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
iPhone 13 is All About the Cameras!

The iPhone 13 range recently launched and boasts what might be the most advanced camera system in Apple history!The new generation is made up of the premium iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max as well as the more affordable iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 mini.The 13 range is powered by the A15 Bionic chip, which unlocks impressive new camera capabilities for iPhone users. What’s more, all four models have larger sensors with integrated sensor-shift stabilisation technology that boosts both the image and video quality.Unprecedented Camera Quality for The Pro RangeThe iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max are equipped with the same camera technology and have upgraded sensors and lenses for professional-quality photos. Like the 12, the Pro range boasts a triple-camera setup. Where it sets itself apart though, is the new 12 MP ultra-wide, 12 MP wide and 12 MP telephoto cameras, which all make for an exceptional shooting experience.More features you’ll love:●    The 1.9-micron pixels sensor – the largest ever used in an iPhone – creates more detailed photos.●    A wider f/1.5 aperture for improved low-light images. Apple claims this feature offers 2.2x better performance than the 12 Pro!●    The new and improved 77mm telephoto camera which allows you to get even closer to your subject while video-recording.  Affordable Gets an UpgradeMuch like the iPhone 12, the iPhone 13 and the iPhone 13 Mini are fitted with the same dual-camera set-up but there are some major improvements! The upgrade from a Smart HDR 3 to Smart HDR 4 provides superior camera quality for both the front and back lenses while the 1.7-micron pixels in the wide camera makes for brighter and richer photographs by allowing 47% more light in than the iPhone 12.Cool Camera Features Across All ModelsCinematic mode helps turn an image or video into a more dynamic and professional one. The upgraded lenses intuitively monitor what’s happening in the frame and allows you to change focus to get the perfect shot!4K Video Quality enables you to record 4K HDR Dolby Vision at 60 fps – yet another upgrade from the 30fps on the iPhone 12 models.Photographic Styles offers new live filters and allows you to adjust images while you’re composing your shot, allowing you to see your results and amend your image before hitting the shutter button.Exclusively Reserved for The ProMacro Photography is a first for the iPhone and is made possible by the new ultra-wide camera that enables you to capture close-up images and explore the smallest details. The minimum focal range is 2cm away from the lens. The feature is also available for video recording on Slo-Mo and Time-Lapse.The Pros come fitted with ProRes Video, high-quality filmmaking software for those who are serious about their craft. The video quality reaches a maximum of 4K at 30fps and you can record and output the format directly from your device.Get your hands on the new iPhone 13 range today and experience the phenomenal camera quality and more, here.

Read More...

Top 5 iOS 15 Features

iOS 15 recently launched in September 2021, and while there are a host of amazing new features, there are a few that make the Apple experience that much more special. Here are the top 5 features that takes this OS to the next level.1.    Facetime for everyone:Watch parties have never been this cool! With iOS 15, users can now stream movies and series while on a Facetime call! This feature adjusts the volume to the environment automatically so that conversations can still flow while you sit back and enjoy the show.Distance is no match for iOS 15. Now it’s like your loved ones are right there on the couch with you!2.    Map out your destination:Augmented reality directions? Yes please! With the new OS, it’s all in the detail. Get up-to-date info about your route if you’re driving or, if you prefer taking a more scenic route, try the “Immersive Walking Instructions” which provide an in-depth step-by-step augmented reality view of your destination.3.    Putting the “Me” in Memoji:Even your personalised stickers are getting an update with this new OS upgrade from Apple. With iOS 15, users now have the best feature – choice.There are now more options at your disposal to really personalise your character – from a new wardrobe to cochlear ear implants and oxygen tubes. This version of iOS is providing the inclusivity you’ve been waiting for.4.    Privacy for the win:  Kiss spam goodbye with the “Hide My Email” feature. This gives you the ability to “instantly generate unique, random email addresses that forward to your personal inbox”. Where do we sign up?  Hide My Email has been built into the Mail, Safari, and iCloud Settings for added efficiency.5.    The Picture-perfect way to get going:  One of the most impressive features of iOS 15 has to be “Live Text”. This lets you highlight text in photos (and video!) and use the information to make calls, send messages, get directions and even Facetime!With so many cool new features packed into Apple’s iOS 15, isn’t it time you go all in on iPhone?Check out all our amazing Apple iPhone deals here.

Read More...

WhatsApp Ending Support for Older Phones: Are You Affected?

From 1st November 2021, WhatsApp will no longer work on over 40 smartphone models.2021 has been a rollercoaster ride for WhatsApp users. While a host of helpful additions have been made on the instant messenger app, including the ability to access WhatsApp across several devices at the same time and the ever-popular disappearing messages, this latest update is not as positive.Any device sporting Apple iOS 10, Android OS 4.1 and KaiOS 2.5.1. will be affected.What this means for youIf you have a device with these operating systems or lower, it’s time for an upgrade.Here is the full list of affected smartphones that will no longer be WhatsApp compatible come November:Apple iPhone:iPhone SE (2016)iPhone 6siPhone 6s PlusAndroid:Huawei Ascend G740Huawei Ascend MateHuawei Ascend D Quad XLHuawei Ascend D1 Quad XLHuawei Ascend P1 SHuawei Ascend D2Samsung Galaxy Trend LiteSamsung Galaxy Trend IISamsung Galaxy SIISamsung Galaxy S3 miniSamsung Galaxy Xcover 2Samsung Galaxy CoreSamsung Galaxy Ace 2 16Other Affected Brands:The Alcatel One Touch Evo 7Archos 53 PlatinumCaterpillar Cat B15HTC Desire 500Faea F1LG Lucid 2LG Optimus F7LG Optimus F5LG Optimus L3 II DualLG Optimus F5LG Optimus L5LG Optimus L5 IILG Optimus L5 DualLG Optimus L3 IILG Optimus L7LG Optimus L7 II DualLG Optimus L7 IILG Optimus F6 EnactLG Optimus L4 II DualLG Optimus F3LG Optimus L4 IILG Optimus L2 IILG Optimus Nitro HDLG Optimus F3QLG 4X HDLenovo A820The Sony Xperia MiroSony Xperia Neo LSony Xperia Arc STHL W8UMi X2Wiko Cink FiveWiko DarknightZTE Grand S FlexZTE V956ZTE Grand X Quad V987ZTE Grand MemoHow to check your Operating SystemApple:Access your device settingsTap the General buttonSelect AboutAll details related to your Apple iPhone smartphone, including your device name and OS version will be detailed here.Android:Go to your device settings.Tap the System or About Phone /Device button.All details related to your Android smartphone, including your device name and OS version will be detailed here.Need to upgrade?Find your new smartphone here.

Read More...

next