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How retailers use tech hacks to get you to spend more

(TECH NEWS) Tech hacks or Jedi mind tricks? How retailers are getting sneaky about collecting your data, and how you can prevent it.

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Hold onto your butts

Did you even know there are (creepy) ways retailers get all up in your private data to encourage you to spend?

Thanks, tech innovations.

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Accordingly, SaveMyBills.com recently detailed the ways retailers use tech to swipe your private data and keep you buying.

Here at AG, we can’t help but think about how companies collect and employ data, and how they’re allowed to collect and employ said data, and well, let’s just say the fact that the Venn diagram on that one ain’t exactly a circle is serious business.

That being the case, here are five changes to your spending habits that can both increase benefit to you, and keep the serious creepsters out of your digital biz:

Fight the urge of convenience

Your phone:

Retailers are known to pull information straight from your smartphone.

Obviously as long as you’re paying with plastic your retailer can track your transactions based on your phone number, but – The More You Know – it’s also perfectly legal for them to track your actual physical movements as soon as you plug into their in-house WiFi.

By itself that’s not much more than store staff and cameras (we’ll get to the latter) would be doing anyway, but store-level data security is comparable to private data security, and as we’ve written over on the Real Daily, private data security is more than a bit effed.

The fix:

Not to state the obvious, but stay off the WiFi.

This is why *Insert Deity Here* gave us Airplane Mode. Even if you feel the need to text while you shop or Instagram some hilaaaarious filters onto a nearby mannequin, as long as you get your bars from your mobile connection instead of the local WiFi, you should be able to do so without uninvited segments of the store or internet staring at you.

Just assume someone is watching always

CCTV:

On the subject of being stared at, closed-circuit cameras are incredibly loosely regulated.

Seriously, the intended function of a security camera sits at the intersection of fighting crime and keeping-other-people’s-filthy-hands-off-your-stuff.

Those are literally America’s two favorite things. They certainly trump (see what I did there?) minor concerns like having your every move recorded by a piece of hardware that’s almost certainly connected to the Internet, because everything is, and whose password is probably “password.”

The fix:

I’m afraid can’t save you from the creepy robot eyes.

This may shock some of you, but I am not a Supreme Court justice. I am not in a position to inspire a reassessment of the value of personal privacy weighed against the importance of protecting material assets by our nation’s legal system.

That said, this is why you handle your own data security, and why you shop online.

Make exceptions only for retailers valuable enough to you that you don’t mind them recording you in their store in a format that may become publicly available.

Tidy up your browser

Digital shopping, like digital everything, offers a much broader array of tools for protecting your privacy. We’ll be addressing that presently with…

Cookies:

Not nearly as delicious as they sound. Cookies are the OG data mining tools, itty bitty bits of data that track useful information about how customers use a given online service.

The fix:

As with their tastier namesakes, cookies are fine in moderation. Most digital cookies delete themselves at the end of your session or a set length of time anyway, and the few that don’t carry little enough information that it takes zillions to represent a serious liability.

Clear your browser cache on the regs and you’re golden.

What’s in it for you?

Loyalty Cards

Things are flippin’ everywhere all of a sudden, right? Gas, groceries, pharmacies: everybody wants your card or your phone number. As we’ve noted before, that may not lead to fun times.

The fix:

Think retailers present loyalty cards as merely as coupons or bonus points for your transactions?

Think otherwise.

The card comes before the transaction.

Choose your purveyor of drugs and noms based at least in part on what the card buys you, because committing to the right one can yield crazy benefits.

I personally shop one grocery rather than another because getting my tea and Fritos there earns me fuel points. I haven’t paid retail for gas in a year.

That adds up.

Stranger danger

Purchasing data:

Ugh. I hate this. Older even than HTML cookies, this is the contemptible practice of companies buying and selling the personal information of their customers. Historically it’s been phone numbers and other contact info, but of course people willing to swipe your home phone will cheerfully swipe anything else they can get their grubby mitts on.

