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Tuesday, 11 April 2017 08:06

How to prevent spying at home through the TV, speakers or the 'webcam'

The arrival in our lives of virtual assistants has turned many of the devices that surround us into habitual suspects of espionage. Not in vain, collect personal information at all times and remain listening constantly waiting for the order to get them started.

However, not only the virtual butlers integrated in modern loudspeakers or mobile phones threaten the privacy of the users. With the internet of things, multitude of sensors surround us in the day to day arranged in devices that go from the television to the refrigerator. Not to mention the classics, such as the dangerous 'webcam' of laptops or their microphone.

For all those who are jealous of their privacy and who prefer to be prudent when enjoying the alleged advantages of these and other smart devices, it is still possible to prevent households from becoming a branch of the dreaded Big Brother.

What you sign

They can be long and written in a language that is difficult to understand, but a little research into the terms and conditions of certain services can be of vital importance in finding out what personal data they collect and what they are used for. Without going any further, Google clarifies in the frequent doubts of his Home that the device hears an indeterminate amount of seconds in search of the popular "Ok, Google" and saves them in the own device.

However, in order to avoid this impotent effort of reading legal texts, it is advisable to use platforms such as Terms of Service; Did not Read. This initiative offers an extension for browsers able to classify the texts of terms and conditions of an endless number of services from Class A to Class E, depending on how abusive they are.

In addition, it summarizes the most controversial points and adds to each web a label following the chromatic range of the traffic lights to warn of a visual form of the perils of each service. Thus, any user who does not feel comfortable with any of the points of the contract that will sign, could decide not to do so. Surely it is possible to live without that smart refrigerator that makes us buy.

Delete tracks

In case you have already accepted, some of those services and devices that act as spies can be configured to stop playing James Bond or at least remove from your privileged memory the data they have stored over our lives .

This is what happens in the case of any device in the Google family. Whether it's an Android smartphone, a Chromecast or even a Google Home, much of the information collected on the device appears on the page of your activity. While this website is a kind of gallery of horrors that shows what you do with your mobile, what applications you use with your Chromecast and even what your voice is, it is also possible to delete all that data (which Google says only you can See, but that they also keep) and, in addition, you can ask that they stop to register some.

Thus, Google can stop storing your YouTube searches or, more importantly, your voice, something that the company keeps in mind to improve its recognition system. If you prefer that those in Mountain View do not have something so personal, turn it off here. The same applies to the Amazon Echo: the user profile gives access to the deletion of all the data that the wizard has stored. In addition, the physical device has a button with which it is possible to deactivate the constant listening of the device, always looking for a command that orders some action.

With other devices, such as the computer, plugging the camera or the microphone can prevent the company owning some software (or some cybercrime) is cuele in the very room where we sleep. However, the most reliable method to prevent a technological device from sending private information to a company is to deprive it of the internet connection. While in most cases this is not possible (or is, as it is, absurd), in some situations it is useful: if you have a smart TV and a Chromecast or Apple TV, disconnect the TV itself from the network Wifi and access the internet from any of your accessories.

A secure network

Another way to protect as much as possible our privacy while we enjoy the advantages of these devices is to make them connected to the internet in such a way that some of your personal data will not travel. To do this, it would be enough to use a router that has its own VPN, which would mask enough information about our habits and location to enjoy some privacy: all data would be transmitted in encrypted form.

Nevertheless, the 'firewall' of some routers already allows to establish certain restrictions to those devices of the Internet of the things that do not stop in its attempt to send personal data. Simply configure the router for this and, of course, keep the firewall as up to date as possible for maximum protection.

As if this were not enough, some specific 'firewalls' have been put on the market, precisely, to put you in the field called the internet of things. This is the case of Cujo, a small device that offers a 'firewall' designed for all connected devices that allows them to protect against cyber attacks.

Your data may go to the company that offers you a service, but what less than to prevent that intimate information ends up in the hands of a cybercrime.

Digital Newspaper El Confidencial