How Orange Sunglasses Improve Sleep – For You, Kids and Teens!

orange glasses fight blue light from computers for great sleep

Teen Anxiety and Depression is Linked to Cell Phones

A study in the Journal of Childhood Development that came out Summer 2017 has made the connection and the study really focuses on night use of screens.

This makes sense to us at SaferTech–and not just because the kids are actively texting, going on social media and not getting to bed–but because of the screens themselves.

Not just because you’re texting or reading—but because of the wavelengths of blue light they’re emitting.

Night-Time Screen Use Isn’t Just For Teens . . . Right?

This blue light actually can suppress production of the sleep-regulating hormone melatonin. You might ask, well, doesn’t the TV have the same blue light? Well, yes it does, but Dr.’s feel the effect is more pronounced because we hold our devices so close to our faces and step up the exposure. Bright blue light can also affect our circadian rhythms, our internal clock—something that’s being talked about a lot lately as a really important key to our health and well-being. Turns out that bright lights in the evening hours can throw off your body clock, confusing your brain into thinking it’s still daytime.

The best way to avoid the blue light from suppressing your melatonin production or changing your circadian rhythms is to cut back on using your phones, computers or iPads at night. The National Sleep Foundation Recommends powering down all devices 2 hours before bed OR you can try wearing these blue-blocking orange glasses when it gets dark.

And The Studies Say . . .

There’s been a couple of studies done about the efficacy of wearing them. One study(see Research tab below)  from 2014 shows that teenagers who wore orange tinted glasses a few hours before sleep were significantly sleepier when they wore the glasses.

We’ve been using them around the office (after 4pm is the best time to start) and lots of people on the team tell me that their eyes simply feel more relaxed as they look at computer screens.  I should mention, blue light stimulates your brain–which is a good thing in the morning and afternoon.  The real issue here is to avoid the blue light in the evening and at night!

cheep orange blue blocking light from computer glassesLack of melatonin has been linked to sleep problems, inflammation, immune function, and even cancer.

I offer these on SaferTech.com. If you want to try the orange glasses, make sure you’re getting glasses that have been tested for their blue blocking abilities and one more thing: Leaving these devices on at night while you’re asleep can add to the problem. Some research has shown that our eyes can detect blue light even through closed eyelids, resulting in suppression of melatonin production. So don’t leave them on in your bedroom, turn them off or leave them somewhere else.

Blue Light Cell Connection

Also, when you turn on a light at night, you immediately send your brain misinformation about the light-dark cycle. The only thing your brain interprets light to be is day. Believing daytime has arrived, your biological clock instructs your pineal gland to immediately cease its production of melatonin.

Whether you have the light on for an hour or for just a second, the effect is the same — and your melatonin pump doesn’t turn back on when you flip the light back off.

When you turn on a light at night, you immediately send your brain misinformation about the light-dark

So, make sure your orange glasses work!  Try mine here!

Research links are below!

xox August

Netflix’s Black Mirror: The Science Fiction is Reality! Part 3

black mirror blue science fiction becoming fact

Barely Fiction

So many people LOVE the Black Mirror!   The critically-acclaimed and internationally-adored Netflix original series Black Mirror studies the “what-ifs’ of advancing tech, and features science fiction that isfast becoming more factual than it is futuristic.

Case in point: Last week, we told you about the episode “Shut up and Dance”, featuring a teen webcam hacking/extortion victim.  Honestly, hacking is scary-real–which is why Safertech developed Creep Blockers.

Black Mirror’s tech paranoia vibe goes deep… personally, I can’t and don’t watch negativity.  My belief is Garbage In- Garbage Out so I purposefully surround myself and subject my senses to positive messages and media.  BUT,  so many friends asked us if we’ve seen the Black Mirror that we felt Safertech should weigh in.  If you love the show–you’ll find the real-life connections we’ve discovered, super interesting!

Below we connect the futuristic tech featured on the show to real-world-happening-NOW tech.

Familiar War Games: Men Against Fire

The “Men Against Fire” episodes illustrates military technology that alters what soldiers can see, smell, and hear to make the atrocities of war more bearable. This is kind of like the drone technology our military already has today, which takes the soldier out of horrors of the war zone altogether. Some people feel this is unethical, inhuman and too much like a video game, as drone operators can vaporize the enemy from thousands of miles away by the push of the button. Others say it’s efficient warfare that minimizes the number of PTSD cases and keeps soldiers close to home.

Speaking of drone technology, the “Hated in the Nation” episode features sci-fi homicidal bee-like drones that go after targets of social media hate campaigns who’ve committed egregious acts (think: Casey Anthony or Anthony Weiner). This episode drives home the mob mentality of social media in “trial by media” cases.  These “bees” go about murdering the outcasts one by one, injecting their tiny robot bodies in the skulls of their victims.

