What Is Privacy?
Privacy is closing your bedroom curtains when getting ready for bed. Privacy visiting with your doctor behind closed doors. While this part of privacy in real life comes naturally, with little thought, in the digital space the idea of privacy is skewed. Mostly because people don’t really understand what online privacy entails.
What Is Online Privacy?
Online privacy, also commonly referred to as internet privacy, is subset of data privacy and a fundamental human right. Basically, it refers to the personal privacy that you’re entitled to when you display, store, or provide information regarding yourself on the Internet.
This can include both personally identifying information (PII) as well as non-personally identifying information. Such as your behavior on a website. Without Internet privacy, all your activities are subject to being collected and analyzed by interested parties.
What Can be Done with My Data?
A complete data set on an individual can fetch a pretty penny, completely legally, too. There are now companies known as “data brokers” that collect and maintain data on millions of people. They analyze, package, and sell the data without the user’s knowledge or permission. Data brokers collect and sell information to other companies for many reasons, including targeted advertising, credit risk assessment, and direct marketing. Luckily, this data is usually anonymized, and does not contain personally identifiable information (PII).
Why Is Privacy Important?
We all have things to hide. It could be how much money you make, your medical records or your bank account number. Hiding things is not bad. I don’t think these are the types of things you’d like broadcasted on your social network for the entire world to see. This is why we must strive to protect our right to privacy.
The most important thing to remember about your privacy is that it is YOURS. It is your information, your habits and patterns, and your actions. Therefore you should want to protect it in any way possible.
Tips to Protect Your Privacy
1. Secure Your Passwords
Passwords are the keys to our digital lives. Cybercriminals employ many tactics to try and crack them. To make this task difficult for them, use complicated, and strong passwords. Read our previous article in which we have talked about this.
- A good password should be at least eight characters long, and use a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols. Don’t use full words, names, addresses, phone numbers or any other easily identifiable personal information. Be sure to avoid using the same password across multiple websites as well.
- Two-Factor Authentication (2FA), if available, is another way of verifying your identity other than just a username and password. 2FA is comprised of something you know (such as a password), something you have (a mobile phone that a code can be sent to), or something you are (such as a fingerprint).
- Never save passwords on your device. Yes, it’s convenient. Yes, it saves time. But if you need to safely store passwords, look into a secure password manager. Criminals are getting smarter and need just one chink in the armor to get into the system to rob you blind.
2. Don’t Post Anything You Don’t Want Everyone to See
This is the fundamental that should almost be taught in school alongside Algebra and Biology. It’s important to realize that even if you’ve created filters for your contacts or have your information restricted to only those who follow you or who you approve of, that you should still watch what you share.
3. Be Aware and Concerned about Potential Dangers
Being aware is one thing. Sometimes it could just be a lack of knowledge. However, it’s just as important (if not more) to be concerned about those potential dangers. For example, let’s say you know that where you live, you’re at high risk of a break in or robbery – you’re aware. But, you take the approach that you’ll be fine and so you don’t lock your door. You have just increased the odds of your house being broken into tremendously. Now let’s add another aspect – you have a family. You most likely will now lock your doors all the time.
The Internet is the same way. It can just be just as dangerous, just on different levels. In fact, in some ways it can be even more dangerous because we don’t think of it in the applicable sense that it can be a tool to pry into lives. We think it’ll all be fine. But there are numerous stories of tragedies because someone allowed a little too much information to be shared with the wrong person.
Location-Specific Statuses and Posts
Do you use Foursquare or check-in to places on Facebook? Are you aware of who can see these posts? Do you share them publicly? These are important observations to be making. It’s all apart of being concerned and not assuming that you’re safe.
Oversharing Personal Information
Sharing your location somewhat falls into this category. However being cautious beyond sharing your location is important. Do you consider who you’re sharing with? Twitter is a rather open platform. There is the option to only show your tweets to those who are following you, who you approve to follow you. However, I find this rather counterproductive to engaging with other users on Twitter. The whole reason you follow someone is because you find what they say interesting.
Sharing on Facebook is a little different. It is typically more private, but that’s not necessarily true. Your privacy depends on you. If you don’t have things properly set and properly hidden, then you could be exposing yourself to the entire Internet. Sure there are things that you definitely should not post and share on your profile. But sometimes it’s deeper than just not sharing things.
