There’s no doubt about it, we live in a world where companies have A LOT of information about us, whether we like it or not. And sometimes data is being collected about us that we don’t even know about.
One example is Google Photos, which many people use to take snapshots and make memories. But what a lot of folks don’t realize is that there is a location tracking device within the app that shows exactly where each photo in your phone was taken.
If you open your Google Photos app and click “Search” and “Places” you’ll find a map of all the locations where you’ve taken photos.
If you’re logged into your Google account, your Google Maps app will also give you this information. You can select “Your Timeline” and then choose from “Day” to sort by date or “Places” and you’ll see maps of what kinds of businesses you’ve been to.
If you’re not comfortable with this information being tracked, you can always disable this feature. To do this in the Google Maps app, you can click on “Manage Location History” when you are in “Timeline”. You can then turn it off.
In the Google Photos app, you can turn this off by going to “Settings”, then “Sharing”, and you can turn on “Hide Photo Location Data.”
First it was Facebook, and then it was Twitter. In 2019, Twitter admitted that it allowed marketers to access the phone numbers that users had registered with the site. Many had given their numbers to enable two-factor authentication (2FA)—that process where a website sends you a text message to verify it’s really you who’s logging in. Users didn’t realize they were also allowing marketers to verify who they are in order to build better advertising profiles incorporating Twitter user data. (Twitter says this was an inadvertent mistake and that it has closed the hole.)
That’s especially scary because our phone numbers have become powerful tools to identify and track us, not just for companies but for anyone who wants to look up our personal information stored in a myriad of public records such as court filings, voter registration, real estate transactions, and marriage records.
Twitter’s admission is a nasty case of déjà vu, since Facebook admitted to misusing phone numbers for ad targeting about a year before this article was written in 2019. “For a lot of people, [text-message authentication] is a totally reasonable protection that you should feel comfortable using,” says Gennie Gebhart, a researcher on consumer privacy and security at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “But Facebook was irresponsible, and now we can’t have nice things.”
In many ways, it may be too late to prevent these big social networks from using your phone number how they see fit. Facebook told me that they will only delete your phone number from their records if you delete your entire account. (And much as I’ve been tempted to, I’ve been unable to take that drastic step.) Twitter requires a phone number for 2FA, even if you use an app, although it says that may be changing.
Fortunately, there are other ways to secure your online accounts without handing over a phone number. Facebook, Twitter, and most major sites allow a second 2FA method that uses a free app to generate short-term codes you can enter into the site to verify your identity, just as you would with a code that is texted to you.
Authentication apps remain the best way to secure your online accounts, particularly Authy, a free app for Android, iOS, Windows, and macOS that’s intuitive to use. After you register your Authy account with the websites you use, the app backs up your 2FA setup registration to the cloud and syncs it across multiple devices, making it easy to log in even if your phone breaks or is lost. (Though that makes it a tad less secure.)
Free apps like Authy allow you to generate codes for all the sites you use.
Some sites and apps make it even easier by replacing codes with push notifications. When you log in to a website, you get an alert on the authenticator app and press a button to confirm your identity. A site called Two Factor Auth provides an extensive list of whether major sites offer authentication based on your phone number or if they’ll also accept app-based 2FA.
What if you still need a phone number?
While most major sites allow authenticator apps, some are still stuck on phone numbers. But you have an option here too: Instead of your cellphone number, give them a Google Voice number.
For years, Google has allowed people to get free virtual phone numbers that can receive calls and texts just like a real number. (You can access it online or have messages forwarded to another phone.) Using them when you sign up for services is a great way to cut down on spam phone calls and also ensure that the company doesn’t have your real phone number forever. (A dedicated Gmail for spam is another good idea.)
One catch: Google requires you to provide a real phone number when you sign up for Google Voice. But you can delete the number in your settings after you’ve set up the service, though that means you won’t be able to have messages or calls forwarded to that number. Unlike Facebook, Google at least claims that it will honor user requests to delete their data. Even if it’s lying, you’re giving your real number to just one site instead of every site that requires a phone number for 2FA.
Still, there are times when you may want a company to have your real number. Banks may support authenticator apps for 2FA, or work with a Google Voice number. But if a crook has been messing with your bank account, you might want to get an alert about that ASAP.
WASHINGTON (7News) — With Omicron surging, you may be looking for COVID-19 tests, however, at-home test kits are in short supply in the U.S. and scammers are taking advantage of this.
According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), fake or unauthorized at-home testing kits are being sold online to desperate customers.
“It’s not a surprise that, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, fake and unauthorized at-home testing kits are popping up online as opportunistic scammers take advantage of the spike in demand. Using these fake products isn’t just a waste of money, it increases your risk of unknowingly spreading COVID-19 or not getting the appropriate treatment,” the FTC said in a press release.
