S3E12: How to apply for Internet Assistance program | Amazon Sidewalk | and Google Privacy?


Chapter 1

Internet Assistance Program aka Emergency Broadband Benefit, 

Did you experience financial difficulties last year during covid such as unemployment or furloughs? Or maybe your children qualify for free or reduced lunch? If you live in the United States, there is a government program to give you Internet fees assistance of up to $50 a month. So say you qualify and you have lower speed Internet, this is a chance to upgrade to a higher speed plan perhaps? Or maybe you are struggling and you just need help to maintain the Internet you have. I will have a link in the show notes. You should go and see if you qualify. This program won’t last forever so the biggest downside is if you upgrade your Internet you may have to downgrade to a more affordable plan when the program stops. In the meantime many states are trying their best to lobby and create plans to help rural areas who do not have what the FCC classifies as broadband which is 25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload. Hopefully we will eventually treat the Internet as a necessity since so many of us use it for everything we do. 



Chapter 2

How many times have you said to yourself? Hey Self, would you like to share your Internet with your neighbors? NO! You don’t want to do that. Your neighbor may be into stuff you aren’t into. Amazon announced several months back that “Sidewalk” their connectivity feature for helping their Alexa and other smart devices connect more quickly to the Internet would be turned on by default on all of their devices. They have also partnered with Tile, the Bluetooth device for helping find things that is shaking in their boots thanks to Apple’s AirTags (which feels like a blatant rip off of Tile’s technology). So Tile and Amazon have partnered to compete with AirTags. But what does this mean? Well basically Sidewalk will slice out a small portion of your Internet bandwidth to dedicate to traffic between Amazon smart devices, roughly 80k per second. So if you have 1.5 meg internet, that might hurt some but if you have 25 meg or more (the FCC’s definition of broadband) you may not even notice or miss it. And Amazon says the traffic will be encrypted and your privacy will be protected. Of course, this is from the same company whose Alexa devices seem to go off randomly and think a lot of what I say must be its key word. If you are paranoid and you have the Alexa app on a smart device, you can turn off Sidewalk. But the potential is eventually IoT (Internet of Things) devices may use this approach to talk rather than having to use Zigbee and other proprietary methods of communication or instead of using your Wifi in a not all that secure manner. So it could be a good thing or a bad thing. Time will tell. If you aren’t paranoid enough to NOT have Alexa devices but you are paranoid enough to be worried, you can opt out of Sidewalk inside the Alexa app by going to Settings, Account Settings, Sidewalk and toggle “Enabled” to Disabled.


Chapter 3

Google learns we may want privacy? Oh, and better protection.

So I mentioned features of Google’s Password Manager in Chrome browser as mentioned during Google I/O. Well, we didn’t talk about it but Google is making TSA aka Two Step Authentication the default going forward and will eventually convince you to turn it on. I highly recommend it. While it is not bulletproof, having to have both the password to your account and then having a code texted to you or using Google Authenticator means it will be extra challenging for hackers to get into your gmail and other Google products. And you will have greater control over your privacy. You can password protect your search history in your browser. That’s right. So you can prevent others from seeing your search history in Google accounts. You will also get more options to delete past history in Chrome. Say, you want your history deleted after three months. Bam, you can easily set it. What it to expire in 24 hours? Sure. Want to protect via a password where you surf on the Internet? You can. 



How to tell Google to delete your history automatically


Watch the Live version of this on YouTube. Be sure to Like and Subscribe if you drop by. https://youtu.be/J0LRV3FdHUc

S3E10: Big Brother and Your Cell Phone

The One-Off Tech Podcast S3E10 Big Brother and Your Cell PhoneIntro

Do you know where you are? Your cell phone does. if you are familiar with the concept of Big Brother, an all seeing, all knowing entity watching our every move, then you might want to think about what big brother and your cell phone know about you. In this video we will talk about Tech and how to better protect your privacy. We will also talk about Siri and how she isn’t who she used to be. Like, Subscribe, and hit the bell if you want to watch videos like this on my channel.

I’m Roy Richardson and this is the live edition of my podcast, the One-Off Tech Podcast now in season 3 and available on all your favorite podcast platforms. I have been in the tech industry for over 25 years and here we talk about Tech in plain language and how it can affect you. Does Big Brother and your cell phone spy on you? The answer is probably. But the Big Brother in this scenario isn’t some big government entity (unless you live in a country that tightly controls the Internet or have some conspiracy theory to fill in some gaps here. I believe for the most part the US Government is “Chaotic Good”. For the purposes of our discussion, the Big Brother in this case is Tech companies and sometimes hackers. And the Tech companies only want to make a buck, okay, actually that is also the hackers goal too. But the Tech companies want to target what you do, where you go, and what you like to send you relevant ads.

