James Walker: Put digital spies on our lives in their place

Poor Alexa: she keeps being dumped after a short relationship. More and more people are snubbing Siri too. Resolver is starting to hear from increasing numbers of people who are falling out of love with the automated assistant sat in their living rooms or pockets, listening in. People regularly tell me that a conversation they had with a friend resulted in targeted advertising on Facebook, or Google – and they don’t like it.

Alexa has the power to tune into conversations. Picture: Grant Hindsley/Getty

Here are a few tips to help you trust your tech.

Turn off the mic

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Most phones are sold with the microphone enabled but you can turn it off if you’re worried about who’s listening in. All the info will be in the settings. If in doubt, a search online will give you all the info you need in seconds.

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There are a ton of online suggestions for turning off Alexa’s mic and cameras online. Bear in mind that updates to software often mean that you have to update your privacy. So if the spy in the living room can listen in or watch, assume that it is doing so and disable those features if you have privacy concerns.

Question the big tech companies

Why does Google need to know where you are when you’ve searched for something on your phone? What does Apple want with those reports it keeps nagging you to send? Wanna do a Facebook quiz? Be suspicious, don’t click yes on requests for information and lock down your privacy and advertising settings on all these sites.

Facial recognition

The recent craze for the ageing/gender swapping photo apps revealed a wider truth to people. These apps aren’t just there for the lols. They’re stealthily improving their facial recognition software. Don’t download or use the apps, and also make it clear to your friends and family that you don’t want them to use them on pictures of you too.

Children’s toys

There’s a bumper batch of children’s toys that form part of the “internet of things” – an increasingly popular phrase covering things that connect to the internet. These can seem like great fun or an entertaining novelty. But bear in mind that opening the door to the internet means a risk of people exploiting the link. So before you connect up, read the instructions, check with parents’ websites online and don’t leave your child unattended with internet-connected toys unless you’re sure they’re secure.

Watch your wifi

Make sure your home wifi is secured so no-one else can see it or use it. You might have thought it was cute to put “Ted and Suz” years ago when you set it up, but lock it down now. Change the default password too. Remember when you find a wifi spot for that “on the go” working or chatting vibe that most external networks are not secured.

Create a guest network

Worried about your fridge freaking out? What if the toaster has a tantrum? You can set up a guest network for all your connected devices, so if they do get hacked, they aren’t linked to the main network. There are loads of online tips to help you do this.

And if you think your data has been misused, Resolver can help.