Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Voice-activated Device's Call To Police May Have Saved Woman's Life

A man beating and threatening his girlfriend was arrested after a voice-activated device, such as Amazon's Alexa, called the police, say authorities in New Mexico.

According to reports, during the assault, the man is said to have asked: “Did you call the sheriffs?” It is believed that the question was picked up by the smart speaker and the voice-powered virtual assistant recognized the phrase as a instruction causing it to call 911.

The woman under assault could be heard during the call yelling "Alexa, call 911."

Right now these devices have no capability to call 911, so it's a head-scratcher as how the emergency call was activated. While I still have privacy concerns about smart devices, not everything is all negative.

Amazon's Alexa credited with possibly lifesaving 911 call - CBS News

Amazon’s Alexa can’t call 911. But a sheriff claims it did - CNet

Friday, July 7, 2017

Prince Harry Warns Young People That Mobile Phones Affect Mental Health

Take a mental break and put down your phones, Prince Henry of Wales recently urged young people. He said he recently read that young people check their phones at least 150 times per day!

The Prince is a champion of mental health issues and believes more needs to be done to equip young people to deal with the modern world.  He believes that everyone would be “more effective and efficient” if they took more time to simply think.

According to a Gallup poll conducted back in 2012, by their own admission, many young Americans, aged 18 to 29, say they spend too much time using the Internet (59%), their cell phones or smartphones (58%), and social media sites such as Facebook (48%).

It's probably worse since the poll was taken...and not only for young adults!

Source: Prince Harry urges young people to put down their mobile phones and warns they affect mental health - The Telegraph

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Facebook Can Be Your Church According to Zuckerberg

At a recent Facebook event, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg commented on how "membership in all kinds of groups has declined," and says that Facebook communities can fill the gap left by diminishing religious participation. He said that by growing Facebook groups and communities it will “bring the world closer together.”

Kind of scary, especially considering the power of Facebook to censor and the ability to control a lot of who and what we see; learn your temperament; recognizes your face; developing technology to read your mind.

Are we alone or together?!

In 2011, MIT professor Sherry Turkle wrote an intriguing and insightful book, "Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other." The book describes the "new, unsettling relationships between friends, lovers, parents, and children, and new instabilities in how we understand privacy and community, intimacy and solitude. "

At her website, she crystallizes her findings and insights in these words:
"Technology has become the architect of our intimacies. Online, we face a moment of temptation. Drawn by the illusion of companionship without the demands of intimacy, we conduct “risk free” affairs on Second Life and confuse the scattershot postings on a Facebook wall with authentic communication."
She stated in a 2012 Ted Talk presentation, Connected, but alone!:
"And so from social networks to sociable robots, we're designing technologies that will give us the illusion of companionship without the demands of friendship."

Technology is not going away but we do have the choice to control it rather than let it control us. Has Facebook become your place of worship?

Related reading:

Mark Zuckerberg: Facebook can be your church - Sky News

Mark Zuckerberg: Facebook can build communities — much as churches do - Market Watch

How Facebook censors your posts (FAQ) - CNet

Monday, June 12, 2017

Windows 10, Cortana Can Invade Privacy

Look at each Cortana setting, especially Permissions.
I recently bought a Windows 10 notebook and was shocked to discover how much personal information Microsoft extracts from us without our knowledge and consent. Microsoft sometimes doesn't let us opt-in. Most of the settings are on by default.

If you're concerned about personal privacy, you could...and probably should...opt-out of most of this stuff. The problem is that many people are unaware of their option to do this, or how.

The first place to look, if you're using Windows 10, is the Cortana settings. I've shut off just about everything I could. It wasn't fun and took a long time. The settings related to privacy must be unchecked individually.

According to the technology site CNet:
"Windows 10 is running on over 400 million devices, but it still has all sorts of privacy issues -- including mandatory diagnostic and usage data reporting to Microsoft, and a troubling amount of ads sprinkled throughout the platform. 
"Not all of Windows 10's problems can be fixed, but there are some things you can do to reclaim your privacy. Here are five privacy-related settings you can change for a less invasive and more secure Windows 10 experience."
I strongly recommend reading the CNet article 5 privacy settings to change in Windows 10. It helps you learn how to take back your OS...and your privacy. They recommend:

  • Stop Cortana from getting to know you.
  • Turn off your location.
  • Stop syncing.
  • Lock down your lock screen.
  • Turn off your advertising ID
Another extremely helpful site is fix10.isleaked, which also provides information about how to fix privacy settings in Windows 7 & 8.1.

As long as you and I use the internet, our privacy may be compromised. However, take the time and effort to minimize that invasion as much as you can.