Digital Surveillance in age of FAGMA- Part 3: Devices and your Privacy

So, as consumers participating in a capitalist society, our economy currently depends on our continuous purchase of stuff- the internet of things.

How many of our things currently link up to the internet?  Over 25 Billion in 2019! And when I say things, I mean everything. Cars, phones, computers, lamps, toasters, sex toys, televisionsrefrigerators, as well as services. Your ISP, your utilities, practically anything that uses electricity or generates it is capable of spying on you if it can be hooked up to the internet.

So what are your choices?

1) Turn back the clock to before the internet was invented.

Make sure everything you buy is not "smart." Drive a car that is more than 10 years old. Don't use the internet. Throw away your smartphone. Write letters rather than send emails. If you want a book to read, go to the library or buy one. Talk to people face to face. Walk to the store and shop but don't collect loyalty points. Even if you generate electricity yourself, don't hook it up to the internet.

While I like Cher's "If I Could Turn Back Time." I expect that for most of us, we can't do option 1.

2) Be smart about technology and how you use it.

Secure your computer and your phone. This includes using an operating system like Linux, using Mozilla Firefox instead of Chrome/Google for searching, using an anti-malware and anti-virus software. If you want to be extra safe, install a VPN for your computer and your phone so your ISP can't be tracked.

If you are downloading software or apps, read the privacy policy attached to it. Make sure it is easy to remove from your computer or phone. Apple is now talking about building their new phone with privacy at the forefront. Just remember though, a company may say they want to protect your privacy, but fail at doing it. 

When buying "smart" stuff, assume that it is going to automatically violate your privacy. It has been designed to do so. It is why it is often cheaper than you would expect. If you can, try not to buy "smart" items. If you want to maintain your privacy, know how to turn off the tracking on your television, refrigerator and cars. Some tracking technology, found in new vehicles or the factory installed browser on your new computer may never be able to be fully removed.

When you do shop don't give the store your email or your postal code. A postal code can give a business a huge amount of information.

3) A blend of solution 1 & 2. Digital detox is now a thing. Maybe we need to try to re-balance our lives by limiting our dependence on smart machines and other technology. This has the benefit of not paying money for things we don't need, protecting our privacy and actually reconnecting with people. Just a thought.