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A sticker over a camera is an incredible simple way to protect your privacy
Today’s creepy news is that snoops can turn on your Mac’s webcam to spy on you without activating the camera’s telltale light. But rejoice, there’s a way for even the least tech-savvy among us to prevent this hack from working: putting something opaque in front of your camera. I opt for a sticker tailor-made for the job by civil liberties group EFF.
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Because a sticker (or post-it note or thumb) over a camera is an incredible simple way to protect your privacy, it’s time to add a few more tips to my popular list on the topic from last year. Without further ado, here are some additions to my privacy tips for lazy people.
1. Put a removable sticker over the cameras on your Internet-connected devices. As noted above, things connected to the Internet have the downside of possible hacking. If there’s a camera aimed at you that you’re not actively using, it’s a good idea to go ahead and cover it up. If people say you’re seeming a bit tin-foil hattish paranoid, send them links to this or this or this or this or this….
2. Use the delete button. The more you keep around, the more that can be discovered and data-mined. Ephemerality is a kind of privacy protection. It’s why I like the location-sharing app Glympse which allows you to show someone where you are for a set amount of time, and why Snapchat has been such a hit this year. The less data you leave behind (that you can actually control), the less data you later need to protect from invasion.
3. Be vain and Google GOOG +1.39% yourself regularly. Stay abreast of new things being said or published about you on the Internet. I used to tell people to use Google Alerts, a formerly wonderful tool that no longer works. Now you might try Talkwalker Alerts. I’ve been testing it out, and sadly, it’s not as comprehensive as was Google Alerts, but it does get dropped into your inbox regularly.
4. Turn off Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and iBeacon on your smartphone. If you don’t like the idea of retailers tracking your comings and goings to their stores, and possibly pinging you with messages while you’re there, you can shut down these things to keep them from reaching (and watching) you, at least using your phone.
5. Don’t auto-display images in your email. This is a way people can track whether you’ve read their email or not, as the embedded image that you likely don’t care about is programmed to “phone home” when it loads. If you’re a Gmail user, you might have seen that Google is now auto-displaying images for you. While there’s a security benefit to their change, it also means that people emailing you can now more easily see when you open their email — something data-obsessed companies and Jay-Z stalkers like to know. Instructions to turn the auto-display off are here.
A tip I’d like to repeat from my last list — 10 Incredibly Simple Things You Should Do To Protect Your Privacy — is this one: Password protect your devices: your smartphone, your iPad, your computer, your tablet, etc. I’m repeating the advice because we discovered this year that Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer — who certainly understands technological security needs — admitted that she doesn’t have a passcode on her phone. Some open bookers say it’s “annoying” to take two seconds to type in a password before they can use their phone. C’mon, folks. Choosing not to password protect these devices is the digital equivalent of leaving your home or car unlocked. If you’re lucky, no one will take advantage of the access. Or maybe the contents will be ravaged and your favorite speakers and/or secrets stolen. If you’re not paranoid enough, spend some time reading entries in Reddit Relationships, where many an Internet user goes to discuss issues of the heart. A good percentage of the entries start, “I know I shouldn’t have, but I peeked at my gf’s phone and read her text messages, and…”
Combined with my prior list, these are some of the easiest things you can do to protect your privacy. These are simple tips for basic privacy; if you’re in a high-risk situation where you require privacy from malicious actors, check out EFF’s surveillance self-defense tips.