Tech Gifts To Avoid This Holiday Season For Security And Privacy


It’s the season to go a little overboard on gift giving. But this year, give the gift of good security (and privacy) and eschew tech that can have untoward risks or repercussions. We’re not talking about things that go boom in the night or abruptly break, but rather the gifts that can have irreversible or ongoing consequences in the future.

Key Takeaway

When choosing tech gifts this holiday season, prioritize security and privacy. Avoid gifting genetic testing kits, video doorbells, VPN providers, location-tracking apps, cheap knock-off Android tablets, and internet-connected sex toys, as they all come with potential risks and privacy concerns.

Genetic Testing Kits: A Risky Gift

Genetic testing kits like 23andMe can have lasting and unforeseen consequences. Once you spit in a tube and send it on its way, there’s no way of getting it back. This year, the profile and genetic information on millions of 23andMe customers was scraped from the company’s systems, thought to be the biggest spill of genetic data in recent years.

Video Doorbells: A Privacy Concern

Video doorbells that see and hear everything may seem useful, but they open up a world of surveillance in your neighborhood. The recorded footage can be obtained by law enforcement, which can be invasive. End-to-end encrypted (E2EE) cameras retain the most privacy, preventing anyone other than the owner from accessing their own footage.

VPN Providers: A False Sense of Anonymity

Consumer-facing VPNs can claim to hide your IP address and allow you to access otherwise-blocked streaming shows, but they can be bad for your privacy. Some VPN providers don’t even encrypt the users’ data as it flows over their network, despite claims that they do. If you want online anonymity, consider using the Tor Browser.

Location-Tracking Apps: A Risky Choice

Tracking your kids with risky location-tracking apps is a terrible idea. Location data is highly sensitive and can be revealing and invasive. Even one of the better-known family tracking apps was caught selling the precise location data of its users to data brokers.

Cheap Knock-off Android Tablets: A Security Risk

Cheaper Android devices can hide malware. It’s not uncommon for manufacturers to include software for monetary kickbacks to offset the price of the device itself. Sometimes that preloaded software can send back data about the device or its user, or have security bugs that could put the device’s data at risk.

Internet-Connected Sex Toys: A Privacy Concern

For your actual safety, avoid internet-connected sex toys. There’s a general belief in cybersecurity that any device or gadget that you add an internet connection to will vastly increase the chances of that device being remotely hacked, compromised or tampered with. If you absolutely must use a remotely controlled sex toy, consider a device with a Bluetooth remote only, as this reduces the wireless range in which someone could maliciously intervene.

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