Friends have names like Jane, Juan, Hassan, Maya, Pierre, Tyrone, Akira, and Robert. Not Amazon, Apple, Google, Meta, and Microsoft. These successful providers of incredibly useful products and services are not your friends and should be treated accordingly, especially as concerns their default program settings.
Take the time to scrutinize and change these settings.
It is tempting to set up a new gmail, outlook account, or cell phone by clicking quickly through the set-up pages. I’ve done it myself, though mostly in situations where no changes are allowed, like Sales Terms and Conditions. For instance, you will not be able to change FEDEX’s sales terms and conditions, no matter how closely you study its policies. Privacy settings are different. Users can, and should, make changes to these settings.
Default privacy settings invariably compel users to share data about their activities and location. “Big Tech” wants users to leave such default settings unchanged, supposedly so that they can tweak their algorithms and fix programming bugs. Perhaps. Yet, being able to collect consumer information, or to tailor ads to users’ present locations, is a more likely reason. Such data sharing may seem innocuous, but it can have unwanted consequences. Your data can be, and often is, shared with third parties, or it may be lost in data breaches.
So, why not limit the personal data that is collected?
Step one is to toggle-off those setting that allow personalized ads. Next, click-off the option to send analytical data to be “used for product improvements.” These companies collect more than enough data from other users; they don’t need your information to improve their products.
On your cell phone remember to review the permissions allowed for each installed app. Limit location access, SMS access, and other permissions for those apps that have no apparent reason for using such information. Also, don’t forget to disable apps that you no longer use. Ignore the dire warnings that may pop up, stating that you may impair your phone’s operating system. Remember, you are not deleting anything, just temporarily disabling. It is an easily reversed action in the unlikely event your phone misbehaves.
Finally, don’t forget to revisit these default settings on a regular basis. Product updates can override your privacy selections. You may be sharing data by (restored) default, so to speak. Consider also, following this link from the Boston Globe; this article provides a more detailed list of what you should do to protect your data on certain sites.
Big Tech makes our lives more productive. It is hard to imagine returning to a world without Amazon, or Microsoft. That said, Big Tech has its own best interests at heart. You must take care of yourself. Start doing so by changing your default settings.
Mr. Dragone has spent the past twenty years as an acting/consulting CFO for a number of start-ups in a wide range of industries. Peter’s prior experience is that of a serial entrepreneur, managing various start-up and turnaround projects. He was a co-founder of Keurig.