Tag Archives: privacy

Four Most Useful Alexa Skills

I have an Amazon Echo in my bedroom and an Echo Show in my kitchen. I use both daily. They have more than paid for themselves in helping me get hands-free information or assistance quickly.

Echo is far from perfect but she beats Siri to a pulp and Echo will only get better with time. Also, yes – Amazon is spying on us. So are Facebook and Google. You can accept it and reap the benefits of the products while taking privacy precautions, or live in the woods (nothing wrong with the latter). But if you think not owning an Echo will make you safer from tech companies watching you, you’re kidding yourself. So, enjoy!

These are the four skills I use the most. If you’re on the fence about buying an Echo, these are the ones from which you could most easily and quickly benefit. (The Echo Dot is only $29.99 right now, so that’s just a no-brainer. It’s the cost of an alarm clock and does a lot more, while also saving your eyes and brain from that stressful visual of the time around 3:42AM.)
  1. Find your lost phone.

    There are a few skills for this but the cleanest, easiest to set up, and easiest trigger words to remember are from this IFTTT recipe. It’s ideal for when your phone is lost within hearing range (like in your couch).

    You say: “Alexa, trigger find my phone.”

    And your phone will ring. Bluetooth does not need to be on, as it does with the Trackr skill that Amazon advertises for finding your phone. The IFTTT recipe doesn’t require installing any additional apps. Plus, just for fun, you can have that 415 number leave any voice message you want. The default is a machine-read, “Hey, it’s your phone. You found me.”

    IFTTT Alexa trigger informationNote: Available in the U.S. only. I like the simplicity of this skill. However, if your phone is lost outside hearing range, the Trackr skill is more detailed and can tell you where it was last seen (address included). That’s nice for finding a truly lost phone.

  2. Find out what time it is.

    You say: “Alexa, time.”

    Use this anytime, especially while you’re in bed. It prevents you from having to move, which can awaken your body. Most importantly, it removes the need to open your eyes and look at your phone or a clock, which wakes up your brain due to the light. Studies have shown that seeing the time on alarm clock or phone can worsen insomnia and anxiety about getting adequate sleep.

    Your phone’s blue light actually makes your brain think it’s morning. Looking at your phone is awful for your circadian rhythm. This simple skill can help. I don’t recommend a jolting alarm wake-up either, which increases heart rate and stress, but instead use a gentle smart wake over thirty minutes with the Sleep Cycle app. I also keep my phone on Airplane mode all night to prevent EMFs from harming my brain and body during sleep.

  3. Get help falling asleep or relaxing.


    You say: “Alexa, help me fall asleep.”

    You’ll hear ambient nature sounds. It’s relaxing. Good to play when getting ready for bed. Further, if you have Spotify, I recommend this skill for yoga, meditation, stretching before bed, or general soothing sounds:

    You say: “Alexa, play meditation music from Spotify.”

    Echo Show on kitchen counter with tomatoes
    Because I can’t remember anything for myself and neither can you.
  4. Set reminders for anything.

    From leaving the house to calling someone back to packing a lunch to putting clothes in the dryer to soaking black beans – sky’s the limit.

    You say: “Alexa, remind me to ___________ at 2:15PM.”

    The reminder will be audible from your Echo and also can appear on your phone if you’ve turned on notifications. I like this feature in case I’m not home.

I’m a fan of Amazon’s voice assistant, obviously. If you’re going to buy an Echo, please click through one of my links in this post. It chips in a few dimes to pay for my web hosting and my valuable hours spent arguing with Bluehost. Thanks 🙂