Facebook’s security settings can be somewhat overwhelming due to all of the options there are to help you remain private and secure. But there is a particular setting that I want to mention that can be deceiving and that is the “Friends of Friends” setting. Many times you might think that you would approve of all of the people that your friends are friends with. But keep in mind that with this setting, you are actually giving up a huge chunk of your privacy and depending on your friends’ judgment to stay secure online.
4. Be Aware of Your Digital Footprint
Whatever you post online is there forever, even if you delete it from where it was originally posted. A digital footprint is somewhat of a digital paper trail. Forum registrations, videos, photos, just about anything you post will all leave traces of information about yourself online.
5. Do Not Trust Anyone
The website Please Rob Me takes a somewhat sarcastic, yet still serious approach on the matter of posting too much information. The overall message that is important here is that you should never trust anyone on the Internet. Don’t publish your Foursquare updates to your public Twitter account. You shouldn’t tell the world that you will be away from home. Don’t think that it won’t happen to you. These things do happen and if the proper precautions aren’t taken, it could be you too. So be careful about your online privacy.
Be responsible about who you share with and what you share. Think of the Internet as a giant space where people of all sorts roam. If this space was a real place that you were in, would you trust everyone with all your secrets, personal information, etc.? Probably not. Another interesting fact is that sites such as Twitter and Facebook and even companies, like banks, aren’t legally obligated to notify you if your information is shared with the Government. So you should keep in mind that it is not just burglars and stalkers to worry about. There’s also the Government.
6. Familiarize Yourself with Phishing
It is very essential for you to be familiar with phishing to protect your online privacy. Phishers generally attempt to impersonate a well-known organization. Such as a banking or financial institution, in order to try to obtain your user credentials, or deliver malware to your computer via suspicious links or attachments in email messages. Never click on attachments or links from unknown senders or from suspicious looking emails. Instead, if you think your account is in jeopardy, go directly to the website in question by typing the address into the URL bar in your browser rather than clicking the link in the message.
7.Watch out for Bluetooth vulnerabilities
Bluetooth technology offers incredible convenience. It also opens doors for security and online privacy weaknesses. Make sure you turn off your Bluetooth when you are not using it. While there are options to place your Bluetooth activity in an invisible or undetectable mode, there are some malicious apps that can change that mode and expose your device to threats. That’s one more reason to have a security system in place.
8. Delete Data that You no Longer Use
If you haven’t used a program in months uninstall it. If you have a lot of old documents that you don’t access anymore, you can delete those as well. Or you can store them offline on an external hard drive. These can be repositories of personal information that you may have forgotten about. If you haven’t used a program in a while, chances are it is outdated.
9. Keep your operating system up to date
Software updates perform a myriad of tasks. They are available for both our operating systems and individual software programs. Performing these updates will deliver a multitude of revisions to your computer. Such as adding new features, removing outdated features, updating drivers, delivering bug fixes, and most importantly, fixing security holes that have been discovered.
10. Wise up to Wi-Fi
Secure your home network. Change the default username and password on anything that connects to your network, especially your Internet router. Use Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA). It will encrypt the data traveling through your network. Turn on all firewalls on both hardware and software programs.
While most home Wi-Fi connections are encrypted, some public Wi-Fi connections are not.
11. Back up Your Data
Backing up data is often over looked. But it is a very important aspect of data protection. Ransomware is a type of attack where hackers hold your data hostage for a ransom. There are cloud-based services that offer backup.
12. Be Conscious of All Privacy Settings
Most apps offer privacy settings for users. This gives you the freedom to know how much and what kind of information is shared. Always choose the least amount of data sharing. Always be cautious when sharing your name and location. Turn off location services and deny access to your camera.
When it comes to social media, be sure to review your privacy settings. Most social media sites will give you options to select who you are sharing your information with. Be sure those settings are set for trusted individuals and friends, rather than set to public for the whole world to see. You can check your online privacy settings on popular websites via the Data Privacy Day website.
Now that we have pricked your conscience and you’re panicking about being robbed, arrested, followed and stalked, remember that although it’s scary, you do have control. You can do something about your online privacy. You don’t have to have technical skills, just take the time to familiarize yourself with your different accounts’ privacy policies and settings. If you have any questions regarding them, most services and websites would be more than happy to help clarify and answer any questions or concerns you may have about your online privacy.