Hello, is there anyone NOT listening?

It’s quite fascinating to discover many of the gadgets presented in sci-fi movies decades ago are slowly, but surely, becoming a contemporary reality.

We have self-driving cars (not flying just yet), we can use watches as phones (Bond had his very own version of a wrist-worn walkie-talkie in 1981) and we can use personal robotic assistants, to whom we dictate daily chores.

All this is great, but what does it mean in terms of personal privacy? How much are we willing to sacrifice for the sake of saving a bit of effort?

Alexa, take the microphone!

In the above-mentioned spy-fi movies, such as vintage Bond, the secret agent would often look for secret microphones or “wires” hidden in his/her apartment or phone.

In nowadays’ reality, we, ourselves, appear to be purchasing so-called self-spying devices or apps, which we very easily and openly allow into our most intimate activities. Such examples are Apple’s Siri, Google Home or the more recent Amazon Echo a.k.a. Alexa.

This last and most recent example is a voice-controlled digital assistant, activated via a “wake word”, such as “Alexa” (the default), “Amazon” or “Echo”. Basically, in order to function, the device has to listen to everything people say around it, unless it’s manually turned off.

Let’s face it, most users will probably opt for the default settings and not manually turn the mics (yes, “mics”, there are 7 of them) on whenever they need to access their digital assistant. Such an effort would really defeat the device’s original purpose, really.

In these circumstances, Amazon Echo will keep about 1 minute of audio in its memory, in case it is somehow connected to a question it is addressed. However, according to USA Today, as new sound is recorded, the old one is erased. Only when the Echo hears its wake-up word does it begin sending a stream of audio to the cloud to be converted into text that the program can understand and act upon.

All this sounds well, but, just like us, Alexa can mishear its name and then randomly send recordings into the cloud. All the recordings can be used in police investigations should there be a valid and binding legal demand.

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Ghostie’s Weekly Digest: US expand surveillance powers and more

The year is starting on a more political note in terms of online privacy and surveillance, mainly because president-elect Donald Trump has only a few days until his White House inauguration. But this of course, is not the only reason why there’s a global turmoil around these matters. The constant threat of terrorism is lurking in the shadows, often calling for irrational or controversial measures.

Here’s what’s been happening in the last week, in a nutshell:

Obama expands surveillance powers during last days of presidency

With mere days left before President-elect Donald Trump takes the White House, current President Barack Obama’s administration just finalized rules to make it easier for the nation’s intelligence agencies to share unfiltered information about US citizens.

Under the new, relaxed rules, the NSA will grant access to the raw streams of data it collects easier to the FBI, the DEA and the Department of Homeland Security, among others. Before, the National Security Agency shared data with these agencies only after it had screened the data, filtering out unnecessary personal information.

Read more on the topic on eff.org.

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Out with the old, in with the private

With so many changes happening in the world right now, it’s time to take privacy matters into your own hands.

Start ticking resolutions off your list and get your Premium/Premium Plus subscription, at a special, start-of-the-year 57% discount, valid only between December 28th 2016 and January 15th 2017.

Take this simple initiative now for a whole year of benefits:

  • Extra speed thanks to 5x faster servers
  • Apps for Android and iOS, included
  • No annoying ads
  • Access to more than 700 servers in 30 countries
  • Mobile data cost reduction through data compression
  • All of the above, on 5 different devices

The future is here. In 2017, your online activity should interest no one else but yourself.

Visit cyberghostvpn.com for more.

2016 in review: TOP 10 online privacy milestones

If we were to describe 2016 in terms of privacy, it was neither good, nor bad. It was probably somewhere in between. Just when we thought we won some battles, new enemies emerged, armed with even more advanced weapons.

What is however important is that, slowly but surely, people are starting to be more aware of their ideally innate right to online privacy and are starting to fight for it.

So here are 10 of the most important privacy highlights of 2016*:

  1. The Pokémon GO frenzy

The Pokémon GO bug traveled fast and faded away just as quickly. Everyone seemed to be out on a hunt around the town this summer, but no one seemed to pay any attention to the permissions they were giving the intrusive app. If you’re still enjoying this game, here are 10 tips for staying private.

  1. WhatsApp with your privacy?

At the end of August, WhatsApp announced a change in their ToS, by sharing the phone numbers of users with Facebook. Upon doing so, they claimed they were fighting spam and increasing business-to-consumer communication. There is however a hidden way out of this.

  1. The rise of fake news in social media feeds

In light of Donald Trump’s recent election, many fingers have been pointed at Facebook’s potential contribution. Here’s how to stay safe from the daily cavalcade of alarming headlines thrown in our direction.

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Surprises keep rolling in: 80 more CyberGhost servers

The “Good News Wednesday” series continues with yet another blockbuster sequel: we have added 80 more servers to our park, which has now reached a staggering total of 815!

Here is the detailed list of freshly released servers:

  • Czech Republic (Prague – S10)
  • Belgium (Brussels – S02)
  • France (Paris – S12, S13, S14, S15)
  • Iceland (Reykjavik – S02)
  • Canada (Toronto – S04)
  • Norway (Oslo – S04)
  • Germany (Berlin – S03)
  • UK (London – S11, S12  and Manchester – S10, S11, S12, S13, S14 and S15)
  • Italy (Milan – S07)
  • USA (Los Angeles – S10)

All servers are Premium. To upgrade, simply click here and take advantage of our special holiday discounts.

To find out precisely where all our servers are located and what their user load is, go to our website.

Ghostie’s Weekly Digest: Stricter privacy rules for Facebook and more

Even if the winter holidays are just around the corner and a breeze of hope and optimism seems to be in the air, privacy issues are happening at their usual pace. Here is what caught our attention in this week:

Snooper’s Charter already claims first victims

Hackers appear to already be exploiting the infamous Snooper’s Charter, by promoting fake privacy solutions to worried older Internet users across the UK, according to scmagazine.com.

In a recent survery, forty-four percent of over-55s said they would consider downloading software to protect themselves from government in a recent survey.

However, a VPN such as CyberGhost is the solution at-hand recommended by security experts.

Potentially stricter privacy rules for Facebook, WhatsApp and Skype

Popular platforms such as Google, Facebook and WhatsApp face a strict new privacy crackdown from the EU, as per some new proposals leaked from the European Commission.

The rules would force websites and browsers to ask for users’ consent before directing advertising at them based on their browser history. Users currently have to actively opt out of receiving such advertisements.

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Good News Wednesday: 28 more servers in 4 countries

With Christmas around the corner, we can’t help delivering goodies your way.

Get ready to navigate to the locations of your choice even faster, because we have 28 more Premium server instances*, in 4 different countries:

  • 4 in UK (London – S07, S08, S09 and S10)
  • 1 in Spain (Madrid – S07)
  • 1 in Austria (Vienna – S03)
  • 1 in Hungary (Budapest – S02)

Give them all a go and unblock all the content that you love!

*a server is made of 4 instances

© 2015 CyberGhost