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5 Hacks for Avoiding Big Data Surveillance

5 Hacks for Avoiding Big Data Surveillance

Big data is all around us, even if you don’t realize it. Many businesses look at big data as the key ingredient to future success because with more information, they can improve performances and prepare well for new trends and practices. The process of collecting that information, however, has come under fire in recent years. Not only do businesses see value in gathering data on you, but governments do as well. Surveillance has now become a common practice with much of it done through our online activities. With big data analytics, other parties can paint an almost disturbingly accurate picture of who you are. This has lead many to voice their concerns over privacy violations, even to the point where people are looking for ways to avoid big data surveillance altogether. If you’re in the camp that wants your information to remain as private as possible, here are some helpful hacks you can implement to improve your personal privacy.

1. Delete Browser Cookies

Internet browsers can track all of the websites you visit. This information helps to establish an online profile about you, noting your particular tastes and preferences. From this data, businesses can offer deals and advertisements specifically tailored to you. While this may sound like a benefit, the fact remains that third parties are still collecting information on your activities, even if you don’t approve. That’s why deleting your cookies is an easy way to at the least make surveillance more difficult. And make sure you do it several times a day.

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2. Be Careful With Mobile Apps

Our smartphones are used more and more for internet access, and one way we utilize mobile devices is through the apps we download. Unfortunately, many of those apps collect a lot of data, from your contact lists to your pictures to email information. The one point in your favor is the fact that you must authorize this access if you wish to download the app. By paying close attention to what an app asks for, you can avoid those apps that you may feel ask for too much.

3. Use Privacy Enhancing Technologies

While Privacy Enhancing Technologies (or PETs) may sound advanced, they can actually be quite simple. Let’s face it — you can never fully block surveillance, but you can avoid giving the monitors easy access. That’s where PETs come in. PETs can be as simple as a browser plug-in. Some of them work by blocking websites that track your activities. They’ll usually alert you why they’re blocking the site so you can alter your web behavior in the future.

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4. Limit Social Media Use

It seems like many people want to live their lives through social media. While it’s a good way to keep in contact with friends and family while sharing what’s happening in your life, understand that everything you post on social media can be collected and monitored. That means every picture you tag, every Facebook update you write, every Tweet you post, and every event on your calendar can be seen by pretty much anyone. To maintain your privacy, you should limit your use of social media. That doesn’t mean avoiding it completely, only that you should keep personal information that you share to a minimum.

5. Use Virtual Private Networks

Like PETs, Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) may sound complicated but some can be used by those who aren’t tech savvy. The most basic ones are even available for free and can be downloaded as browser plug-ins and extensions. VPNs work by acting as an intermediary server between you and the site you’re visiting. So if somebody is monitoring your activity, all they will see is the server and not your computer or device. This protects you from unauthorized monitoring and keeps your identity relatively safe.

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It should be noted once again that fully blocking big data surveillance is not possible, not with the kind of resources governments and private corporations have at their disposal. That doesn’t mean there aren’t measures you can take to keep your data as private as possible. The above simple hacks can go a long way in protecting yourself from unwanted eyes and ears.

Featured photo credit: Com Salud/Flickr via flickr.com

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Last Updated on October 16, 2019

11 Meeting Scheduler Apps to Boost Your Productivity

11 Meeting Scheduler Apps to Boost Your Productivity

Automations are key to improving efficiency. Set the system up right from the beginning and you’ll reduce the amount of no-shows and cancellations.

Whatever your business is, with automations, meeting scheduler apps do more than just streamline appointment setting. They prime your workflow for maximum results.

Meeting scheduler apps are awesome if you use them right. Use them wrong and you can look like an arrogant elitist.

In this article, I will share with you 11 great meeting scheduler apps you can start using today to boost your productivity.

1. ScheduleOnce

    ScheduleOnce is an industry leader and robust solution. Whether you work alone or have a large team, ScheduleOnce can support you.

    ScheduleOnce allows you to create multiple users and multiple calendars. I use one calendar for booking podcast guests with automations set up to prep my guests for our interview. I use another calendar for strategy sessions and coaching calls.

    ScheduleOnce also has embeddable widgets so you can keep the scheduler inside your own website.

    Starting at $7 a month and a 14 day free trial, ScheduleOnce can fit a variety of needs in business.

    Available on Web

    2. Calendly

      Calendly stands out for its clean, easy to use interface. If you like clean design, Calendly might be your choice. It too has robust automations and integrations for individuals and teams alike.

      You can try Calendly free for 14 days. Their basic plan is free while their most robust plan is only $12 a month.

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      Available on Web | Google Chrome Extension

      3. Assistant.to

        For those who use gmail, Assistant.to is a super simple solution.

        From inside an email, you click on the Assistant.to icon and pick times your free. Assistant.to embeds the times directly into the email so the recipient can quickly pick a time that works for them.

        While it doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of apps like Calendly or ScheduleOnce, Assistant.to is completely free.