Incredibly, these tiny hovering robots drones actually exist in real life! Well, sort of. A Georgia college student has invented a bee-drone prototype that can mimic pollination, as the vitally important insect population is dwindling. (1)

Advertising Advances: Merits

The “Merits” episode features a civilization that consumes media, mostly audacious & dehumanizing reality TV a la The Bachelor.  Watchers pay for media with digital currency they earn through cycling, powering the world around them. Everyday activities are always being interrupted by ads that cannot be ignored nor skipped- except for by the main character, who has earned enough “merits” or digital currency.

This makes us ponder how much intelligent advertising has evolved so much in such a short amount of time! Marketing is getting more and more pervasive; There aren’t too many people out there who haven’t noticed how creepy and informed your personal Facebook ads are…almost like your computer/phone is listening to you. (plot twist: It is!)

Just recently, I marveled when I went to move my cursor to leave a website when a roll-over ad to sign up for email flashed at me.  Another time, I was playing around with an app on my phone when it offered me extra pretty filters – if only I watched three short commercials. Often, advertisers now let you choose which commercials you want to watch, and eye-tracking software is going in some creepy places!

Social Media Rules: Nosedive

Taking a nod from both ridesharing/food delivery services & social media ranking, “Nosedive” features a world where social status and privilege is dictated by the ratings people give each other that appears above their heads. In this episode though,  the main character becomes derailed as her ratings fall. For instance, she loses her bridesmaid’s privilege of giving a speech at her best friend’s wedding. As the character starts losing more privileges, furthering her into coalescing, destructive tailspin.

Well, social media is pretty much already like that, no? It’s maddening how much of social media is a numbers game combined with a ton of smoke & mirrors, all to give the illusion of beauty & success. Our number of followers on Instagram and Twitter means more and more, and can dictate so much of a brand or individual’s worth, pay and opportunity.

To take it a step further, China is trying out a system where “social trust” is rated, allowing or prohibiting opportunity. For instance, if you have too many speeding tickets or have defaulted on personal loans, it may make it harder for you to get certain social services. (2)

Digital Memories: Be Right Back

But perhaps the creepiest episode of all is called “Be Right Back”. This episode which features a woman who finds a service that provides a digital replacement of her dead boyfriend by studying his social media, photos, and videos. First, she just talks with him on the phone, but soon she is living with him,  in the form of fleshy robot-humanoid. Yikes.

Not to that extent, but a kind of legacy preservation service actually already exists! If you happen to pass on, these services basically cull all of your social media and electronic records to replicate your essence and send your loved ones email from “you.” Kind of touching and creepy at the same time.

Similarly, I was recently watching an episode of Morgan Freeman’s Story of God that featured tech empress Martine Rothblatt, CEO of United Therapeutics Corp. She’s is one of the most successful tech bosses ever and she has actually commissioned a robotic mannequin of her beloved wife, Bina (who is still alive, by the way!)(3)

Martine & Bina are the founders of Terasem, a religion that promotes “digital cloning”. Hundreds and hundreds of hours of conversation with real-life Bina were recorded to simulate a “mind file” to create Bina’s robotic talking head. You’d have to see it to believe it.

The Safertech takeaway

Well, that concludes our Safertech/Black Mirror series. We hope it made you think about the present state of affairs in tech, and inspired you to be mindful about not letting our devices take over our lives. The best moments in life are cherishing each other, not staring mindlessly into the “black mirror” abyss of our gadgets.

We can’t wait to see more tech predictions season 4 brings, and we will keep you posted. Stay safe out there in our wireless world!

XO August

 

Black Mirror and the Safertech Solution: Part 2

black mirror lessons online solution

Black Mirror Magic

The science fiction show Netflix Original show, “Black Mirror”has proved to be eerily predictive and lately, it’s been no different. Surveillance has sure been in the media lately (#wiretapping, anyone?) Last week in our series, we outlined the first lesson from Black Mirror taught us about tech : Cover your webcam and protect your privacy!

Social Media in Our Connected World

This week, we are looking at a new kind of surveillance that Black Mirror lectures us about: the judgement of our peers aka “trial by media”. The murder mystery episode, “Hated in the Nation” follows a pair of detectives trying to solve the inexplicable deaths of people who were all the target of social media hate. The victims all had been in limelight or news headlines for doing deplorable things, for sure.  However, as the social media storm is gathering, a hashtag “#deathto” shows up on their Twitter and that means they will soon show up dead.

It takes a little while to figure out what is going on (*spoiler alert*) but the homicides are found to be carried out with bee-like drones that are discovered post-mortem. As usual, there is a great twist to find out who pays the final price – the hate campaign targets, the crowd cheering it on, or the murderer themselves?

The Safertech Solution

The lesson here is: be careful what you do online; It may come back to haunt you. Mass social media has shown us that there is a sort of hive mind when it comes to bad deeds, and people love to gang up and crucify those who stray from social norms. Everything we do online is permanent and cannot truly be deleted. This became especially true when it comes to taking screenshots aka “getting receipts”, as kids say. It’s sad that your privacy is so compromised, but you must conduct yourself in a way that someone might be watching. This is especially true at work.

