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Quick, easy steps to protect your data

Posted at 6:59 PM, Oct 31, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-01 11:25:33-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — For better or worse, we live in a connected world.

"Any time I talk about cornflakes, there's like 10 ads of cornflakes coming on my phone," Sharif Muhamad, a shopper on his way out of the Apple store on the Country Club Plaza, said.

"It keeps track of everywhere you go, minute to minute to minute," Paul Tolsch, another shopper, said of his smartphone.

A survey released in 2017 from the Centers for Disease Control found American households have a median of five "connected devices," like smartphones, computers and tablets. The number has likely gone up in the past couple years with the rise in popularity of streaming devices and smart speakers.

All of those devices store personal data that could be at risk.

41 Action News, with the help of a technology expert and Consumer Reports, uncovered some quick and easy ways to protect your privacy.

1. Limit GPS tracking

"If you have location services on, somebody can find you," Frankie Bellucci, who owns a computer repair and smart technology company called Frankie OnCall, said.

Bellucci said you can look at the settings for every app you've downloaded. Some may not need to know where you are at all times. Most have the option of enabling location services only while the app is in use.

2. Enable two-factor authentication

You may have run into this on Facebook, which made multi-factor authentication mandatory for some accounts linked to business pages.

When multi-factor authentication is set up, entering a password is no longer the only thing needed to access an online account. Typically a code is sent by text or through an app, and that must be entered to log in.

3. Strip location data from photos

"It's data about the image itself. White balance, was the flash used, things like that, but it also knows where the photo was [taken]," Bellucci said.

That information is used by Google Photos or iCloud to sort your pictures for easy access, but it can also go along with the image when it is shared.

According to Consumer Reports, here's how to strip data from photos stored on your computer:

In Windows: Right click on the image file, then go to Properties > Remove Properties and Personal Information.

In MacOS: Open the photo in Preview, then go to Tools > Show Inspector > Remove Location Info.

Other Privacy Fixes

Consumer Reports' other two tips are to turn off facial recognition on Facebook and to delete recordings on smart speakers like Alexa.

Bellucci recommends being careful about what you do in front of your computer's camera. Some of his clients place tape over it as a precaution.

He also advised caution while using public WiFi, which gives hackers an opportunity to get into your device.

"Don't go to your bank, don't buy your wife a diamond ring when you're at Starbucks," Bellucci said.

You may even want to use Incognito search mode while on public WiFi.

Editor’s Note: The 41 Action News app uses location services. Read our privacy policy.