Each week, I receive tons of questions from my listeners about tech concerns, new products and all things digital.
Sometimes, choosing the most interesting questions to highlight is the best part of my job.
This week, I received questions about the Y2K of GPS, apps that can track you, tricks to stop robocalls, snooping smart TVs and more.
Do you have a question you’d like to ask me?
Is GPS the new Y2K?
Q: Is it true that all GPS systems will stop working on April 6? This is big news no one is talking about!
A: If you’re hearing this for the first time and think, “That sounds like Y2K,” you’re not alone.
The problem and its effects are shockingly similar to the ones we feared in 1999. Many of our current systems were constructed in a very different time when a 20-year cycle sounded eons away.
But the clock is ticking, and April 6 can indeed cause some problems. How significant are they? And will drivers start weaving into ditches because their GPS devices have gone haywire? The details will come as a relief to most people, yet not all.
Stop apps from tracking you
Q: I heard you say on your show that thousands of apps are tracking us. Is there a list so that I can remove them from my phone?
A: This issue is complicated because in many cases, we want our apps to track us. Some apps might be useless unless they know where we are located.
For example, Netflix needs to know your country to provide nation-specific content. MapMyRun needs to know your exact location to track the distance you run and how many calories you’ve burned. Problems arise when apps collect this data without your knowledge, or use it for nefarious purposes, or continue to track you even after you’ve turned that feature off.
Unfortunately, there are legions of apps that do precisely these things, and many should be avoided or removed at all costs.
Watch Komando TV
Q: I saw your TV show. I really liked it a lot. Is it also available online?
A: There’s actually quite a bit to see on YouTube, all free and ready to stream. Some videos like this one about shortcuts has over 1.6 million views. There is also a wide range of viewing options, from an hour-long episode about AI and iPhone thieves to another episode about fixing slow Wi-Fi and a museum that uses AI, both of which aired on Bloomberg TV.
You can also find my radio segments, which have been posted in a video format, as well as a host of videos that we find interesting, including vintage dramas from the Golden Age of Radio.
Dial back the robocalls
Q: Myth or fact, Ms. Komando. If I push *77, will that stop robocallers on my phone?
A: This is important: DO NOT EVER dial *77 until you know exactly what you’re doing. I don’t mean to shout, but *77 means different things to different phones. For example, in certain parts of the country, you can dial *77, and you will reach emergency services.
Contacting them by accident is a waste of resources because they treat every call as a potential emergency. That said, you’re partly right: In certain circumstances and from certain devices, you can use the *77 trick to block an anonymous caller.
When this trick was first developed, it was geared toward landlines with Caller ID, and it can still work for a lot of people.
But you’ll want to confirm that it works for your phone before you try it because you could end up with a very different result. Note that smartphones have a lot of other technical tactics for reducing the number of incoming robocalls.
Smart TV snoops
Q: My smart TV has a camera and microphone. Is it spying on me, and what does it see in my house?
A: The first question is this: Can someone spy on you through your smart TV, using your camera and microphone?
The answer to that question is a resounding yes. Ever since they were first released on the market, smart TVs have been plagued by hacks and cybercrime, and the industry has struggled to prevent the infiltration.
Part of the reason smart TVs have attracted so much attention is that they’re usually situated in your living room, right in the middle of your domestic life, and the camera can capture enormous amounts of daily activity.
Watch any family for a few days and you get to know their habits, their weak spots and how to take advantage of them.
Now for your question: Is someone spying on you? There are certain ways to find out. Tap or click here to stop your smart TV from spying on you.
What digital lifestyle questions do you have? Call my national radio show and tap or click here to find it on your local radio station. You can listen to or watch the Kim Komando Show on your phone, tablet, television or computer. Or tap or click here for Kim’s free podcasts.