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Security & privacy

Study: Most Americans believe they’re being tracked

Using an app exposes you to tracking, but it’s particularly dangerous with certain ones. TikTok has been banned from government and military devices in the U.S., and there’s been a push for its Chinese owners to sell their shares in the company. And that’s not all. Watch out for these other Chinese apps.

It’s not just apps you have to worry about. The threat may be closer to home than you think.

Survey says

Has this happened to you? You’re discussing a product or TV show, then you see an ad for it when you open your browser or social media. Does it feel like you’re being watched? You’re not alone.

Digital Third Coast surveyed over 800 people nationwide regarding their thoughts on privacy. It turns out that four out of five Americans are concerned about digital surveillance daily, even when they’re not saying or doing anything wrong.

The results speak for themselves:

  • 80% are worried about companies following them via ad tracking.
  • 60% believe phones are listening to them.
  • 74% are convinced smart home devices are always listening. 
  • 60% believe the government is tracking their phone data.
  • 13% have considered buying a “dumb” phone to limit how much data they’re putting out there.

The stats show that it’s not just boomers feeling the stress. Just as many millennials (84%) are worried about ad tracking.

As for the government tracking phone data, Gen X (54%), Gen Z (75%) and millennials (65%) all outnumber the older generation (40%) when it comes to distrust.

RELATED: Secret online advertisers do not want you to know

Are you listening, Alexa?

Smart assistant wake-words rely on passive voice transcription to ensure a timely response, even in unfavorable conditions. In addition, there are thousands of wake words that go beyond “OK Google” and “Hey Siri.”

This means that your conversations may trigger the smart assistant without you even knowing it.

The bottom line: If you’re using a connected device, someone may be watching or listening to what you do. But there are ways to fight back! 

Here’s what you need to do

Whether you’re worried about your smart assistant, an app, or government surveillance, you can minimize exposure by following these tips:

  • Focus on app security settings such as app permissions, tracking, and location services. Here are eight ways your phone tracks you that you can stop now.
  • Avoid fishy, shady or suspicious apps, which may compromise your phone’s security and privacy. Always use official stores such as Google Play and Apple’s App Store.
  • Keep your device and apps updated to protect yourself from the latest threats.
  • Always have antivirus software updated and running on all of your devices. We recommend our sponsor, TotalAV. Get an annual plan with TotalAV for only $19 at That’s over 85% off the regular price!
  • A virtual private network (VPN) hides your online activity from everyone, including your ISP. Here’s how our sponsor, ExpressVPN, keeps you safe.

Keep reading

Apple, Google, Amazon, and Facebook are always listening unless you change these settings

Here’s how to catch anyone spying on your text messages

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