Here are 10 good methods to make sure your devices aren’t surveilling you
If you’ve paid close attention to the rise of the Internet of Things, you’ve probably encountered concerns about its potential to eliminate privacy. One article recently described the Internet of Things as a surveillance nightmare by comparing it to the ordinary Internet. As the piece stated somewhat convincingly, surveillance is the business model of the Internet; and if we think of the Internet of Things as a system that’s effectively turning the real world into its own sort of Internet, it follows that surveillance might become the business model of the real world as well.
That’s not to say this aspect of IoT is all bad: The surveillance-related side of IoT is actually being put to use in a very open and even beneficial manner. One post describing ways in which IoT-related GPS technology is breaking down barriers discussed new ways of tracking loved ones through devices. GPS sensors can be placed in the shoes of elderly family members, or even children, so that you can surveil them to ensure they don’t wander off or go somewhere unsafe.
The question (metaphorically speaking, of course) becomes how you might feel if such a sensor were put in your shoes without your knowledge. It is possible that your every movement and action will soon be traceable through the Internet of Things, if that’s not the case already.
But that doesn’t mean you have to expose yourself to more surveillance than is necessary. One very thorough post on countermeasures against Internet of Things privacy concerns did a nice job of suggesting ways to guard yourself against unwanted tech-based tracking. Using this and other resources, let’s take a look at 10 good ways to make sure your devices aren’t tracking you.
1. Switch off “Discoverable” Bluetooth
Due to new beacons and sensors springing up just about everywhere, your device can be identified and tracked simply if your Bluetooth is activated. Thankfully, this is easy to prevent since most of us don’t need Bluetooth turned on at all times.
Simply leave it off, or off “discoverable” mode, when you don’t need it and some sensors won’t be able to identify your device’s MAC address.
2. Turn off WiFi
The same concept applies to WiFi as Bluetooth. When you don’t need it, you can simply turn it off and your device will become less visible to a lot of IoT-connected sensors.
3. Turn off GPS services
On a similar note to Bluetooth or WiFi, you can simply switch off location services or GPS-related functions on your phone, tablet, or wearable device. This prevents apps and even possibly some outside sensors from being able to pinpoint your location without your consent.
4. Use a protective case
If you really want to ensure that your device can’t be accessed and you’re willing to sacrifice some convenience, you can purchase a phone or tablet case that essentially functions as a Faraday cage. Basically, it would be a physical sleeve that would block all electronically based signals coming in or out of the device.
5. Use a privacy app
When discussing IoT-related security concerns, the idea of trusting a mobile app with privacy might not sound reliable or appealing. However, there are some apps worth taking a look at if you’re worried your phone is being surveilled or mined for personal data.
For instance, Protect My Privacy adequately shields your personal information from other apps or programs that might try to access it. The app alerts you to the attempt and in some cases sends back falsified information (such as made up contacts) to the app attempting to find out more about you.
6. Buy stealth devices
This can be an expensive route to take and may limit your options when it comes to your tech devices. But if you’re particularly concerned about the security of your identity and private information, a stealth phone might put you at ease. As described in one blog post about mobile privacy, these phones can actually encrypt conversations, which goes a step beyond fooling sensors and tracking systems.
7. Go old school
This isn’t much of a solution for those who are looking for ways to enjoy full use of tech devices while avoiding IoT surveillance risks, but it can be helpful in some cases. For instance, if you’re uncomfortable with the idea that you might be tracked on a road trip (via your phone’s GPS), print out your map like you probably did five or 10 years ago and switch off GPS and location services.
8. Use a secure home router
Smart homes are among the most exciting aspects of the Internet of Things, yet they also raise questions of security. When so many parts of the home can be connected, there’s simply more that a hacker can gain from tapping into the system.
A secure Internet router is the first line of defense in this regard. It’s a simple solution, but one that could keep your smart home safe.
9. Use privacy add-ons
This step could spawn an entire conversation of its own, but suffice it to say if you’re really looking for device security, there are apps and programs that can help. There are apps that are able to do everything from shielding mobile chatting to encrypting your hard drive: While you’ll want to do your own research before trusting any of them, most have good reputations.
10. Know your rights
Finally, it’s becoming necessary to know where you stand legally with regard to tech-based privacy concerns. It sounds a little bit exhausting — you may be picturing lengthy terms and conditions pages — but being aware of what an app or program is allowed to access on your devices is always wise. It means you know what you have a right to expect will remain private, and you may have a case if that privacy is breached.
Ultimately, the ways in which you can be tracked and monitored via the Internet of Things are so varied that each demands a different discussion regarding countermeasures. In some cases, simple diligence on your part can be the answer. In others, there’s really nothing you can do. And in other cases, knowing your rights or local laws may protect you from unwanted results of surveillance — if not from the surveillance itself.
Any way you cut it, we’re headed for a strange and in some cases difficult transition to a world more heavily integrated with the Internet of Things. Surveillance is going to be a reality, but by staying up-to-date on new developments and remaining vigilant in your personal life, you can protect yourself from any particularly bad effects.
The views expressed are of the author.
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