When there are nanny cams watching, smart devices quietly recording and cookies tracking you all across the internet, what steps can you take to protect both you and your clients from the very real, and sometimes unknown, invasions of privacy? Here are five ways to limit unwanted attention.

It feels like there’s not a day that goes by that you don’t hear a story about hacking, identity theft or cybersecurity. You’re recorded virtually everywhere you go, and in some cases, you might even be recorded when your smart device seems off. 

What steps can you take to protect both you and your clients from the very real, and sometimes unknown, invasions of privacy? Here are a few ways to limit some of the risks of operating in cyberspace. 

Nanny cams

Have you ever fallen asleep during an open house, played video games, or made a remark you wouldn’t want the seller to hear? How would you have felt if this was all recorded on the seller’s nanny cam?  

Today nanny cams have become so prevalent that the California Association of Realtors in Item No. 10 in its RLA (residential listing agreement) now advises:   

Persons visiting the Property may not be aware that they could be recorded by audio or visual devices installed by Seller (such as “nanny cams” and hidden security cameras). Seller is advised to post notice disclosing the existence of security devices.

Even if there is not a notice posted, advise every one of your buyers that the houses they will be viewing may have one or more recording devices. Consequently, unless they have a burning question that can only be answered while they’re at the property, advise them to not make any comments until they get back to the car. This is advice agents should follow as well.

Banish ads and tracking cookies

If you’ve had your fill of slow-loading sites due to all the ads or those aggravating ads that follow you from page to page as your surf the web, you can now block almost all these ads and tracking cookies with Brave.com. Brave was started by Mozilla, the group that launched the Firefox browser back in 2002. 

I first signed up for Brave in December of 2017. In a little over two years, it has blocked over 960,000 ads and tracking cookies, or about 1,250 per day. 

In addition, if the website you are visiting is secure (“https:” rather than “http:”), Brave will serve up the “https:” version, rather than the less secure “http:” version.  

Although some apps won’t work with Brave and you will still need to revert back to Chrome, Safari or Firefox occasionally, you’ll love the fast load times and the virtually ad-free browsing experience. 

Segment your browsers to increase your security 

Security experts recommend having two different computers — one for conducting banking and other secure transactions and a second computer for everything else. You can achieve a similar result by using one browser exclusively for banking and other financial transactions and a different browser for everything else. 

In my case, I use Brave for virtually everything. If Brave doesn’t work, I go to Chrome, which also has additional ad blocking. When there’s an article I want to see, but it won’t display on Brave or Chrome due to the ad blocking, I use Safari if I have to put up with the ads. (Remember to clean your cookies out regularly.)

If there is a site I know that spams and I need to register for something I want, I have a Hotmail account that I only use for those types of sites. 

What you need to know about big data — people don’t lie to keyboards

Every key stroke, every bit of data about your preferences, your ethnicity and the super-micro details of your life are constantly being tracked and then analyzed by big data algorithms. These algorithms search for specific words or phrases so marketers can target their advertising to you based on what you’re most likely to use. 

In the book, Everybody Lies: Big Data, New Data, and What the Internet Can Tell Us About Who We Really Are, Seth Stephens-Davidowitz concludes that people will tell white lies to each other because they might want to avoid confrontation or hurting another person’s feelings. 

When they sit down at their computer, an environment where many people feel that they are anonymous, they will type in their actual preferences. In other words, they tell the truth. The algorithms can also measure level of interest based upon how often and how long the individual interacts with a given site. 

Brave can limit this, but what about the messaging apps that also track everything? 

Is it time to move from WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger elsewhere?

In an article on Medium.com called “Here’s New Year Ring — 2020, Change Your Messaging App Now!” John Smith explains why the Signal messaging app is the best choice available for secure instant messaging.

According to Smith, Signal is a better choice because: 

  1.  It provides an open source platform where all the codes are available, and experts can inspect them to find bugs and improve the app’s security.
  2. All messages are encrypted from “end-to-end” and have no decryption key. Even Open Whisper Systems, the parent organization, cannot decrypt messages sent over the app.
  3. Signal also allows you to block taking screen shots.
  4. Signal’s parent runs solely on donations and grants. Unlike Facebook and Google, it does not sell ads to make money. It also does not sell user data.
  5. Signal allows users to boost their security by using a lock code, face scanner or fingerprint.

Although you can’t control all the big brother activities out there, implementing any of these suggestions can limit your exposure to at least some of big brother’s spying activities. Take advantage of them.

Bernice Ross, President and CEO of BrokerageUP and RealEstateCoach.com, is a national speaker, author and trainer with over 1,000 published articles. Learn about her broker/manager training programs designed for women, by women, at BrokerageUp.com and her new agent sales training at RealEstateCoach.com/newagent.

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