The fix:

This is probably unfixable on the grand scale, which we know because public and private sectors alike have tried. There is apparently a market here, which boggles my mind. I call out in desperation to the people supporting this market.

Stop buying things from unsolicited phone calls. Stop buying things from unsolicited emails.

If someone gets in touch with you without being asked, do not, for any reason, give them money.

Don’t ignore them, either. Go through their unsubscribe process, or call them back and tell them nothing except “I’m not interested. Take me off your list.”

Only scary until it works for you

In an interconnected world, the concept of privacy is drastically changing. That can be super scary. I mean, your TV watching you for the government, which was literally in 1984, is now a real thing, and even Orwell didn’t think we’d pay for the privilege.

But this isn’t dystopia.

We’ve been altering how money and privacy interact since there has been money. Cash stopped being exchangeable for a fixed amount of an anonymous commodity in the far-off year of.. 1971. It didn’t go properly digital until ten years later.

Every new system means new rules. As always, they’re only scary until you make them work for you.

#RetailHacks

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Matt Salter is a writer and former fundraising and communications officer for nonprofit organizations, including Volunteers of America and PICO National Network. He’s excited to put his knowledge of fundraising, marketing, and all things digital to work for your reading enjoyment. When not writing about himself in the third person, Matt enjoys horror movies and tabletop gaming, and can usually be found somewhere in the DFW Metroplex with WiFi and a good all-day breakfast.

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Make it harder for Facebook to track you around the web

(TECH NEWS) Facebook remains in hot water, but you can make a simple choice that puts you in control of your data. Check it out.

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facebook container

Firefox has long been an industry leader in security, which is why it’s no surprise that they’re the first large browser to roll out an anti-tracking add-on geared toward making life difficult for everyone’s favorite social media platform: Facebook.

Facebook Container is a deceptively powerful add-on, allowing you to prevent Facebook from tracking and analyzing your browsing behavior while you navigate around the Internet. After installing it in Firefox like any other add-on, you log into your Facebook account inside of the container; from that point on, any Facebook tracking will be confined to the Container tab in which you’re using FB.

The primary purpose of the add-on is, of course, to limit the amount of information that Facebook can extrapolate from your browsing history. There’s still plenty of information that you can give to Facebook simply by scrolling through your News Feed page, but at least they won’t know what size of underwear you’re buying.

Another obvious ramification of using Facebook Container is its ad-blocking capabilities. Unlike a traditional ad-blocker, it won’t force-hide ads; instead, it will hide your activity, meaning you’ll see fewer targeted ads based on your browsing activity and habits. This is likely to cut down on frustration from users who feel inappropriately targeted or singled out by the social media giant’s often-invasive ads.

In addition to its numerous qualities, it also comes with a few downsides—though for the privacy-minded, they’ll probably not feel like game-changers. The main issue is that sharing buttons and those cute little “Like” buttons you see all over the Internet won’t work when you use the add-on since you’ll be logged out of FB everywhere else in Firefox.

Naturally, using the social media buttons outside of the Firefox add-on kind of defeats the purpose of using the add-on to begin with, so this shouldn’t be a huge problem.

You also won’t be able to log into websites that use your FB login information as a credential automatically, which—as Mozilla puts it on the product page—is “to be expected.”

If you’re the kind of person who says “I’d delete my social media accounts, but I need it to stay in contact with so-and-so,” at least once a week, this add-on for Firefox may be for you—and, even if you aren’t a Firefox user, their browser updates over the past six months make switching worth a try.

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Tech News

Experts warn of actual AI risks – we’re about to live in a sci fi movie

(TECH NEWS) A new report on AI indicates that the sci fi dystopias we’ve been dreaming up are actually possible. Within a few short years. Welp.

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AI robots

Long before artificial intelligence (AI) was even a real thing, science fiction novels and films have warned us about the potentially catastrophic dangers of giving machines too much power.