Your Life History on Demand

Here’s what I see coming for voice assistants like Amazon Echo and Google Home. Lots of marketing opportunities here, and perhaps finally one eco-system to combine all social app data. More on that later.
Basic Functionality:
  • What date did I move to San Francisco?
  • Who joined me at the Bruce Springsteen concert a few years ago?
  • What was the name of that Portland, Maine dive bar on the water with the oysters we loved?
  • When did I first buy raw maca powder?
That’s fairly simple stuff. The required data sources (which we’re already comfortable sharing) include:
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Swarm
  • Instagram
  • Amazon
  • Evernote
Amazon Echo Dot on kitchen counterApps like Timehop can already tap into high level info like this and tell you where you were three years ago, but the social and detail layers will require more information and networked data.
Intermediate Functionality:
  • What did I wear to Blackdiamondskye?
  • Which outfit should I wear today?
  • What topics did I research after my first lunch with Sandra?
  • How many calories have I really eaten today?
  • When am I due for an oil change?
Data sources:
  • Google
  • Weather
  • Credit card purchase history
  • Amazon
  • Photos
    • Clothing/style analysis (with predictive capability)
  • Mobile GPS data (location services) from apps like Google Maps
  • Passbook (boarding passes, movie ticket stubs, event badges)
  • Messaging app history (iMessage, WhatsApp, Facebook, etc.)
Advanced functionality:
  • When was I happiest during the time I lived in New York?
  • Which job offer suits me best?
  • When did I know I was in love?
Data sources:
Everything we say and type? No – just all of the aforementioned sources, plus a future wearable or implanted device to monitor energy. Triangulate the data and apply some algorithms and AI.
hourglass with blue sand
Essentially, I think everything I currently rely on Evernote for will be available through a voice  assistant that is continually self-improving a personalized tagging convention and data-rich picture of who I was, who I am, and who I will be (how I will behave).
Location, check-in, and social data – your digital footprint – will be accessible. Visuals included. The more you check in and document your every move, the richer your look-backs will be. This is similar to the re-do in my favorite Black Mirror episode, The Entire History of You, except what I envision is not based on a 24/7 life recorder, but an aggregation of experiential data shared by permission.
ICYMI – The Entire History of You premise: In an alternate reality, most people have a “grain” implanted behind their ear. It records everything they see, hear, and do, like a first person recorder for life. This allows memories to be (quite realistically) played back either in front of the person’s eyes or on a screen, a process known as a “re-do”.
I’m not advocating for a grain implant or anything as terrifying as what’s available in this show. But the personal data recall possibilities are pretty exciting.
  • Upside: wonderful for re-experiencing memories or pulling up information quickly.
  • Downside: our memories will get even weaker because we will exercise that muscle less and less. Oh, and privacy.

How to Manage LinkedIn Privacy Settings – Remove Imported Contacts

You may have unknowingly granted LinkedIn access to hundreds of your contacts and emails. The confusing privacy policy and slippery UI make it difficult to tell how much data you’re sharing (probably a lot more than you realize).

crowd of people walking down busy city street
LinkedIn’s methods for gathering data from its over 450 million* registered users are shrouded. Usually, they don’t ask permission, they just uncheck new Privacy Controls for you. It’s no wonder they’ve faced numerous lawsuits.

LinkedIn seems to know everyone you’ve ever emailed: The People You May Know feature seems to make predictions based on information you’ve never knowingly transmitted. Before I explain how this works, here’s a quick fix:

How to remove your imported contacts from LinkedIn:

Go to Connections -> Add Connections -> Manage imported contacts (top right of page) -> click “select all” and delete all

Linkedin how to manage imported contacts(This is easiest to do on desktop: forget performing half the functions you want to on the iPhone app.)

How LinkedIn is seemingly psychic about people you may know

  1. Other users’ actions: This algorithm is their secret sauce. LinkedIn analyzes other users’ searches and viewing histories to make assumptions about people you may know. I.e., if Sheryl and Dean searched for both you and Tony, then you and Tony may know each other. Multiply this across many users. The result is an algorithm that predicts your likely contacts without ever accessing your actual contacts. You may see recommendations to connect with someone who has the same name as someone you know, but is a totally different person.
  2. Your contacts: You may have granted LinkedIn access to your contacts, which often happens inadvertently by using the app. “Inadvertent” is the keyword for most privacy issues with LinkedIn, because its strategy hinges upon 1) the fact that most users don’t read fine print and 2) that its UI, especially on mobile, effectively shuffles users along a permission-granting bender.

    LinkedIn app import contacts screen UI
    Strategically designed buttons and CTAs usher users along a permission-granting path
  3. Your login: When logged in, even if you close the tab, LinkedIn has access to any activity you take on a site with a LinkedIn plugin or authentication that you’ve granted. To avoid this tracking, log out of LinkedIn whenever you’re done with your business.