Do you remember that news story of an Human Resources female exec, Justine Sacco, who committed professional suicide with a single social media post? Basically, she tweeted “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!” That foolish young woman was literally fired and internationally hated before her plane even landed. Please learn from her mistakes. Think before you speak and stay off your devices if you’ve drinking! Protect your livelihood. Scan your social media as if it was boss looking at it, or make your account private altogether. Review your workplace handbook to find out exactly what is expected of you in terms of company policy for social media.

Stay safe out there in our wireless world!

XO August

Oh my! Wikileaks trove shows CIA can hack just about anything!!

wikileaks CIA hacking spy

Spying – like never before

Remember when Edward Snowden proved that the government can spy on you through your webcam? Well, today Wikileaks alleges to prove that’s not all they can do! Wikileaks released thousands upon thousands of documents demonstrating the advanced software and tools used to hack all smartphones, smartTVs and all computer operating systems – perhaps even cars.

For example, the documents outline how the agency can take a TV and turn it into listening device – even when the TV is shut off! Not only that, but the documents (collectively referred to as “Vault 7”) are claimed to be able to bypass encryption and intercept data on messaging apps like WhatsApp and Signal – BEFORE encryption tech is applied.

Politics and Hacking

Hacking has been at the center of this legal and forensic battle, with President Trump (who has a purported tie to Russia) mocking the CIA for its alleged ineptitude. If you recall, during the Trump’s election, Trump praised Wikileaks for releasing his competitor, Hilary Clinton’s private emails.

Wikileaks, of course, is the anti-privacy group that has been accused of putting the public at risk by leaking sensitive, classified intelligence. However, Wikileaks accuses the agencies like CIA of using their technology for public oversight on private citizens, instead of fighting foreign espionage. Edward Snowden himself says these accusations appear to be factual and prove that the government actively has a hand in keeping our devices insecure to allow “reckless” spying.

To combat these technology, Safertech encourages you to use encryption whenever possible, use secure browsers, avoid IoT devices like virtual assistants Siri, Cortana, Alexa and Google Home and cover your webcam and speakers – only CreepBlockers do both. 

Black Mirror: A solution to the Scary!

The Future is Already Here

Ever since our CreepBlockers privacy decals debuted in September, people keep talking to us about the Netflix series, Black Mirror. Every episode features an entirely new cast each time, with an independent story line and reality so you don’t have to watch episodes concurrently. Both Safertech and Black Mirror examine the pervasive obsession with our tech devices, where the show derives its name:

 … The ‘black mirror’ of the title is the one you’ll find on every wall, on every desk, in the palm of every hand: the cold, shiny screen of a TV, a monitor, a smartphone. Charlie Brooker explained the series’ title to The Guardian: “If technology is a drug – and it does feel like a drug – then what, precisely, are the side effects?”

via Wikipedia

The Connected World Takes Over

What’s neat about this dark series is that Black Mirror is the sort of thriller-horror show where Steven King meets Ray Bradbury meets the Twilight Zone.  In every episode, the central character is living in a futuristic nightmare where ever-advancing technology has unintended outcomes. However the more you watch, the more you realize technology is horrifying – yes – but it’s also realistic and all-too-plausible. Here is the first of five times Black Mirror gets hits too close to home. Spoiler alerts ahead!

Desperate for some Creep Blocking!

“Shut up and Dance” is the episode where the main character could have really used a CreepBlocker on his webcam! We meet a gangly teen pictured doing something intimate alone on camera, only to receive a threatening message that someone was watching and recording his private act on camera. The instructions tells him to immediately run an errand in a parking garage if he doesn’t want to be exposed, where he meets another frenzied victim of this extortion scam. Via text message, he keeps being directed to complete tasks all while meeting victims.   Each victim,  has something they are desperate to hide. The errands get more and more insane (like robbing a bank)

At this frenzied, stressful pace, you’re left wondering why he just doesn’t expose himself doing a typical thing teenage boys do in private…until the twist is revealed and you find out our teen has way more to hide. Incredible, jaw-dropping turn of events.

Safertech Black Mirror Solution

Our lives with technology do not have to be this scary!  All we have to do is take simple steps to make sure we’re living mindfully in our connected world  We’re all about Solutions here at Safertech, so the one for today is KEEP THAT WEBCAM COVERED.

With the new iPhone X’s face ID feature, there is more opportunity for webcam hacking. With Creepblockers, we have a whole row of stickers that are PERFECTLY SIZED for the iPhone X! You can even keep the dot projector and infrared camera uncovered so the Face ID function still works.

You can watch and read all about mic and camera hacks here.

How to turn Windows 10’s nosy addition, Cortana, off – and why you want to

cortana privacy disable turn off

Your new PC may be more intrusive than ever

Windows 10 has gotten a horrible rap, and for good reason. The layout is really wacky and looks more like a phone operating system. Most settings are default “opt-in” instead of being opt-out and heavily slanted toward Bing, Microsoft’s preferred search engine. Like most privacy settings, virtual assistant Cortana can be limiting and seems tricky to turn off – because Microsoft doesn’t want you to!