Events: Sunday, November 28, 13.00pm – 17.00pm, approximately 5,000-10,000 demonstrators are expected to gather on the Bundesplatz, awaiting the results of the vote (COVID – Law). The local police will be out in large numbers and blockades will be set up. Traffic will be disrupted around the Bundeshaus during the given hours and following the election results.
Actions to take:
· Exercise vigilance and heightened situational awareness over the coming days · Stay alert in public places, including schools, hospitals, churches, tourist locations, and transportation hubs · Be aware of your surroundings · Keep a low profile · Be prepared for potential traffic and public transportation disruptions. · Monitor local media:
. Maintain social distancing, follow hygiene requirements, and follow the Swiss crowd limitation requirements · Avoid groups that are not following the security requirements and/or local laws · Review your personal security plans
Harrisburg, PA – Department of Labor & Industry (L&I) Secretary Jennifer Berrier, Pennsylvania State Police (PSP) Bureau of Criminal Investigation Director Major Jeremy Richard, and Department of Banking and Securities Deputy Secretary for Financial Services Tim Arthun today reminded Pennsylvanians to be vigilant of fraud and the warning signs and steps to take if they become a victim.
“Fraud is an unfortunate byproduct of any disaster, and we are seeing the proof of that during the global COVID-19 pandemic,” said Secretary Berrier. “It’s frustrating that thousands of data breaches that occurred outside of L&I – and outside of the control of consumers who often had no choice but to give companies their personal data – are now resulting in widespread unemployment fraud attempts. We strongly urge everyone to remain vigilant about fraud and to notify authorities of any suspected fraud activity.”
Across the nation, fraudsters have been applying for unemployment benefits using stolen identities that were obtained in data breaches that occurred outside of state government. There were more than 11,000 data breaches that caused the exposure of more than 1.6 billion records in the U.S. over a span of about 15 years. Many individuals whose personal data was leaked during these breaches are unaware until a fraudster uses their identity to apply for unemployment benefits and they receive notification that a benefits application has been filed in their name.
L&I utilizes numerous fraud-detection measures, including using virtual identity verification vendor ID.me to verify the identities of all new unemployment applicants. Since the new UC benefits system went live June 8, we have prevented approximately $1 billion in state and federal dollars from being paid out to fraudsters.
“Realize it can happen to you,” said Major Richard. “If you have been a victim, don’t be embarrassed. Instead, report it to law enforcement. The Pennsylvania State Police works closely with its local, state, and federal law enforcement partners to investigate fraud, identity theft, and scams. The sooner law enforcement knows, the better the chances are of recovering your money and catching the scammers.”
“Unfortunately, scams and fraud are growing more common while also becoming increasingly more sophisticated,” said Deputy Secretary Arthun. “If you are being contacted unexpectedly with a request for your personal or financial information with promises of something that seems too good to be true, it likely is.”
Anyone can contact the Pennsylvania Department of Banking and Securities with questions or complaints about a financial transaction, company, or product at 1-800-PA-BANKS or using the online complaint formOpens In A New Window.
How Not to Burn Down Your House With a Space Heater
The tiny radiators, while useful, cause thousands of fires and hundreds of deaths each year. Here are some tips to stay safe while you stay warm.
By Thom Dunn
Mr. Dunn is a staff writer at Wirecutter, a product recommendation site owned by The New York Times Company.
Dec. 11, 2020
One day last winter, I was down in my unfinished basement working on some music, and my fingers were too cold to play the guitar. So I grabbed a space heater that I was long-term testing for Wirecutter, placed it on the wooden workbench where my audio workstation was set up, and plugged it into the nearest power strip — the one my Marshall amplifier was also plugged into.
I turned the heater on and waited five seconds. The power strip blew up.
It might not have been the dumbest thing I’d ever done, but as I watched the sparks fade from the smoldering lump of burned plastic, I knew it was high on the list.
According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, an estimated 25,000 residential fires are associated with the use of space heaters every year, causing more than 300 deaths and 6,000 trips to the emergency room. Despite the frightening numbers, though, space heaters are actually much safer now than they used to be.
“The electric heaters that I grew up with were open-element,” said Linda Hotz, category director for the Home Comfort team at the home appliance maker De’Longhi. “Most heaters today are 100 times better, but it still has a heating element, so it isn’t as safe as an air purifier, for example.”
While electric, radiant, or convection heating is typically safer and more efficient than a combustion heating system, heat production still requires heat, which always carries risks. Fortunately, space-heater designs now have better insulation around the heating coils and smaller grates to prevent curious fingers from finding their way inside. Many modern space heaters — including those recommended by Wirecutter — also have an automatic shut-off that cuts the power when the device reaches a certain temperature, and a sensor to detect a blocked air passage that could cause heat to build up. Some have tip-over switches that shut down the heater if it’s not flat on the ground.