So if you have listened to any of my previous podcasts or my first live stream (don’t watch it, I will recap it and save you some misery) you know cookies play a big role in your experience on different websites you visit, session cookies keep up with the fact you have visited that site before and also make it where you don’t have to login to their websites very often because based on these text files on your computer they know you are the person who previously visited and a session variable says you were authenticated. 

And we talked about Google’s new way of tracking users FLoC (Federated Learning of Cohorts) basically an attempt to track you but make the info more anonymous. See the show notes for a link to read about that in more detail or watch the first show.

Okay, so how does it have anything to do with my cell phone? So your browsers are telling who you are, some of your favorite apps have asked you for permissions at some point and you may or may not have allowed some of your apps “location tracking”. What?!?

Your phone is constantly pinging cell towers saying “Hey, here I am!” and if you have allowed apps to be able to do location tracking, then they will ask for and receive this information. So what does it mean when apps know where you are? Simple, say you are at Walmart. You pull into the parking lot and the app knows you are at a certain Walmart store. How does it know this? You allowed this app to do location tracking. On iPhone, go to Settings, Privacy, Location Services and you will see what access you have given these apps. 

iPhone Screen And Me Privacy SettingsEver get an ad in an app that is so local? Wow, that lawyer is down the street from me and well, there is his ad. I am always bugged when I visit a site and it says welcome to you coming from  company Mirror Abstract Productions, which is my fictional company. They do a lookup of the IP address I am coming from just to try and personalize what they are advertising. I find it more annoying than informative.

The point of this all is that you are being tracked and you either knowingly or unknowingly gave these apps permission to know where you are. Some apps it is an easy decision. Why does the grocery store app or Clash of the Titans need to know where I am? That is a question you have to answer.

Recently with the release of Apple iOS 14.5, Apps that previously didn’t as even though they were supposed to ask if it was okay to track you suddenly are having to ask if they can track you. Facebook is the most upset by this. Why? Because the location targeting and tracking allowed them to tailor ads to your specific location and based on where it knows you are browsing. 

So next time your apps update they are supposed to ask your permission to track you and if you say no, they can’t. 

Settings, Privacy, Tracking on iOS. Sadly you have to answer this one by one on Android for each app. You have to go to Settings, Apps, and select each App one by one and then go to Permissions (as Android phones are not all the same, it may be different on yours) and there are all of the permissions those apps say they require. Some apps will stop working correctly if you turn off location tracking while others will keep working but nag you about setting it back.

Want to know where Google thinks you are? If you have enabled it to know everything about you?

Go here: https://myactivity.google.com/myactivity?pli=1 (after the show of course)


More detail on how apps can track your location and how location tracking works on phones.



Chapter 2

So with the release of iOS 14.5, Siri got an update as well. I first noticed then when I asked Siri a question in the car and it had a decidedly male sounding voice. I thought it was a fluke because it was in the car, but checking my settings the Siri voice I have come to know and love was gone. I was really sad because the original voice of Siri and I follow each other on Twitter. Why I do not know but yeah. So how do I get her back? Well it seems you can’t. The goal for Apple is to allow voice selection to not be noted as gender specific. And you have more variety in nationality selections as well. I love it but I am really missing Siri’s original voice. You have to manually go in and download each voice to have more selections that the two it gives you for American voices. Currently I am using an Australian voice. Not me, Siri. as my default Siri voice. Android has had similar but strangely when I changed Android to British, my Google Maps went metric and I wasn’t ready to do how many kilometers I am going before I turn unless I am running a 5k or 10k race and usually I know the route before I enter the race. 

Also strangely if you spent time downloading them all, with iOS update 14.5.1, you have to download them all over again, so if you haven’t played around with this, good, Happy Downloading.

Google I/O was May 18 (today as I am steaming here) and they have announced many cool things. Next week we will talk about them and also I will tell you why I bought a Mac Mini rather than an iMac. Practical reasons mostly but you will understand better when I explain next week.

Be sure to like and subscribe to this channel to see more videos like this. Following the “Atomic Habits” philosophy, if I change one thing every week eventually I will improve by percentages. I am shooting for 1% a week. Let me know in the comments how I am doing.

Thanks for listening. If you are a fan of audio podcasts, look for the audio version of this show wherever you listen to podcasts. Look for the One-Off Tech Podcast.

Have a great day!

The Live Stream version on YouTube