The section “Getting to Know You”, along with “Send Microsoft info about how I write” features are the most problematic because – like most privacy settings – they’re very vague. There are auto-updates that you can’t opt out of and that can render your expensive laptop/desktop worthless for a small bit of time. However, here are some things you CAN opt out of without effecting your safety or user experience – and trust me, you’ll want to!

Siri’s Blaring Cousin

Cortana is an intelligent virtual assistant that stores and indexes your user information…but she has some really pervasive privacy issues. You can turn her off by pulling up the Start menu and beginning to type. Click the notebook symbol in the sidebar on the left and choose Settings > Turn off Cortana. You don’t need her! (Plus, she will wake up your whole house by unpredictably screaming at you to talk to her, from time to time) While you’re there, turn off “Search online and include web results” This gives you predictive results for your searches by collecting info and sending it back to Microsoft.

You would  think Cortana would be off by then, but you still have to go to Settings > Privacy > Speech, Inking, & Typing > Getting to Know You and select “Stop Getting to Know Me” to truly turn this nosy lady off your device – but to truly get the same info off the Cloud, you will have to go to the Bing interface and toggle off the prompt in “Manage Your Personal Information”

Other Privacy Considerations

  • Also in Privacy >General, turn off “Send Microsoft info about how I write”. The description is too general; it makes it sound it like this is for the handwriting tool, but (like a lot of privacy settings) it’s not clear.
  • Go to Settings app and head to Privacy > General and turn off “Let apps use my advertising ID”  This is really super scary to alot of us as Windows 10 generates a Personal ID for each individual.  If you allow this feature,  you’re allowing Windows 10 to create a personal file with your information.
  • In Privacy > General, you can turn off “Let websites provide locally relevant content” unless your native, preferred language is other than English.
  • Go to Settings > Privacy Location and turn off the individual settings for things that need your location but you probably only will check on your phone, like the weather.

 

Google Vault : Employees React to Digital Privacy Breach

Google Vault employees privacy boss employers employment rights work

Your Digital Privacy at work may be compromised!

Google Vault: Watch Exactly HOW it works HERE – It’s a digital privacy issue no one is talking about.  Is your company email, Gmail?  Have they upgraded to include Google Vault?  Well, You probably won’t know if they have…but if email privacy matters to you, you’re gonna wanna find out.

Here’s why: With Google Vault  . . .

Everything you type into Gmail – even Drafts can be saved.  When I say “Drafts”,  I’m not just referring to the ones you saved to your Drafts Folder.   Every iteration becomes a “draft’ or variant of that email and is saved to the Google Vault.

To be clear, its not just the email you click “send” on.  It’s everything you type to get to the click.  Typos, rethinks, anger, errors, backspaces, deleted words.  All of it.  Every single keystroke.

Who Can See This?

Every Google Vault has at least one Administrator, and it can be a number of people:  Your boss, the IT guy or another peer in the company. Essentially the Administrator has access and can search the Vault. And since everything can be searched, everything is discoverable in a court of law.

And that not only your privacy is on the line…so is your job – so protect yourself.   We showed our Safertech employees how to do it, too!  The Fix is at the end of this article.

Digital Privacy: My Google Vault Story

Like millions of businesses, we use Gmail. It’s best in class, with great encryption and spam filtering and search. When it comes to technology and privacy, Google has advanced and secure Cloud infrastructure.

Our IT guy a few months ago suggested we upgrade to Google Vault so that we could archive old emails indefinitely – as a business owner, I value the ability to save company data and communications. Lots of archiving systems can do that…

But Google Vault doesn’t just save emails, chats, Hangouts,  files (PDF, DOCX and JPG, Microsoft Word, Excel, Powerpoint) Google Earth and connected Gmail products…Recently, I accidentally discovered that with Gmail and the Google Vault  turned on – virtually everything an employee had typed, every iteration was saved – sometimes as many as 50 versions of one email!

A Peek Inside Your Not-So-Private Email

Let me show you a stunning screenshot of what I see when I search topic or name in Google Vault:

Google Vault

The Struggle is Real, Ladies and Gentlemen.

Being a bit of a digital privacy fanatic, I was compelled to demonstrate the inner workings of the Google Vault to my employees so we created a video demo. We watched as  keystrokes were typed while on or connected to the Gmail server were “vaulted”.  It was very unsettling to see that even when a “draft” was deleted from an employee’s draft folder, every word, mistake etc. stayed in the Google Vault.  Each iteration became a time-stamped “draft.” Working very much like a keystroke logger.

Google puts it this way: “Messages are available in the vault as soon as they are received by Gmail.”

If you’re getting a bit nervous here, I’ve included some helpful work-a-rounds at the end of this article, but stay with me for a moment.

