privacy1Do you like sharing books with your family?

In today’s cloud-authenticated tech world, you may not have a choice.

As the household tech person, you may face new challenges. How to keep your e-book buys private in the face of growing cloud integration? And what about your emails, personal information and other media purchases?

This week a bizarre tech experience caused me to think once more about privacy. The Beloved was playing a game on my iPad, and all of a sudden, he said, ‘Oh, there is your stepmother calling.’ A second after, my phone beeped. Yup, it was her. Through the magic of iCloud synchronization, the text from her went to all my devices simultaneously, just to make sure I caught it. It happened to show up on my iPad a second sooner than it did on my phone.

Now, I have nothing to hide from the Beloved. We lead very average lives, and 99% of our text message traffic is between ourselves, with requests for items at the grocery store and updates on our expected arrival times home. If anyone did want to spy on my phone, he or she would learn more about the local bus schedule than about anything substantive. I don’t care if The Beloved spots a text from a family member that is meant for me.

But our iPad is the only one of the three cloud-enabled tablets in our home that lets me turn off the Cloud. That’s the troubling part. The Acer tablet, running Google Android, requires my Google sign-in as part of the set-up process. The Fire tablet, running its own OS, requires my Amazon sign-in. So, what information might I inadvertently be sharing with other members of my family just by letting them use these cloud-authenticated toys? Consider:

  • When he uses the Acer tablet, the Beloved sees all my email alerts and Twitter updates. He doesn’t mind seeing these per se, but they make an alert sound which I have not figured out how to disable. Also, it seems to have sucked birthday information for several TeleRead folks off of Google+ on my behalf, even though I myself do not use Google+. So there are alerts for those too.
  • Amazon seems to be pushing all new Kindle purchases onto the home screen of my Fire tablet. You can delete these ’tiles’ after they appear, but I have not figured out how to prevent them in the first place. I really dislike dynamic home screens as a principle—I prefer arranging such things to my own preferences and keeping them that way—and the Beloved does not much care for the Fire tablet anyway. But what if I’m buying a book for him? I would not want Amazon to ruin the surprise for me with a pushed update about it.

I don’t care if my husband reads holiday text messages from my parents. And on the whole, I think the Cloud has done more to make my life easier than it has to complicate it. But I do think that we would benefit from some more transparent settings for this sort of thing. I would rather not broadcast my Kindle Unlimited borrow to every member of the family, and I don’t think the Beloved needs his nighttime white noise music interrupted with audible alerts about birthdays of people he doesn’t know.

Image credit: Here.

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