Imagine going to the bathroom to shower, and somebody’s watching you through your Amazon Ring camera.
You don’t have to imagine it because that actually happened. An Amazon employee spent months looking at footage from female users in their bedrooms and bathrooms. That’s one specific instance included in the 30 million dollar fine due to privacy violations. But the story doesn’t stop there.
The Ring home security camera didn’t focus on the one thing it was supposed to do – security. User privacy was compromised because footage from the cameras was accessible by contractors and employees. Plus, hackers could breach accounts easily and control their cameras.
Being watched in your home is fine if you’re in a reality show. But if you’re at home, you get to be monitored by Amazon employees or hackers. Which is worse?
Regardless of the job function, Amazon gave Ukraine-based contractors full video access. Even after adding MDA support, the implementation was inadequate and ineffective.
Amazon’s Issue with Children’s Data
If being watched on camera isn’t bad enough, there’s voice spying from Alexa. Another 25 million dollar fine was issued to Amazon for another case, where voice recordings from kids weren’t deleted after parent requests.
They didn’t adhere to the COPPA (Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act) and used kids’ voice recordings to train algorithms. This isn’t the first time a company has tried to understand children’s behavior without parent’s consent.
Epic Games were charged 520 million dollars because they harvested data from children under 13 and directed them to make payments. Google is in the same category because it violates kids’ privacy. Last but not least, Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, is settling a 400 million fine because of handling children’s information.
How to protect your privacy?
With all of these tech giants on the lookout for your data, what can you do to protect it?
You might feel like you should throw all of your devices in the trash bin and go live off-grid in the mountains.
The next best thing is to use a VPN and become private online. Virtual private networks hide your IP address and make it seem like you’re browsing from another part of the globe. That way, all those cookies that Amazon, Facebook, and Google use to spy on you will be worthless.
Looking through a cybersecurity glossary will help you understand how VPNs work and how you can use them to bypass geographical restrictions.
Said VPNs encrypt your data and mask your connection from governments, internet service providers, marketers, and hackers.
Is that really all you can do?
Major corporations that are too big to fail will keep doing whatever they want. It’s up to the individual level to take matters into your own hands and fight it. The first step is a VPN, and the second one is providing as little data as possible to websites and social media companies.
The more information about yourself you share online, the easier it becomes to track your digital footprint and categorize you within a specific demographic. Social media companies are infamous for tracking what you like and dislike, how long you spend looking at a specific image, and how your friends interact with the platform.
Whenever you feel like the ads you see are reading your mind, it’s because they’re tracking close to 52,000 data points for each person. That’s a lot of data. Even though marketers use 100 of those, every action you take is monitored, analyzed, and used against you.
You were creating a fake email or account when browsing is a great idea because your real profile won’t be targeted.
Learn more about cybersecurity
Cybersecurity is always evolving; you never know who’s watching from the other side. Many people put a piece of tape on their laptop camera and think they’re safe. Cybersecurity isn’t that simple.
Learning more about the newest trends, privacy settings, and how major companies are trying to manipulate you to bypass all restrictions is important. Start from the basics, like password management and biometrics. Then, block search engines from tracking you. Encrypt your data and disable cookies on websites that want you to accept them.
By following a few simple tips, you won’t be panicking whether an Amazon creep is looking at you through your Ring doorbell or whether they’re spying on the conversations in your living room.