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Privacy, Smart Devices, their T&Cs, CHOICE testing & reviews of them

I doubt whether Google or Amazon see advertising as their “core business” though it is likely a very profitable arm. Apple and advertising is probably just as intertwined just you don’t get to see the selling of your data so obviously. I think any business that collects user data has some selling of their databases, and this includes Governments. It may be couched in terms of providing a better service, as a research need, device improvement, analysis and so on. Monetising their user base is the reality and the spin on the reasons is the illusion for many of them.

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In the article he goes on to say that you can turn off Analytics, Location services etc, you can lock the iphone down as much as you want. I do it as a matter of course. Its all there in the settings and anyone who does not go through settings and choose what they want to leak out, is a idiot, who should have a completely “dumb” phone. Sorry… theres just no excuse for not bothering.

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For those of us who read and know, it is a given.

For many others,

  1. What phone options are there today that are truely dumb? Assumes the sales team would even make that suggestion!
  2. When I could suggest I have neighbours who tell me they don’t have internet, but have Telstra and Foxtel, is there any hope? Ignorance reigns!

I even have family members asking should they pay for a security AV pack for their iPhone after going instore to change their plan. They don’t surf or bank etc with the phone, but do use the camera and navigation and Messaging!

Part of the problem may be consumer ignorance. It is perhaps unlikely to change quickly. A process of progressive generational extinction.

Another may be the overselling of products by staff that put the customer’s best interests second. Sorry - there are Corporate Policy and performance requirements to achieve!

Where have we heard that before?

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@mark_m @SueW as you both point out some of the sharing comes down to convenience eg for some Location services so that they have a lasting record of their travels or can use their maps to get directions, Geo tagging photos and similar activities. How many people disable all this all the time? I doubt very few do so. Even as you admit @SueW you do leak info, it may be limited by your control of settings but what you release is still out of your control once it is sent.

Use the calendar to keep birthdays etc, take a photo, your list of contacts, almost all photos you take it’s all synced to the iCloud on an iPhone and the same goes for many users of Android devices, these are just some of what helps make a Smart phone/tablet/device “smart” and provide the services people like. When you get a patch to the operating system or patches to the Apps this also requires sharing of data. About the only way to turn off much of this is to turn off all Apps and then you pretty much revert to a dumb phone as @SueW suggests is an answer to those who don’t bother limiting the exposure.

As a counterpoint some who share the data believe they get a better service from leaving most if not all of the data sharing on eg analytics so that problems get fixed. They see the trade-off as a benefit to them. Then there are those who do not clearly understand what the sharing means, they just want things to work when they do something and while we may consider them gullible they have a valid point of view in that the people who make the product should be able to be trusted. So if you are turning off a lot of function why do you have to or desire to do so? If the company can be trusted then there is no need.

There is no truly dumb mobile phone, they all use and share data to create the mobile telecommunications service just some are pretty dumbed down. Got a mobile phone you can be followed, perhaps not as accurately as when you have location and GPS turned on but still tracked none the less.

To think all that data is not in some way mined (whether for benign or for other reasons we really don’t know) is perhaps a little too trusting of Governments and also organisations whose purpose to exist is purely profit (even though that purpose has a benefit for the user of the products produced/used). That is the point I am trying to make and perhaps not doing clearly enough. Sue trusts Apple that they might only want to sell her more Apple gear, but who really knows?

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There are actually quite a few, usually marketed as “phones for the elderly” which I resent because I am just about there.

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Deleted. No point trying to fight city hall, as they say.

Not sure if referring to me as city hall or whether to the system. If about me, I’m sorry if you take it that I am saying you are wrong to take control of your data or that I am over ruling you. I am the user of multiple connected devices that obviously share my info, some openly eg the settings for apps, some are more deeply hidden and are not so obvious. I can only control or at times only deal with what I can see is my point about the data mining and I would like it to be out in the open rather than hidden. A bit like “here is what we are sending, this is the particular need/s to do so, this is where it will go and this is how it will be stored and used”. Some of that we then should be able to choose not to send it or who may be given access to it, and for the things we can’t choose to control at least we know who to hold to account if something fails to protect our interests.

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Do you turn off WiFi and Bluetooth when you’re out and about? Both of these can be used to track you.

I admittedly leave Bluetooth on, because my headphones use it - but I use an app (IFTTT) to turn off WiFi as soon as I leave the house.

These still allow tracking, as any mobile phone needs to connect to a ‘cell’ tower. It looks for the nearest tower, and this data can be used to triangulate your location.

And of course under the ‘data retention’ laws Australia now has, all your metadatas are belong to the government. (Yes, I know the English is poor - it is an attempt to recreate an old gaming meme.)

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Not BT, as you say, headset needs it. So does my Apple Watch. But yes to WiFi, I dont have access to it when out, nor do I want it, as public wifi is one place thats definitely NOT safe. However, tracking is done via the GPS system and your use of mobile towers… Theres no escape.

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This. Cant avoid tracking.

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Not if you use a good VPN every time your device is online. That means 24/7. I’m looking at getting a new router which I can use to cover my entire house in one fell swoop. Currently its one device at a time when in use. Assuming I remember.

