Tech Talk: Privacy in the Age of Alexa

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Tech Talk with Lisa Hendey/Son Rise Morning Show (CatholicMom.com)

On a recent episode of the Son Rise Morning Show, we discussed the changes in online privacy policies due to new GDPR regulations, then delved into the challenges of keeping our information private when we have smart assistants or smart speakers in our homes and offices. Listen to the whole conversation:

For those of us who spend our lives reading email, it seems that over the last few weeks our inboxes filled with notices asking us to accept new privacy policies.

  • On May 25, 2018 Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) went into effect, so many companies were putting new data and privacy policies into place to comply with this new regulation.
  • Per the New York Times, “The data regulation law centers on two main principles:
    • The first is that companies need your consent to collect your data.
    • The second is that you should be required to share only data that is necessary to make their services work.”

Why it’s really important that we read the fine print on these emails:

  • Many companies are updating privacy policies and using this situation to have users reaffirm consent.
  • When we ignore pop-up notifications or emails that state the “continued use of this service constitutes agreement with our updated privacy policy,” we may be consenting to policies that authorize increased taking of our data.
  • To look closely at your privacy settings on social media, us Twitter’s “Your Twitter Data” in your privacy settings. On Facebook, use the “Privacy Checkup” tool or go to the Privacy tab in your settings.
  • I’ve also been using these email reminders as a prompt to thin my email subscription list and to unsubscribe from emails that are no longer helpful or relevant for me.

Speaking of privacy, there was a big story about Alexa spying on a Portland family via their Amazon echo device. Do we need to be worried about our smart speakers?

  • Last week, Amazon confirmed reports that an Oregon family’s Amazon Echo device had recorded and sent a private audio conversation to a random person on their contact list.
  • If you choose to own an Alexa or any other digital assistant, take the following precautions:
    • Place the device somewhere that it can be clearly seen so that you will see the active light when it illuminates.
    • Make sure the device’s volume is turned to an audible level that enables you to hear its queries.
    • Carefully consider your device’s “wake word” and do not use a word that you would otherwise use regularly.
    • Be cautious about the skills (apps) you install on your device.
    • Do not share your contact list or call Amazon to revoke access.

I use Alexa daily as a part of my spiritual life. I particularly enjoy using the following skills:

    • I listen to short daily updates from EWTN, Relevant Radio and “Starquest Headlines” from SQPN in my daily “flash briefing.” Many of the large Catholic media outlets are now offering daily briefings.
    • I listen to the daily Mass readings and have prayed the Rosary with Alexa and love listening to Franciscan Media’s “Saint of the Day” each day.
    • I listen to a variety of Catholic podcasts and radio stations via Alexa. (To listen to the Son Rise Morning Show each day, simply say, “Alexa, play Sacred Heart Radio.”)
    • New Catholic skills are being added daily. Be sure to check reviews on each skill you try before using it.

Read more of our Tech Talk columns.


Copyright 2018 Lisa Hendey

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About Author

Lisa M. Hendey is the founder and editor of CatholicMom.com and the bestselling author of the Chime Travelers children's fiction series, The Grace of Yes, The Handbook for Catholic Moms and A Book of Saints for Catholic Moms. As a board member and frequent host on KNXT Catholic Television, Lisa has produced and hosted multiple programs and has appeared on EWTN and CatholicTV. Hendey hosted “Catholic Moments” on Radio Maria and is the technology contributor for EWTN’s SonRise Morning Show. Lisa's articles have appeared in Catholic Digest, National Catholic Register, and Our Sunday Visitor. Hendey travels internationally giving workshops on faith, family, and Catholic technology and communications topics. She was selected as an Elizabeth Egan Journalism Fellow, attended the Vatican Bloggers Meeting, the “Bishops and Bloggers” meeting and has written internationally on the work of Catholic Relief Services and Unbound. Hendey lives with her family in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Visit Lisa at www.LisaHendey.com for information on her speaking schedule or to invite her to visit your group, parish or organization.

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