loved one or colleague so they can access courses too. Mondo is excited to partner with We Grow South Africa to make this amazing platform even more accessible by offering free We Grow SA vouchers on select Vodacom deals, which you can find right here.

Read More...

Huawei Y7p 2020 – Best Budget Phone of the Year?

The Huawei Y7p is positioned at the top of the entry-level smartphone category. It’s a great budget option for gamers and social media users thanks to solid hardware accompanied by an optimised software platform and premium-looking design. OPERATING SYSTEM The Y7p runs on Android-based EMUI 9.1 and offers Huawei Mobile Services (HMS) in place of the standard Google Play Services, which means no native Google apps. DISPLAY The Huawei Y7p sports a 6.39-inch display with a resolution of 720 x 1560. Unfortunately, it is not a full HD screen, but still gives you a sufficiently crisp, clear experience for photos, video and apps. HARDWARE It has an Octa-Core processor with the Kirin 710F chipset. Unfortunately, this device isn’t water-resistant but does offer a rear-mounted fingerprint scanning sensor. BATTERY AND CHARGING The device does not feature wireless charging but the Huawei Y7p takes around 120-130 minutes to reach a full charge. The battery life is reasonable, offering a day with average use. CAMERAS The Y7p has a triple-camera set up on the rear and a hole-punch front-facing camera in the top left corner of the device. The system employs a 48MP main sensor, combined with an 8MP ultra-wide sensor and a 2MP depth camera, while the selfie camera is an 8MP lens. Video recording is 1080p@30fps for both the selfie camera and rear cameras. STORAGE AND SPACE The device ships with 64GB of internal capacity, which can be expanded to 512GB with a microSD card. COMPARISON Overall, it is an improvement on its 2019 predecessor as the 2020 Huawei Y7p comes with more storage, better cameras and a larger screen. VERDICT Although it is technically an entry-level smartphone, the processor doesn’t disappoint as there is no lag when playing simple games or using popular apps for messaging or social media. Battery life is better than other devices in this category, and the overall design gives it a premium look that will definitely grab attention. However, there are better smartphones out there in the mid-range category if you are willing to spend a little more, so it all comes down to affordability. RELEASE DATE The Huawei Y7p is already available in South Africa and can be yours by clicking here.

Read More...

Huawei P30 Lite 2020 – King of the Mid-Range Camera Phones!

Huawei is known for making incredible flagship smartphones, but where they really shine is giving their mid-range customer base access to the same awesome experience with their “lite” versions of these devices. The Huawei P30 lite, just like previous generations, is a budget version of the popular Huawei P30 and P30 Pro, and it delivers a lot of bang for your buck. OPERATING SYSTEM The P30 lite runs Android 9.0 (Pie) but will likely be updated to the latest Android OS with the EMUI 10 skin. DISPLAY The Huawei P30 lite sports a crisp 6.5-inch IPS LCD with 1080 x 2400 pixels resolution. HARDWARE Under the hood, you get an Octa-Core processor witha Kirin 710 (12 nm) chipset. The device does not feature dust or waterproofing, so we wouldn’t recommend taking it with you to the beach. BATTERY AND CHARGING Wireless charging isn’t supported but fast charging is, taking roughly 105 minutes for a full charge. On average, the battery should last you about two days, but that is dependent on the use. CAMERAS The Huawei P30 lite sports a triple-lens rear camera and a punch-hole selfie camera. The rear cameras are made up of a 48 MP (wide-angle lens, f/1.8 aperture) + 8 MP (ultra-wide-angle Lens) + 2 MP (Bokeh lens) cameras with autofocus. The front-facing camera is a single 32 MP shooter. The rear-camera and front cameras can shoot videos at up to 1080p at 30fps. STORAGE AND SPACE The phone comes standard with 128 GB of storage space with microSD expansion of up to 512GB (depending on model). COMPARISON Huawei couldn’t change too much with the P30 lite 2020 as it needed to remain close to last year’s version. However, there are considerable improvements with particular features that make it a value-for-money option, such as an increase in battery capacity, RAM and several other features. VERDICT This is a solid update from Huawei with great design and performance, especially for photography enthusiasts who don’t want to break the bank on the flagship versions of the P30 or P30 Pro. RELEASE DATE The Huawei P30 Lite 2020 is available right now by clicking here.

Read More...

next