“9 Gift Ideas to Avoid Giving Your Loved Ones this Holiday Season: Tech Edition”

But this year, give the gift of good security (and privacy) and eschew tech that can have untoward risks or repercussions. Location data is some of the most sensitive data belonging to a person; location can determine where someone was at a particular time, which can be highly revealing and invasive. Even one of the better-known family tracking apps, Life360, was caught selling the precise location data of its users to data brokers. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t discuss the benefits and pitfalls of tracking your kids with your kids. And this year, another smart sex-toy maker exposed the user and location data of its customers thanks to its leaky servers, which the company has yet to fix.

The holiday season is upon us, and with it comes the traditional tradition of gift-giving. While it’s easy to get carried away with extravagant presents, why not give the gift of security and privacy? It’s time to say no to tech that can bring untoward risks and consequences. We’re not just talking about things that go boom in the night or suddenly break, but also gifts that can have irreversible or ongoing effects in the future.

This year has seen some of the biggest hacks involving healthcare and genetic data, a growing prevalence of consumer surveillance technology spying on unsuspecting individuals, and ongoing unethical data practices that sell your private information to anyone willing to buy it. One solution is to simply avoid these technologies altogether.

But don’t worry if you’re still looking for gift ideas. We’ve gathered some suggestions for you to consider. On the other hand, here are some tech gifts you should definitely avoid this year.

Gifts to Avoid

  1. Genetic testing kits like 23andMe can have lasting and unforeseen consequences.

When it comes to genetic testing, it’s important to remember that once you’ve submitted your DNA, there’s no going back. Not only are you digitizing your own genetic makeup, but also that of close family members and relatives. And with this comes the risk of unknown consequences.

This year, the profiles and genetic information of millions of 23andMe customers were compromised, making it one of the biggest breaches of genetic data in recent years. But 23andMe is not the only company to have their data leaked, and it certainly won’t be the last.

Even setting security concerns aside, the fact that these companies store massive amounts of highly sensitive information makes them an attractive target for law enforcement agencies. And while companies like 23andMe and Ancestry claim to resist government requests for DNA data, other companies have shown a lack of reluctance to share this data with law enforcement.

“Doing 23andMe is an irreparable action that can have unforeseen implications, not just for yourself but for future generations.” – Jason Koebler, 404 Media

  1. Video doorbells that see and hear everything.

At first glance, video doorbells may seem like a convenient tool to see who’s at your front door, but the long-term consequences can be concerning. These devices record everything they see and hear, which is then stored in the cloud for later viewing. However, this footage is often accessible to law enforcement, which can become invasive if they access footage from inside your home without permission.

To maintain the most privacy, use end-to-end encrypted cameras, which only allow the owner to access their own footage. This is especially important since companies like Ring have been fined for allowing their employees to access unencrypted videos. While Ring claims their employees will now only access footage in “limited circumstances,” they have not specified what those circumstances are.

  1. VPNs won’t necessarily keep you anonymous, but can expose your web data.

It’s a common misconception that a VPN, or virtual private network, can provide complete anonymity on the internet. However, this is not always the case.

While consumer-focused VPNs claim to hide your IP address and allow you to access geo-blocked content, they often fall short in terms of privacy. These services funnel your internet traffic through a third-party provider, which can have access to sensitive information such as passwords and browsing history. Some VPN providers even fail to properly encrypt user data, despite claiming to do so.

Keep in mind that VPN providers still need to make money, which can put your privacy at risk. Free VPN providers are especially concerning, as they often sell or share user data with advertisers or other untrusted entities. If you want true anonymity online, consider using the Tor Browser, which may be slower, but offers stronger privacy protection. And if a VPN is necessary for your needs, consider setting up and running your own VPN for added security.

  1. Tracking your kids with risky location-tracking apps is never a good idea.

It’s natural for parents to want to keep track of their kids’ whereabouts, especially in a world filled with dangers and online threats. However, using location-tracking apps can pose serious security and privacy risks, and the data collected is rarely confined to the device.

Location data is highly sensitive and can reveal a person’s whereabouts at any given time. Unfortunately, we’ve seen cases of leaky location-sharing apps, as well as buggy and invasive “stalkerware” apps that can divulge information to anyone with internet access. Even popular apps such as Life360 have been caught selling user location data to third-party companies.

Instead of resorting to stealthy tracking methods, it’s better to have an open and honest conversation with your children about the benefits and risks of sharing their location. Trust is key, not secretive monitoring. If your kids are willing to share their location, consider using built-in family and parental control apps on their devices. On Android devices, Google offers the Family Link app, while Apple devices allow for end-to-end encrypted location sharing among other Apple users.

  1. Cheap knock-off Android tablets can hide malware.

While it may be tempting to opt for cheaper devices, especially when it comes to Android tablets, keep in mind that they may come with hidden risks. For example, a low-cost tablet given to a child by EFF’s Alexis Hancock was found to have preloaded malware. In addition, the tablet was running outdated software and had an app store designed for kids, which was also outdated. Despite contacting the manufacturer, they never received a response.

This is a common issue with cheaper devices, as manufacturers may include preloaded software in exchange for monetary kickbacks. Unfortunately, this software can transmit data about the device or user, or even have security vulnerabilities that put sensitive data at risk. If you do have a knock-off tablet, there are steps you can take to secure it, as outlined in Hancock’s guide.

  1. Internet-connected sex toys can be a major security risk.

It’s a well-known fact in the cybersecurity field that any device connected to the internet is more vulnerable to hacking and tampering. And this is especially true for devices that are meant to be used inside the body.

Over the years, there have been numerous incidents involving internet-connected sex toys. In 2020, a smart chastity lock was found to have a security bug that could potentially lock users in permanently. Just this year, another company producing smart sex toys exposed user data and locations due to their insecure servers, and have yet to fix the issue.

If you must use a remotely controlled sex toy, opt for one with a Bluetooth remote instead. This limits the wireless range in which someone could potentially interfere. And remember, it’s completely acceptable to embrace your kinky side, but if privacy is a concern, consider using a Bluetooth-only device or a toy with less functionality.

It’s the season of giving, but make sure to avoid giving gifts that come with potential risks and consequences. Stay informed and prioritize your security and privacy when choosing gifts for your loved ones. Happy gifting!

Avatar photo
Dylan Williams

Dylan Williams is a multimedia storyteller with a background in video production and graphic design. He has a knack for finding and sharing unique and visually striking stories from around the world.

Articles: 874

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *