You may think your phone is protecting you from trackers. But is it?
Even iPhone users who disable usage sharing aren't immune. Data is collected from every app except "Health" and "Wallet," according to the security firm Mysk. Android users fare no better. The average user is tracked 1,500 times a day by 150 apps.
A free app from DuckDuckGo offers "app tracking protection." But it's far from perfect. Even after you switch it on in settings, you'll see a list of apps that DuckDuckGo won't touch. I saw 13 of them, including Google Chrome and YouTube. When I tried turning their trackers off, I got a warning.
Besides app protection, the DuckDuckGo app offers an "@duck.com" email address, which prevents your email from being tracked, while still allowing your duck mail to flow into your regular inbox. To test it, I donated a small sum to "Doctors Without Borders." Their thank-you email had a label saying that trackers had been removed.
According to security firm NordVPN, what you really need is a safe browser. Otherwise, when you're using public WiFi, criminals might take advantage of you. Nord rates Microsoft Edge 13th in a list of the 13 best browsers. Chrome is 11th and Safari 9th. Firefox is the safest, they say. I just put it back on my phone.
Movie Pass is back. With it, you can watch three movies a month in theaters for $10. Choose from 4,000 theaters across the United States.
ARTIFICIALLY INTELLIGENT FRIEND
The artificially intelligent Pi may be the best A.I. chat tool of all, when it comes to empathetic listening and conversation. Bill Gates recommends it.
To check it out, I went to the website Inflection.ai and clicked "Meet Pi." It said: "Ask me for advice, for answers, or let's talk about whatever's on your mind. How's your day going?"
I told it I wished I'd done more for a loved one who passed away and gave it all the details. The conversation was soothing. Each time I got a response, my question or comment was erased. Nothing is kept.
AI PHOTOS AND ART
Adobe's new artificial intelligence engine creates art based on a phrase you type. It also edits photos for you.
Start by signing in or signing up for a free Adobe account at firefly.adobe.com. When images come up, click "Text to Image," choose one, then click "try prompt." I tapped the painting of a labradoodle playing an electric guitar on top of the Berlin Wall. It was awesome. Next, I altered the text to say "a labradoodle playing an electric guitar on his birthday." I got a cute dog with a birthday hat that I can share on Facebook, greeting cards and elsewhere. Next, I clicked "Generative Fill," and uploaded a photo of my niece at the beach, replacing the beach background with a Shanghai cityscape in one click. Fun stuff!
I'm starting to notice lactation stations at airports, thanks to Mamava. The Mamava app, for Android and iPhone, shows you which ones have them. There are already over 4,000 at airports, train stations, stadiums, museums, aquariums, science centers and more. One user said of her experience: "It was clean, thoughtful, private and comfortable. It's so nice to have a little space with no distractions to nurse my baby. Pretty cool you can dim the lights from the app and play white noise." That was in New York City. But in Fort Lauderdale, a user complained that the nursing room had a funny smell.
LEARNING A LANGUAGE VIA MOVIES
I'm hooked on the Duolingo language-learning app. But here's another way to learn: watch movies.
Lingopie.com offers more than foreign movies with captions. You can also link your Netflix account. Either way, you get pop quizzes and dual subtitles. With dual subtitles, you can click on a word or phrase to hear it pronounced slowly. I enjoyed a 13-minute romantic tale called "Don't Love Me in Dreams." Lingopie also offers live, three-person classes over Zoom. But as soon as I joined one, I freaked out and fled.
Lingopie's paid subscriptions are $36 for three months, $72 for a year or $199 for a lifetime subscription. Cancel the free trial by clicking your profile icon, then "Account," then "update membership."
YOUR CAR IS SPYING ON YOU
"Privacy4cars," a free app for iPhone and Android stops your car from spying on you. The company says your car can collect phone numbers, passwords, call logs, text messages, IDs and biometrics, medical and financial info, navigation history, user profile, home address, garage door codes, and vehicle credentials.
"Moonwalkers," from ShiftRobotics, are a kind of rollerskate that strap onto your shoes, increasing your walking speed to 7 miles an hour. The straps go over your shoes.
The guy who founded the company was inspired when he had to make a quick get-away on a scooter -- the kind that's like a skateboard, but with a handle. Moonwalkers have been tested on cracked sidewalks, gravel and other rough terrain for over a hundred miles. Dubbed "the world's fastest shoes," they can be pre-ordered from shiftrobotics.io with a $50 deposit. The total price is $1,399, when they ship.
"Grow Robot for Precision Greenhouse Harvesting." Search on that phrase to see a robot that picks only the ripest cherry tomatoes from the greenhouse.
Joy Schwabach can be reached by email at email@example.com.