        Available on Web

        4. Acuityscheduling

          Acuity is a robust meeting scheduler very similar to ScheduleOnce. It integrates with CRMs, Email Marketing platforms, Analytics tools and accounting software.

          It comes with a 14 day free trial. They have a free solo account but if you want the benefit of the integrations, you’ll start as low as $15 a month and can cost up to $50 a month.

          Available on Web | iOS | Android

          5. Pick

            Built for simplicity, Pick is direct and easy to use. You can create your own url extension like pick.co/yournamehere and it integrates with Google calendar and Office 365.

            At $3 a month, this is a great tool for quick scheduling.

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            Available on Web

            6. X.ai

              For those who are early adopters of AI, this may be the solution for you. X.ai created two AI assistants they call Amy and Andrew Ingram. After setting up your account you simply CC them on your emails with the person you’re wanting to schedule and the AI assistants will email your guests from there until your appointment is set.

              This type of scheduler feels more personal because of the dialogue. There are stories on their site of people thinking Amy and Andrew are real people. X.ai integrates with Google, Office 365 and Outlook.

              Starting at $29 a month for an Individual account and $39 a month per user for a Team account, Amy and Andrew are ready to schedule meetings for you. Want to try it out first? They do have a free trial.

              Available on Web

              7. YouCanBook.me

                is another competitive solution for scheduling meetings online. You can manage the calendars of your entire team, configure booking forms, and integrate with your calendar.

                They have a free account branded with their company name or you can have some control over your branding and appearance at $10 a month for all their features. Either way, this company is worth a look.

                Available on Web

                8. Doodle

                  Doodle is unique in the space of meeting schedulers because it helps groups of people find a time to meet that works for everyone.

                  It integrates with your calendar and allows you to send a poll to all invited. Once people vote on the poll you can see which time works best for everyone.

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                  You can also run polls for food preferences if you’re scheduling a lunch meeting or a section of town if people are coming from all over.

                  While there is a free account, you’ll unlock it’s potential starting at $39 per year.

                  Available on Web | iOS | Android

                  9. WhenAvailable

                    WhenAvailable is another scheduler that works for groups of people. You can use it to schedule a pickup game of basketball, decide on your next book club or book your family reunion.

                    Their free account allows up to 20 guests, unlimited events and one contact group. For $15 a year you unlock all the goodies including reminders and chat messages.

                    Available on Web

                    10. Rally

                      Like Doodle and WhenAvailable, Rallly is helpful for scheduling meetings and events with multiple people involved. You create a poll and everyone votes. It’s quick and easy.

                      Unlike Doodle, it doesn’t have as many features, but it’s entirely free.

                      Available on Web

                      11. NeedtoMeet

                        Finishing strong, NeedtoMeet is our last app that allows you to schedule meetings or events for multiple people. It has mobile apps, custom urls, easy polling, notifications and commenting.

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                        NeedtoMeet also allows 1:1 Meetings for things like performance reviews for your whole team. You send out the your calendar slots to your team and they can only pick 1 slot, minimizing the amount of emails and scheduling you have to coordinate.

                        While they have a free account, you can unlock all features for only $19 a year.

                        Available on Web

                        Bonus: Don’t Make These Common Mistakes When Using Meeting Schedulers

                        In the excitement of streamlining your scheduling process, it can be easy to forget the feelings of those you’re inviting to meet. I know. I’ve done this.

                        To say “Hey, schedule time on my calendar” feels colder than “Hey, here’s my calendar. To avoid all the back and forth, pick a time that works best for you.”

                        Always make sure to frame your invite with your scheduler app with the benefit to them and why we’re doing it this way rather than the old fashioned, personal way.

                        A little finesse goes a long way. Without it, you risk seeming transactional and cold.

                        Some meeting scheduler widgets you can embed in your site can take a couple seconds to load. If you go this route, make sure there’s text just above the widget that lets your guest know the calendar will appear below and to wait for it to load.

                        If you use an online meeting tool like Zoom, it’s also important to explicitly let them know the meeting will take place on Zoom and include the Zoom link in the email reminder. Many make the mistake of not clarifying where the meeting will actually take place which can create last minute chaos at the time of the meeting.

                        Should you require special settings, like ethernet, external mics or lighting, let your guests know that on your thank you page and reminder emails so they are prepared for the meeting and you end up with the best meeting possible.

                        With clear communication in your automation, your meeting scheduler tools can almost perform like a virtual assistant for a fraction of the cost, or free, depending on the app you choose.

                        The Bottom Line

                        Meeting scheduler apps are diverse in features and unique in design. Before committing to one and realizing it’s not a fit, I recommend exploring which 3 might best fit you and then doing a trial with each of them at the same time so that you can see how they feel as you use them side by side.

                        Scheduling meetings the old fashioned way can be tedious. Conversely, finding a scheduling app that works seamlessly in the background is heavenly.

                        Like cell phones, meeting scheduler apps are moving from a nice-to-have luxury to must-have necessity in the lives of productive people. As you explore your options, stay true to your brand and the tools that have worked well for you to this point and simply find a meeting scheduler app that plays well with what you have created.

                        Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

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