I began researching this because I noticed that LinkedIn seemed to have access to hundreds of my old email contacts. Continue reading How to Manage LinkedIn Privacy Settings – Remove Imported Contacts

Snapchat Marketing: Doing What?

In the last 1-2 years we’ve seen a trend of complimenting brands who are “rocking” Snapchat and other relatively new one-to-one social messaging apps. (I prefer Allison Steele’s term: attention deficit content creation platforms.)

After 5-10 years of oversharing, narcissism, and selfie culture resulting in enough privacy backlashes, firings, and divorces, many users are crunching inwards toward more private communication. Brands automatically assuming they belong in this new crop of apps is a me-too mistake, the result of too much demand for rapid reaction.

Taco Bell Snapchat screenshot #DoingStuff
Taco Bell uses Snapchat to let fans know about new products.

Where is the data indicating that Taco Bell, McDonald’s, General Electric, Heineken, the New Orleans Saints, 16 Handles, etc. are successful on Snapchat?

Brands on Snapchat hope to reach Millennials (those born in roughly the early 1980s to the early 2000s). Targeting a demo whose childhoods were filled with every-loser-gets-a-trophy-for-showing-up has translated to brands showing up – without even keeping score – being considered winners.
Ladybugs movie soccer

You can’t measure engagement within Snapchat.

A snap can’t benefit from the interaction of a Like, retweet, favorite, or share. Brands get more buzz off the flowery Mashable campaign coverage written by AYSO trophy-saturated writers who continually fail to proofread (a symptom of “A for effort”? – this is too easy). I’ve personally seen brand impressions from articles lauding the “organic/intimate/forward-thinking/risk-taking” efforts of marketers and their agencies for experimentation with Snapchat, Vine, etc. worth more than any fleeting impact the disappearing content may have on consumers. Not only do the messages disappear, the attention span of their target user base is the shortest on the planet.

Resources devoted to Snapchat when your other social ducks are anemic makes good linkbait when we’re all tired of hearing about the reach woes of Facebook and ineffective YouTube pre-roll. Instead of fixing problems on platforms with better tracking, targeting, reach, and content longevity, it’s easier and more fun to make stop motion videos. Now, Snapchat’s 32.9% penetration among 18-34 year-olds should not be ignored. And if you want to reach 18-25 year-olds with exclusive content – things like limited time coupons, flash sales, and behind-the-scenes footage – I see the draw. But where is the yardstick?

Lastly, we all know what Snapchat is for. Do you really want a brand’s snap next to your sext? The proximity alone should cause a panic attack.

Andrew Cunningham at HUGE wrote a nice summary of considerations if you choose to market with Snapchat. I am not saying avoid it: I’m saying stop handing out trophies for showing up at try-outs.

About Snapchat:

It’s a mobile messaging app that allows users to share photos and videos that disappear after a short time once the recipient opens the message (after 1-10 seconds or 24 hours for Stories). As of July 2014, users were sending 700 million photo messages each day, up from 400 million in October 2013.
Source: statista.com

Love in the Digital Age: The Good, the Bad, & the Ugly – Episode 16

online-dating-heart-mouse-the-digital-dive-podcast

This week on the Digital Dive, we discuss the way technology has radically changed the world of dating and relationships – for better and for worse. Take a walk through the good, the bad, and the ugly ways that social media, online dating sites, search engines, and apps impact the experience of romance in modern culture. Is the level of transparency afforded by technology a good thing?

I. “Facebook me.” – When first meeting, how soon should you share your social profile? Is sharing a social profile more intimate than sharing a phone number? (I say yes.)

II. Online dating websites – The popularity of online dating sites has ballooned over the past few years, and the average age of users is dropping. Melanie and I discuss the advantages and disadvantages of meeting organically vs. meeting online. Is there still a stigma to online dating?

III. Breaking up digitally – “Out of sight, out of mind”is increasingly difficult as individual online presences grow. Avoiding an ex online can be almost impossible when you have mutual friends. Listen for websites and apps that can help ease the pain.

Online Dating

Tips on Tap:

I. Block Your Ex – Browser add on that blocks you from seeing your ex on social media, search engines, and blog networks. blockyourex.com

II. Never Liked it Anyway – Online marketplace to sell gifts from exes that are too hard to keep. neverlikeditanyway.com

III. What to do if your site gets hacked: Informative videos from Google Webmaster.

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