Google Vault Employers View

Google Vault is part of what used to be called Google Apps, changed to G-Suite back in September 2016. It’s collection of all Google’s powerful business tools and includes Gmail, Docs, Drive Sheets and Calendar. G-suite is a Cloud based enterprise that Google touts as an “All-in-one suite to communicate, store and create.” The Vault and can be added to Google’s basic Gmail  for $5.00 per user per month or it’s included in G-suite for $10 per user per month

Who Loves Google Vault?

For one – Employers.  It’s great for finding and retrieving valuable company information and data, even from closed accounts. The things hidden in drafts can be very revealing.

Who else loves it?  Lawyers.  Everything in the Vault may be “discoverable” – meaning it could be subpoenaed in a lawsuit or criminal investigation. It’s called e-discovery, the process of seeking and finding information in electronic format, in response to legal matters and investigations. Note that many archival systems can and do save company communication for the purpose of litigation.  Vault makes this super easy as it uses Google-patented search to access data in email and attachments(!) including Word .docs  power point, attached PDF’s, Hangouts, chats etc. and . . . everything typed onto a company mail that’s connected to the Gmail server.

eDiscovery and Digital Privacy

This is the part that really concerns me: The words you type into Gmail are saved—the thoughts your wrote and then deleted or wrote over—those are saved and may be  discoverable.  Now, truthfully, it would be a rare occurence for drafts in the Vault to be subject to search, but not beyond the realm of possibility if circumstances were compelling. If they were discoverable would someone be guilty or complicit by virtue of their thoughts?? I don’t know,  but I like to think my thoughts are just…well, mine, and subject to change.

UHH, But for How Long?

Incredibly, employers or administrators can set the time period for data to be retained up to 36,500 days!  That’s 100 years.

When an employee leaves, an employer can choose to delete the account or “suspend” it. If the account is suspended, the data REMAINS in the Vault, long after you’ve left that particular workplace.

What do Privacy Experts Say?

If the very idea of an employer being able to look at your email seems not right to you, listen to this.  I contacted Paul Stephens Director of Policy and Advocacy at The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse.  He viewed Safertech’s Google Vault Video and though he was not aware of the detail of the Vaults functionality he offered this reminder:

“Almost anything an employee does on an office computer can be monitored. Courts often have found that when employees are using an employer’s equipment, their expectation of privacy is limited.”

I also reached out to a woman highly respected in the world of Cyber Security,  Dr. Dena Haritos Tsamitis, Director, Information Networking Institute at Carnegie Mellon University for her input and perspective:

“In the past decade, rapid advances in workplace technology have often come at the expense of privacy and security. On one hand, we have enterprise-level software and applications like Google Vault offering incredible opportunities for collaboration and communication. On the other, we have the threat of compromising the privacy of employees.The balance lies in an organization’s commitment to understand how these tools work and educate its employees on safe and secure practices.”
Excellent advice,  Dr. Tsamitis.  Of course,  my entire team is now well aware of our utilization of and the privacy implications of Google Vault.

To Be Honest

As an employer, TBH, I’m not stoked about seeing or saving drafts. Honestly, looking at a draft that wasn’t sent makes me uncomfortable.  It’s creepy. I feel like I’m spying and looking at thoughts and words that we’re not meant to be shared.  I realize I can choose not to search drafts and I intend to exercise that option—now that I’m done experimenting and researching for this article.

Digital Privacy, Cyber Security, the Cloud and Privacy

If  Cloud-based Google Vault has the ability to save every Gmail written on its live server, that probably means that anyone writing in Gmail should assume that all words are saved-and/or could be stored and accessed. The same holds true for most if not all files stored in the Cloud.  More then ever, we should be very mindful of everything we do and put online. As I said in the Safertech.com Cookie Video, when it comes to ALL your internet moves, Digital Privacy is Absolutely NOT Guaranteed.  Practice mindfulness when online.

In This Connected World: Writer Beware.

Remember, if you use Gmail at work, you may have no idea if your employer uses Vault on their end. So, first things first – ask! Ask HR, ask the IT guy. We’re not sure what your employer is obliged to tell you -but it doesn’t hurt to ask.

I contacted Google about eliminating the option to save drafts. A customer service representative of Gmail verified that there is no option to “not save” drafts at this point, but did offer me the opportunity to suggest the change to developers. So I submitted the idea to Google as they directed through the Features program.

The Fix

If your work email is served by Google and you suspect Vault is enabled, and you’re concerned about privacy and cyber security, there are a couple of ways to limit what’s being recorded:

Option 1. Disable Drafts in “MAIL” If you’re using a mail “client” like the Mail program on Macs or Outlook on PC’s, you can choose to disable store draft messages on the server IF you use IMAP so you are not typing directly into the Gmail’s digital net. Take a look:

 

Apple Mail

 

However,  Mail comes with Apple’s privacy policy so please REVIEW to make sure with all that you are agreeing to there.