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We have a friend that used a Family Tracker type app on all their families phones (partner and kids). He was showing me how it worked and how great he thought it was as he could see in real time where his partner was (e.g. on her way home and where…so could give him an idea of when she would be arriving) and their kids (all teenagers) so that if they needed to find out where they were…hey presto…a click on the app and all is revealed.

I raised concern about what data was being collected…and at the time he said that the data was private. The next time I saw him he indicated that he removed the apps as while the mapped data was ‘private’ to users of the app, it was not private to the app’s developer. The app was sharing (and developer keeping) any data collected by the app including things like locations, time (to identify when say stopped somewhere), speed etc etc. It also aggregated the data and also allowed sharing with its partners to improve the app’s experience in the future. He said that he wasn’t comfortable with an app sharing any geolocational and potentially personal data with anyone else and as a result, removed the app. He was also worried that it could be used by law enforcement to prove he, say for example, was speeding on a particular road.

I just searched for a tracking app (not sure if this was the specific one used), but some of the data collected and use of the data is a little concerning…

There has also been recent media about some of the apps which can manipulate features to create a ‘funny’ face. These apps use biometric data to manipulate the images taken…however, the same biometric data collected by the app is exported to the apps developers for their own ‘use’. I know that FaceApp was one of many apps in question, as the biometric data goes to Russia…

I wonder how many users of FaceApp would send a copy of their fingerprints (biometric facial data is similar to a finger print) to Russia?

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I am so glad I am not a teenager in the modern world. “What were you doing from :clock10: pm to :clock1130: pm in the local park? I hope you weren’t alone - it can be dangerous outside at night!”

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To partner, “That’s why I turned the phone off last night while working back, having diner in town and not coming home till 3am?”

Trust or protection or control?

As consumers we need to ensure we are fully aware of what we are purchasing.

After purchase do we also need to accept accountability for how a product is used?
(According to the manufacturer’s recommendations, without question? :thinking:)

Do features or products such as personal tracking apps actually add value to our daily routine, or simply prey on insecurities?

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This is the problem, with many products T&Cs obscuring what you are buying into. Without careful reading of what the use entails you can be opening yourself to a whole lot of unsuspected data mining. Even with careful reading some terms are so opaque you as a user would probably never know what you agreed to.

The T&Cs need to spell it out much more clearly, as an example of obscuring the sellers position is the term “we will share with our business partners”…just who are these business partners, what is the arrangement, how does it affect my privacy, what information will or has been shared, where will this information be stored, what benefit does the seller of the product receive from these “business partners” for giving access to my data eg do they receive commissions? None of that is often answered and it should be.

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I agree that it would be a massive service to consumers if, as part of technology reviews, Choice looked over the T&Cs of products and advised on whether they are reasonable or not. For eg, a product which performed well may have very unreasonable T&Cs whcih would reduce the consumers rights, or privacy, etc, making the product undesirable from the consumer’s point of view.

Agree with this too. I also hope that Choice could lead a campain for legislative change so T&Cs are brief, written in plain English, and are not onerous. T&Cs should be written for the same literacy level as newpapers so most people understand what is written.

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IoT devices can be sending data to unexpected places even at times when they are “idle”. Smart TVs contacting Netflix even when no Netflix has been enabled is just one of the examples from a study. Think you have reasonable Privacy, it seems you can forget that when you have IoT devices in your house. To read the sobering report you can download it at:

To read 2 articles on the report see:

What did we sign up for when we purchased these devices & did the T&Cs clearly state it?

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Probably. IN very small print on the last page of the T&Cs.

I don’t have much in the way of IoT devices. My TV is dumb, and I dont want or need a smart one because I have an AppleTV (and a Fetch). As I said in another thread, I have Netatmo, and that tells the world where I live and what the weather is like here. I have LIFX globes which I bought in spite of everyone I knew insisting that Philips Hue were better, and I did that because no special hub is needed. However, the globes do connect to LIFX because I can turn them on and off from somewhere else on the planet: also, they let me know when they need updating, in the LIFX app. If I wanted, I could use Siri to manage them, too, because my AppleTV works as Homepod would, in that respect.

I will never have a smart fridge or washing machine, I really cant see the point.

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How many consumers have the technical experience (or capacity), to understand what the T&Cs are committing users to?

Very few, or even none?

Understanding might also rely a little on how anyone interprets the jargon, and also degree of ambiguity in the language.

If that is not is not enough, there are statements such as ‘subject to the laws of the …[ insert any foreign nation or state ]’.
or
A general clause indicating the manufacturer can update or amend the terms or conditions of use at any time, no conditions provided.

Some times it’s all for a better user experience!

BUBBLES
There are supposed protections under Australian consumer law, and Australian legislated privacy and data protection legislation. It would seem common that these are only observed after the fact, or not until a product is caught out.

For the average consumer, it seems best to do as always, consider the T&Cs as an optional unenforceable undertaking, and assume all is exposed.

For Government this might also be the desired outcome, or risk effective home data security undermining it’s own desires to access metadata or more!

Given all electrical devices sold in Aust are required to meet a large number of standards, and Communications device extra certifications.

Should there be a national certification of all devices with imbedded software and communications ability, for compliance with a minimum level of security/protection? Perhaps graded across several levels depending on what they are at risk of exposing. :mask:

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Some commentary on privacy concerns with smart devices:

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