privacy

How can I get around work's locked down internet?

Episode 1462

Rick from Irvine, CA
Computers

Rick's wife is trying to get around her job's internet restrictions with a VPN. Is there any way to do that? Leo says probably not. They will likely have it locked down to the point where she can't get around it. Leo recommends using her mobile phone in hotspot mode. She should turn off Wi-Fi though because she'll still be under their policies even when she's on her phone using the Wi-Fi. The company has the right to not only prevent her from using her own devices on their network, but also to spy on her. So she should be careful.

Can Amazon Echo be used to spy on me?

Episode 1457

Mark from South Carolina
Amazon Echo

Mark wants to know if Amazon Echo is going to be used in cars. Leo says it will. In fact, Leo just installed one in his. And we'll soon see Google's Assistant there, too. It's the next big thing in computing. Mark is also concerned that Echo could be used to spy on him. Leo says that's possible. But Leo doesn't think Amazon wants to manage all that information and the risk to its business if it was discovered that Amazon was snooping on customers would be devastating. But then again, law enforcement could always subpoena to have access to it.

Can I prevent apps from getting my contacts list?

Episode 1456

Brian from Fennimore, WI
Snapchat Contacts

Brian is wondering if he can prevent third-party apps from seeing his contacts list on his phone. Leo says it's very common for apps like Snapchat, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and more to suggest inviting friends from your contacts list. They have to ask permission to get to this list, though. These apps upload the contacts list to their servers so it can alert you that someone new has joined that app. Leo says that absolutely is a privacy breach.

How can I keep my phone from always listening?

Episode 1452

Pat from San Gabriel, CA
Motorola Moto Z

Pat upgraded to a Motorola Moto Z with Android 7, but when he listens to music at home, it displays what he's currently listening to on the screen. How does it know? Leo says that the Android has an always listening feature that will pick up the ambient sound in the room and identify it. It's basically for the OK Google feature.

Pat had an issue with it playing a video unexpectedly as well. Leo says he can train it to just listen to only his voice, or he could even disable "OK Google" entirely. It'll be under Settings > Google.

Can I say no to Customs if they want to read my phone?

Episode 1451

John from Westchester, NY
US Customs and Border Protection

John is worried about traveling overseas and then having his mobile device or computer taken away and being forced to unlock it. Leo says it doesn't really happen all that often, though they do have the right to do it, and it hasn't been ruled on being unconstitutional just yet. He'll have to worry when they take his device into another room. Chances are, they've cloned the data or even installed something to monitor him. At that point, if he's security conscious, the only thing he can really do is replace the device to be sure he's secure.

Why can't I log into Facebook?

Episode 1437

Kurt from Oshkosh, WI
Facebook Logo

Kurt just joined Facebook. Leo says it's a love hate relationship. You can reconnect with friends and family, but it's an annoying time suck. But Kurt is getting pushed by Facebook to post an image on his profile. Leo says that Facebook is doing that because they are trying to stop fake accounts. So he uploaded one and now he can't log in! Leo says that Facebook takes the time to verify users before they can re-login. It could take up to 72 hours.

Should I turn off my phone's background refresh and location services to save battery life?

Episode 1437

Mike from Maine
iOS Privacy Settings

Mike just upgraded to iOS 11.1 and he's wondering if turning off Background App Refresh and Location Services will save battery life. Does it make a difference? Leo says that he would do that for privacy issues rather than battery life. It's a good idea to change it to use his location only when the app is working. Apple would let him decide both by app. Leo does recommend leaving it on for his maps app, though. Apple does a very good job of managing battery life, and in most cases, turning off all those services is a finesse he doesn't need to really hassle with.

Can I make my Facebook posts private?

Episode 1413

Susan from Torrance, CA
Facebook Thumbs Down

Susan is worried that her boss at work can see her Facebook posts so she's changed her settings to friends only. Is that safe enough? Leo says that will work, however, Facebook does make mistakes and they do from time to time reset privacy settings without warning. Even Mark Zuckerberg's personal posts were outed by a glitch a few months back. So it's best to always consider a post she makes on social media to be out in the open.

How can I be private on the internet?

Episode 1408

Sherry from Canyon Lake, CA
Google Search Page on a MacBook Pro

Sherry is concerned because her personal information from public records show up in Google search results. Leo says that if it's public information, the only thing she can do is go to each site and demand they make her information private. But these days, it's easy to harvest that information from government sources online. And new sites pop up all the time. Privacy is really an illusion now. That's why celebrities usually create holding companies and make all their asset purchase through them, so that the paper trail is minimal.