Option 2:  IF you have an older version of Microsoft Office you’re Golden.  It used to be the apps were never connected to the internet. Type into TextEdit or Word.   Compose to your delight in those apps, cut and paste directly into your Gmail or Mail Client.  This option works only on Non-cloud based.  You can do this with the new versions, but you run the potential of the version being saved on Microsoft servers, depending on your settings.  

Option 3: Disable Internet connection:  You compose, delete, type over and write anything you want and then, when that draft is in final form, you can reconnect to the internet and send or save just the final draft on the server.

Prior to disconnecting from internet, you can open Gmail.  Then,  disable internet and Gmail allows you to “compose” as many different emails as you’d like.  Each time you click “COMPOSE” a new window pops up.   You can also compose in a mail client or use Word or Stickies or text edit and then cut and paste to Gmail or your mail Client.

And digital privacy protection continues with CreeBlockers.  Make sure you get yours!

xo

August

Every Privacy Policy of Streaming Media Devices: Ranked!

streaming media player device

 

The Medium is the Message

As troubles in the economy churn on, people are changing the way they watch TV these days. As usual, convenience and cost is traded for a bit of your privacy. Gone is the hefty cable subscription, especially for the spendthrift millennial. Hulu subscriptions are cheap (about $7 a month) and “Netflix & Chill” is every bit a cultural reference of a generation. (If you don’t mind paying cable, however, we’ve found DirectTV seems to give you the most privacy as a provider. That’s rare these days!)

People don’t just click “On” on their remote anyone and just still flipping through a vast array of broadcast and cable channels like they used to. Being cheap takes a little more work to get content off the Internet from your subscription or video platform to play on your TV.

The Alternative to Cable TV

That work-around is called a set-top box or streaming media device and they are becoming more and more common. You can take  video from YouTube, Hulu, Netflix, etc. on your phone or computer and stream or “cast” it to your TV!

They are so many different streaming devices to choose from, and just being a smart consumer with privacy in mind for your TV, we want you to make good choices. Every set has a slightly different privacy policy on what they can collect regarding your watching habits.

Now, every TV as an appliance also has different options regarding their privacy settings. As we reported in a previous post, Vizio just got in trouble with their shady practices of turning on the tracking by default and pairing your IP address with your viewing habits so that advertisers can market things to you on your other devices with that privileged information. In addition, most Smart TVs these days offer streaming apps built-in. They’re the worst,  if you’re concerned about privacy – don’t use them! Privacy advocates recommend using a receiver because it blocks and fragments your array of data.

The Best of the Privacy Policy

 

Sort of surprisingly, Apple TV is the best of the bunch! It allows you to limit or disable most of the collection data settings, and doesn’t need to be connected to the Internet to work. For Google Chrome Cast, it shouldn’t be a surprise that it tracks you to a degree…but it’s not as bad as you’d think! You can opt out of plenty of stuff and adjust your privacy settings even further – and it’s affordable. It’s just a little dongle that plugs into the back of your TV. Amazon Firestick, a similar product, is on par with the Chrome Cast as far as privacy settings. Amazon says it doesn’t share your habits with third parties. Hmm, it doesn’t have to, because, like Google, it can advertise its products to you from their own superstore! But I reckon that’s why it’s so cheap – because they’re getting something back from you as the consumer.

Medium/Average privacy

Now, for the gaming consoles: Microsoft makes Xbox and Kinect and Sony’s Playstation are alarmingly on-par with each other as far as being medium-level bad with data collection. They don’t state anywhere that you can opt out and they BOTH have binding arbitration clauses that says you can’t sue them later for collecting data on you. If I were you, I’d have a CreepBlocker decal on those webcams – just in case, and I’ll tell you why: Once I noticed the ominous blue light on mine, like it was recording me without my knowledge! That day definitely helped my resolve to develop easy-to-use webcam covers for everyone!

Poor privacy

And lastly, we have Roku – which ranks dead last in terms of privacy. I wouldn’t recommend this device.

Our advice for all of these devices is to only be connected to the Internet for firmware updates – and then disconnect again.

Vizio violates your digital privacy – at a high price! How to stop them

how to fix your Vizio TV for privacy settings tech expert explains

Sneaky Digital privacy policy fined by the FTC

So, breaking digital privacy news – Your SmartTV has been spying on you without consent for two years and they just got in trouble for it today. It’s a hefty fine by the FTC ($2.2 million) for Vizio, a lead manufacturer of televisions based here in Irvine. Over 11 million TVs were being tracked by default instead of having an opt-in feature. This is more common than you’d think, agreeing to be tracked is often hidden from you, buried deep in settings or a software update,  will auto-agree to give your consent.

Digital privacy Breach

This was no innocent accident either. Every moment of every show you watch got recorded. This info was then paired with IP addresses, wifi networks and metadata and matched to households to identify personal details, bundled and sold to advertisers. In this case, Vizio made money off of your private information as the product. Vizio didn’t identify users by name to the advertisers they were selling to, but it’s still a huge  breach of your digital privacy.