Now that AI actually exists, and in fact, is fairly widespread, it may be time to consider some of the potential drawbacks and dangers of the technology, before we find ourselves in a nightmarish dystopia the likes of which we’ve only begun to imagine.

Experts from the industry as well as academia have done exactly that, in a recently released 100-page report, “The Malicious Use of Artificial Intelligence: Forecasting, Prevention, Mitigation.”

The report was written by 26 experts over the course of a two-day workshop held in the UK last month. The authors broke down the potential negative uses of artificial intelligence into three categories – physical, digital, or political.

In the digital category are listed all of the ways that hackers and other criminals can use these advancements to hack, phish, and steal information more quickly and easily. AI can be used to create fake emails and websites for stealing information, or to scan software for potential vulnerabilities much more quickly and efficiently than a human can. AI systems can even be developed specifically to fool other AI systems.

Physical uses included AI-enhanced weapons to automate military and/or terrorist attacks. Commercial drones can be fitted with artificial intelligence programs, and automated vehicles can be hacked for use as weapons. The report also warns of remote attacks, since AI weapons can be controlled from afar, and, most alarmingly, “robot swarms” – which are, horrifyingly, exactly what they sound like.

Read also: Is artificial intelligence going too far, moving too quickly?

Lastly, the report warned that artificial intelligence could be used by governments and other special interest entities to influence politics and generate propaganda.

AI systems are getting creepily good at generating faked images and videos – a skill that would make it all too easy to create propaganda from scratch. Furthermore, AI can be used to find the most important and vulnerable targets for such propaganda – a potential practice the report calls “personalized persuasion.” The technology can also be used to squash dissenting opinions by scanning the internet and removing them.

The overall message of the report is that developments in this technology are “dual use” — meaning that AI can be created that is either helpful to humans, or harmful, depending on the intentions of the people programming it.

That means that for every positive advancement in AI, there could be a villain developing a malicious use of the technology. Experts are already working on solutions, but they won’t know exactly what problems they’ll have to combat until those problems appear.

The report concludes that all of these evil-minded uses for these technologies could easily be achieved within the next five years. Buckle up.

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This app takes a picture of who stole your device, we are in love

(TECH NEWS) Prey is the ultimate answer to combat a stolen device – going on the offense is sometimes the best defense.

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stolen device report

In an ideal world, you wouldn’t have to worry about your phone or computer being stolen – and, in the event that it was stolen, your device’s “Find My Device” app would be enough.

Unfortunately, prophylaxis is the best (and often only) defense against smartphone thieves, which is why an app called Prey is a head above the pack.

Prey takes the process one step further: it takes a picture of the person who stole your phone and uploads it to a server for your viewing “convenience” (we’re assuming that not much about your current situation is convenient if your smartphone’s gone). This both alerts you to the identity of the person if you know them, or at least gives you a face to show to law enforcement.

Prey’s packed with other features as well, including the ability to entirely wipe your device or pull up coordinates on a world map.

Perhaps the coolest side effect of Prey is its ability to generate far more data for a police report than related apps.

While Find My iPhone and similar services can generate a location and allow you to wipe your device, Prey can use the front and rear cameras for thief identification, retrieve files, take screenshots, and pull up local IP addresses and Wi-Fi networks.

Unlike proprietary device GPS apps, Prey works on all four of the major operating systems (and even Linux, if that’s the kind of person you are), making it much easier for you to streamline your recovery efforts should you lose more than one device at a time.

We wouldn’t wish losing a bag full of your precious electronics on many, but it’s not impossible.

As with any technology, there’s a downside to Prey, and in this case, it’s the sheer potential for damage, should Prey’s data access be compromised. The ability to find one’s location and details such as IP addresses and networks is extremely concerning, especially in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica incident – and while Prey asserts that your device’s data won’t even be examined unless you request the service, it’s still a troubling potentiality.

If you’re worried about losing your device(s) and you’re looking for that extra nail in the coffin should you need it, you can check out Prey’s pricing on their website.

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