Most of what you type, say, search and buy is being tracked in one way or another. Big Tech gives us great free products to use, and the price is our privacy.
Even your TV habits are packaged up and sold to advertisers. Here’s how to stop your TV from spying on you.
Some snooping is even more invasive. Worried someone is spying on your phone? Check this list of red flags.
You can fight back. You can buy a mic blocker for around $10. It slides into your headphone port to stop recording. For an even cheaper do-it-yourself option, buy the most inexpensive pair of headphones you can find and snip them off.
Here’s how to limit what you’re handing over to Big Tech:
Whenever I write that your Echo device is always listening, Amazon assures me it’s only listening for the “wake word.” I don’t see the difference here. Either way, if you have an Echo, there’s not much point in keeping it around if you turn off the microphone.
The real issue is Amazon employees listening to your recordings. Here’s how to stop that:
• Open the Alexa app on your phone, then tap the More menu button.
• Select Settings > Alexa Privacy.
• Choose Manage Your Alexa Data.
• Turn off the toggles next to “Help improve Alexa” and “Use messages to improve transcriptions.”
You can turn the Echo’s mic off for extra privacy in certain situations. Press the microphone’s off/on button at the top of the device. Whenever this button is red, the mic is off. To reactivate it, press the button again, and it will turn blue.
Ugh, come on, Alexa. Read our list of the most annoying Echo issues solved.
Do you rely on Siri to get things done for you? You might not realize how much is being sent back to Apple’s servers.
Since you can’t really pick and choose what is shipped off and stored, your best bet is shutting down Siri if you’re not comfortable with Apple having your recordings.
• Open the Settings app on your iPhone.
• Scroll down and tap Siri & Search.
• Toggle the green switch next to “Listen for ‘Hey Siri’” to the off position.
• You can also turn off “Allow Siri When Locked” to prevent Siri from activating when a button is pressed in your pocket.
Use an Android? Here’s how to turn off the “OK Google” wake phrase:
• Open the Google app on your phone.
• Tap your profile picture in the upper-right corner.
• Choose Settings > Google Assistant > General.
• Slide the toggle next to Google Assistant to the left to turn it off.
Your apps might be listening too. Go here for steps to see which apps and snooping and how to stop them.
Are you worried about someone spying on you through your webcam? That’s easy: Grab a cheap cover or put a Post-It over the lens if you don’t use it much.
Unfortunately, you do have to root around your computer a bit to turn off mics.
For PCs running Windows 10:
• Right-click on the Start button and open Device Manager.
• In the Device Manager window, expand the audio inputs and outputs section, and you will see your microphone listed as one of the interfaces.
• Right-click on Microphone and select Disable.
On a Mac:
• Click the Apple menu > System Preferences…
• Select Sound > then the Input tab.
• Drag the Input volume slider to the left so it can’t pick up any sound.
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The views and opinions expressed in this column are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect those of USA TODAY.
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