Smart TV’s: A Cyber Security Danger

Camera Access.  Many SmartTV’s have a cameras that can be set to record you.  That’s not what this fine was about, but it can happen.  That’s why safertech created CreepBlockers.  We have them on our SmartTV cameras, our Xboxes and of course all of webcams and cell phones.  Get them HERE!

 

And Here’s How to make sure your Vizio TV is NOT recording what your watching.  Opt Out:

Go to Menu →

System →

Reset & Admin.

Turn off “Smart Interactivity”

Make sure “Viewing Data” inside “Smart Interactivity” is turned off, too, if it appears.

The Bright Side

There’s a silver lining though. Vizio promised to make their tracking aspirations much more prominently featured and apparent, and be opt-out by default. Hopefully, this sets a warning and precedent for other manufacturers to stop being so sneaky and creepy!

Now SmartTVs allow you opt out of tracking, most streaming devices do not – so make smart purchases and be an informed consumer. Our next post will rate streaming devices for privacy!

Google Vault Saves Every Word! What You Need to Know About email Privacy and Cyber Security

Google Vault Privacy

Google Vault. It’s a Cyber Security issue no one is talking about.  Is your company email, Gmail?  Have they upgraded to include Google Vault?  Well, You probably won’t know if they have…but if email privacy matters to you, you’re gonna wanna find out. 

Here’s why: With Google Vault  . . .

Everything you type into Gmail – even Drafts can be saved.  When I say “Drafts” I’m not just referring to the ones you saved to your Drafts Folder.   Every iteration becomes a “draft’ or variant of that email and is saved to the Google Vault.  To be clear, its not just the email you click send on.  It’s everything you type to get to the click.  Typos, rethinks, anger, errors.  All of it.  Every single keystroke.

Who can see?  Every Google Vault has at least one Administrator, and it can be a number of people:  Your boss, the IT guy or another peer in the company. Essentially the Administrator has access and can search the Vault.

Digital Privacy: My Google Vault Story

Like millions of businesses, we use Gmail. It’s best in class, with great encryption and spam filtering and search. When it comes to technology and privacy, Google has advanced and secure Cloud infrastructure.

Our IT guy a few months ago suggested we upgrade to Google Vault so that we could archive old emails indefinitely – as a business owner, I value the ability to save company data and communications. Lots of archiving systems can do that…

But Google Vault doesn’t just save emails, chats, Hangouts,  files (PDF, DOCX and JPG, Microsoft Word, Excel, Powerpoint) Google Earth and connected Gmail products…Recently, I accidentally discovered that with Gmail and the Google Vault  turned on – virtually everything an employee had typed, every iteration was saved – sometimes as many as 50 versions of one email!

A Peek Inside Your Not-So-Private Email

Let me show you a stunning screenshot of what I see when I search topic or name in Google Vault:

Google Vault

It looks worse then it sounds.

Being a bit of a privacy fanatic, I was compelled to demonstrate the inner workings of the Google Vault to my employees so we created a video demo. We watched as  keystrokes were typed while on or connected to the Gmail server were “vaulted”.  It was very unsettling to see that even when a “draft” was deleted from an employee’s draft folder, every word, mistake etc. stayed in the Google Vault.  Each iteration became a time-stamped “draft.” Working very much like a keystroke logger.

Google puts it this way: “Messages are available in the vault as soon as they are received by Gmail.”

If you’re getting a bit nervous here, I’ve included some helpful work-a-rounds at the end of this article, but stay with me for a moment. If you want to see HOW EMPLOYEES REACT TO SEEING THEIR GOOGLE VAULT Click HERE

Google Vault Employers View

Google Vault is part of what used to be called Google Apps, changed to G-Suite back in September 2016. It’s collection of all Google’s powerful business tools and includes Gmail, Docs, Drive Sheets and Calendar. G-suite is a Cloud based enterprise that Google touts as an “All-in-one suite to communicate, store and create.” The Vault and can be added to Google’s basic Gmail  for $5.00 per user per month or it’s included in G-suite for $10 per user per month

Who Loves Google Vault?

For one – Employers.  It’s great for finding and retrieving valuable company information and data, even from closed accounts. The things hidden in drafts can be very revealing.

Who else loves it?  Lawyers.  Everything in the Vault may be “discoverable” – meaning it could be subpoenaed in a lawsuit or criminal investigation. It’s called e-discovery, the process of seeking and finding information in electronic format, in response to legal matters and investigations. Note that many archival systems can and do save company communication for the purpose of litigation.  Vault makes this super easy as it uses Google-patented search to access data in email and attachments(!) including Word .docs  power point, attached PDF’s, Hangouts, chats etc. and . . . everything typed onto a company mail that’s connected to the Gmail server.

eDiscovery

This is the part that really concerns me: The words you type into Gmail are saved—the thoughts your wrote and then deleted or wrote over—those are saved and may be  discoverable.  Now, truthfully, it would be a rare occurence for drafts in the Vault to be subject to search, but not beyond the realm of possibility if circumstances were compelling. If they were discoverable would someone be guilty or complicit by virtue of their thoughts?? I don’t know,  but I like to think my thoughts are just…well, mine, and subject to change.

