AI and smart technology: Simple tips from experts to protect your privacy

Artificial intelligence (AI) is appearing in every part of our lives, from voice assistants in our speakers to smart washing machines. 

This week, Apple announced a new slew of AI features in its phones which Elon Musk said could become an "unacceptable security violation".

Last month, Microsoft sparked security concerns when it announced a feature that would take screenshots of users' laptops every few seconds.

So with all this technology sitting in our homes and pockets, should we be worried about privacy and how our personal information is being used?

"Technology is great. You need to trust the technology, right?" says Vonny Gamot, the head of EMEA at cybersecurity company McAfee.

"Otherwise we will still be walking and not driving. We wouldn't go to the moon. We wouldn't use computers."

It's how the technology might be used that worries her.

"AI is just a tool that bad actors will use to create scams or collect data that you're not prepared to share," she says.

It's not just scammers who want our information. Although advertisers have long wanted to know who we are and what we're doing, the things we share can now also be used to train artificial intelligence.

If you're worried about your data and privacy, here are some simple steps you can take, from experts working in AI.

Check your phone settings

"The number one thing [you can do] is look at where you share your data," said Ms Gamot.

She suggests you start with your phone.

"Go to your settings and click 'mic' and see all the apps that are using the mic. Why does your map need a mic? You don't need that."

Read more: Will artificial intelligence make people buy Apple products again?

Go through the apps that have permission to use your camera, microphone, files on your phone and location and make sure you're only sharing your data with the apps you're happy to let in.

Ms Gamot is specifically worried about people allowing apps access to their microphones without realising.

"Three seconds [of recording] is enough to clone your voice for a bad actor," she says.

Read the terms and conditions

Make sure you read what you're accepting as you browse the internet.

"The most common example is cookie banners," said Conor McCaffrey from Securiti Sciences Limited, an AI data security company.

"The most conscious thing I do is read those forms to understand what the organisation is, what data they are collecting on me, and what they are doing with it."

You don't have to just hit 'accept' - you can choose which permissions you allow, or reject them all.

This is also important when you upload content like photos to websites.

By uploading your content, you could be giving away your rights to it, so it's good practise to check what you're agreeing to.

Do you need to give that information?

"People are just collecting data. That's their business," says Ms Gamot.

"When signing up to a website or service, consider how much information you actually should need to give.

"[Companies] collect data to sell data. That's the only thing that they care about. Whether it's you, your grandmother, your friends, it's data and that has a price."

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She recommends thinking about what information you actually need to give. If you're getting an item delivered, it makes sense to give your address, but in other scenarios, that might not be relevant.

"Make sure that when you give your information, does it make sense to leave my email, my address, my age, my passport number?

"You need to be very careful with that."

Is it worth it?

The final big thing you can do is decide whether an app is worth giving someone access to your phone.

"Be conscious that your data is the most valuable thing," said Mr McCaffrey. "That's what these organisations mostly trade off."

He specifically points out free apps like games. While you're not paying for the apps with money, you may well be paying with your personal information.

"I don't download random game apps because I know they're just sucking all my data out of my phone and reselling it," says Mr McCaffrey.

"Those games can be fun. But it's whether five minutes of dopamine is worth selling my date of birth potentially or whatever IP information [they're taking]."