As Ms. Hotz noted, most home space heaters must now be approved by an independent safety testing laboratory, such as Intertek (whose certification often appears as an “ETL” seal on the item) or UL. But as I demonstrated in my basement, nothing is idiot-proof. So here are a few ways to ensure you’re using a heater safely.
The Heater Belongs on the Floor
It may be tempting to place your space heater somewhere so it blows right in your face. Don’t do that — unless you’re lying flat on the floor, which is just about the only place it should ever go. Don’t set it on a shelf or a stool or a wooden workbench in the basement. If possible, keep it off the rug, too, and definitely off your bed. While these scenarios might appear safe, they increase the risk of the heater falling, tipping over or otherwise overheating, which could start a fire.
To avoid that, we generally recommend placing your space heater on the flattest, smoothest surface available. Some of Wirecutter’s picks, including the Vornado VHEAT Vintage Heater, let you tilt the heating element upward; the Vornado VH200 and AVH10 are angled slightly upward by default, but you can’t tilt them any further. Don’t try to find a way around that.
This should go without saying, but electricity and water are an even deadlier combination than orange juice and toothpaste. Keep your space heater out of kitchens and bathrooms.The T List: A weekly roundup of what the editors of T Magazine are noticing and coveting right now.
Avoid Flammable Objects, Too
The Consumer Product Safety Commission calls it the “three-foot rule,” and it’s pretty simple: Avoid placing a space heater within three feet of anything flammable. Some manuals list curtains, papers, furniture, pillows and bedding as objects to stay away from. The Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers recommends further precautions, including keeping flammable materials like paint and matches far away. If there’s even a slight risk of a pillow or another flammable object falling, such as in an earthquake, set the space heater somewhere the object won’t land on it.
Never Leave the Heater Alone
The best way to prevent a fire is to never leave a space heater running unattended. If you have children or pets that could knock over a heater or drape fabric on it, keep a close eye on its operation. The U.S. Fire Administration recommends keeping young children at least three feet from a space heater, but it’s best not to leave one in a room or closet within reach of children, even if it’s unplugged — beyond the fire risk, the heater is a 15-amp appliance drawing considerable current. The plug and cord, combined with some intuitive on/off switches, pose a hazard to a curious toddler who won’t be anticipating an electric shock.
The instructions with many space heaters also warn not to leave them on while you sleep. Several of Wirecutter’s favorites, such as the De’Longhi TRD40615T, and the Lasko FH500 All Season Comfort Control Tower Fan & Heater in One, come with timers to minimize the chance of their running unattended. (Oil-filled radiators like the De’Longhi are particularly good for bedrooms because they retain heat for longer and continue emitting warmth after they shut off.)
It Wants to Be in a Wall Outlet
Most modern space heaters should come with enough cord slack to allow you to plug them into a wall outlet and still position them conveniently in the room for maximum warmth. Notice that we said wall outlet: Manufacturers advise against plugging space heaters into surge protectors, extension cords, plug timers, G.F.C.I. outlets (the kind with the test and reset buttons) — anything that’s not a wall outlet. Those added layers of electrical connection can overload the circuit, or create additional resistance that allows heat to build up, potentially resulting in a fire or internal electrical damage.
Many manufacturers also recommend keeping your space heater a few feet away from the wall where it’s plugged in, to avoid overheating the wall itself. A lot of the picks in Wirecutter’s guide fill an entire room with heat, so you should be able to get adequate performance with the heater at a safe distance.
If you find yourself with extra cord slack, or you need to use a wall outlet in an adjacent room, resist the urge to hide the cord from sight. Don’t stuff it under a rug or a couch, which could prevent heat from escaping. Also avoid pinching or bending the cord, such as passing it through a tightly closed door hinge, which can impede the electrical current, contributing to a buildup of heat and energy.
How to Add Smart Controls
Space heaters with smart-home functionality are rare in the United States. But the technology and the regulatory standards are moving quickly, and we can expect more smart space-heater tech in the next year or two.
If your space heater lacks a timer — or if you’re just determined to bark heating orders at your voice assistant — consider a plug-in smart outlet like the Wemo Mini. Although most manufacturers discourage plugging a space heater into an extension cord or surge protector, a representative of the Wemo outlet’s manufacturer, Belkin, said in an interview — confirming Wirecutter’s interpretation of the product specs, as well as our tests — that a Wemo Mini should be safe to use with space heaters for up to 15 amps or 1,800 watts of power. Most of Wirecutter’s picks max out at 1,500 watts. But not all heaters are the same, and the Belkin representative did add a caveat: “Some space heaters with embedded fans might consume more power and cause a high inrush current, which could damage or wear out the switching contacts.”
So you should be good to go — but remember, don’t turn on a heater without first making sure it’s positioned safely, and don’t leave it running unattended.
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