UHH, But for How Long?

Incredibly, employers or administrators can set the time period for data to be retained up to 36,500 days!  That’s 100 years.

When an employee leaves, an employer can choose to delete the account or “suspend” it. If the account is suspended, the data REMAINS in the Vault, long after you’ve left that particular workplace.

What do Privacy Experts Say?

If the very idea of an employer being able to look at your email seems not right to you, listen to this.  I contacted Paul Stephens Director of Policy and Advocacy at The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse.  He viewed Safertech’s Google Vault Video and though he was not aware of the detail of the Vaults functionality he offered this reminder:

“Almost anything an employee does on an office computer can be monitored. Courts often have found that when employees are using an employer’s equipment, their expectation of privacy is limited.”

I also reached out to a woman highly respected in the world of Cyber Security,  Dr. Dena Haritos Tsamitis, Director, Information Networking Institute at Carnegie Mellon University for her input and perspective:

“In the past decade, rapid advances in workplace technology have often come at the expense of privacy and security. On one hand, we have enterprise-level software and applications like Google Vault offering incredible opportunities for collaboration and communication. On the other, we have the threat of compromising the privacy of employees.The balance lies in an organization’s commitment to understand how these tools work and educate its employees on safe and secure practices.”
Excellent advice,  Dr. Tsamitis.  Of course,  my entire team is now well aware of our utilization of and the privacy implications of Google Vault.

To Be Honest

As an employer, TBH, I’m not stoked about seeing or saving drafts. Honestly, looking at a draft that wasn’t sent makes me uncomfortable.  It’s creepy. I feel like I’m spying and looking at thoughts and words that we’re not meant to be shared.  I realize I can choose not to search drafts and I intend to exercise that option—now that I’m done experimenting and researching for this article.

Digital Technology, Cyber Security, the Cloud and Privacy

If  Cloud-based Google Vault has the ability to save every Gmail written on its live server, that probably means that anyone writing in Gmail should assume that all words are saved-and/or could be stored and accessed. The same holds true for most if not all files stored in the Cloud.  More then ever, we should be very mindful of everything we do and put online. As I said in the Safertech.com Cookie Video, when it comes to ALL your internet moves, Privacy is Absolutely NOT Guaranteed.  Practice mindfulness when on-line.

In This Connected World: Writer Beware.

Remember, if you use Gmail at work, you may have no idea if your employer uses Vault on their end. So, first things first – ask! Ask HR, ask the IT guy. We’re not sure what your employer is obliged to tell you -but it doesn’t hurt to ask.

I contacted Google about eliminating the option to save drafts. A customer service representative of Gmail verified that there is no option to “not save” drafts at this point, but did offer me the opportunity to suggest the change to developers. So I submitted the idea to Google as they directed through the Features program.

THE Privacy FIX

If your work email is served by Google and you suspect Vault is enabled, and you’re concerned about privacy and cyber security, there are a couple of ways to limit what’s being recorded:

Option 1. Disable Drafts in “MAIL” If you’re using a mail “client” like the Mail program on Macs or Outlook on PC’s, you can choose to disable store draft messages on the server IF you use IMAP so you are not typing directly into the Gmail’s digital net. Take a look:

 

Apple Mail

 

However,  Mail comes with Apple’s privacy policy so please REVIEW to make sure with all that you are agreeing to there.

Option 2:  IF you have an older version of Microsoft Office you’re Golden.  It used to be the apps were never connected to the internet. Type into TextEdit or Word.   Compose to your delight in those apps, cut and paste directly into your Gmail or Mail Client.  This option works only on Non-cloud based.  You can do this with the new versions, but you run the potential of the version being saved on Microsoft servers, depending on your settings.  

Option 3: Disable Internet connection:  You Compose, delete, type over and write anything you want and then, when that draft is in final form, you can reconnect to the internet and send or save just the final draft on the server.

Prior to disconnecting from internet, you can open Gmail.  Then,  disable internet and Gmail allows you to “compose” as many different emails as you’d like.  Each time you click “COMPOSE” a new window pops up.   You can also compose in a mail client or use Word or Stickies or text edit and then cut and paste to Gmail or your mail Client.

Love this idea because you are also using your device free from WIFI! Note, anytime you use airplane mode you are not connected to the internet, or WIFI or Bluetooth or Web browser, so there’s no way to be typing directly on to a server.  Bonus for your healthy lifestyle: There’s no cell phone radiation, WIFI radiation or Bluetooth radiation either.

And finally, if you are concerned about Cyber Security, be sure to check out CreepBlockers webcam covers.

Stay safe out there-

xo August