Barack Obama once said in an interview that he hadn’t seen the real value of anonymity until he became president. Likewise, many people today don’t put much stock in privacy and feel free sharing details about their lives online. That is until they start to learn the full scope of invasive practices that both legitimate companies and criminal agents use today.
When you go to the doctor, you talk to them behind a closed door. When you tell your friends something embarrassing that you wouldn’t want an employer to know, you do so in a hushed tone. That is privacy, and in real life, you often keep it without a thought.
But online, most people take their privacy for granted. The lines between what is private and what isn’t are often skewed. As a general rule of thumb, remember that once something goes on the internet, it will never be private information again.
Here is what privacy means for people today and what steps to take to achieve a bit more privacy online.
Why is Privacy Worth Protecting?
In the age of hashtags and location tags, people tend to overshare online. What’s the harm in the whole world knowing you go out for bourbon with your friends at the local bar at 8 pm every Friday? Or an advertiser knowing what you’ve visited a blog about cars, so they send you ads for the latest vehicles?
People share intimate details about their lives every day. And it’s not only about what you post on social media. Ad networks and websites have ways of tracking what you look at and what you do online.
Companies gather up all this data left like a trail of breadcrumbs so they can profit off of people without their consent. Information is valuable in today’s world – it can be sold and abused in many wicked ways.
How Can Data Be Exploited?
There are both legal and illegal avenues of exploitation. Some companies have conducted questionable data collection and sharing practices in the past. Here’s looking at you, Facebook. Also, some companies enable illegal activities through their prolific data gathering and poor security practices. It leaves cybersecurity holes that cause data leaks.
Legally: The websites you visit, your browsers, and the apps you use – they all collect your data. Those companies comply with regulations on data collection, storing, and sharing.
In the past, users didn’t have much say over it. But the new laws like the GDPR have changed that. Still, data brokers make a lot of profit by aggregating and selling people’s data. They supply advertisers, credit card companies, telemarketers, and even insurance companies.
Illegally: Cybercrimes happen in various ways. Some criminals use tools to hack public Wi-Fi hotspots, and others send phishing emails. Some attacks focus on a single individual or business, but most target a huge population.
Nowadays, even non tech-savvy people can buy software to execute cyber attacks. And you can even get infected with malware through drive-by downloads by visiting shady websites.
How to Take Back Some Privacy and Prevent Cybercrime
Be Mindful About Creating a Digital Footprint
Think about what information others might gather on an app or a browser that you use. That includes information filled in forums, posts, comments, uploaded photos, and location tags. But also keep in mind the info browsers gather via cookies and trackers.
Get Familiar With Threats & Scams
The best way to be ready for any threat to privacy is to be armed with information. Researchers discover new scams and exploits every day. The Nigerian Prince days may not be over, but it doesn’t mean that all scams are so transparent. They often seem real, mimic legit apps and websites, and use sophisticated tools. If you don’t stay up to date with the latest developments, you could fall victim to new threats.
Protect Those Passwords
Passwords are the keys that protect your private information. If you don’t care about your email account, think about credit card details and social security numbers. Criminals work around the clock to crack passwords and they often succeed because people are reckless. Always follow the password safety rules like using complicated passwords and never reusing them.
Secure The Connections
Home Wi-Fi networks often use Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) encryption. Yet they don’t protect against legal snooping nor against skilled illegal snooping. Public Wi-Fi is even worse, with almost no protection against snoopers. Technology like VPNs pick up the slack and make sure outsiders don’t gather data – whether its an ISP or a crime ring. Try a VPN with a NordVPN coupon and see how it works before committing.
Use Privacy Extensions & Browsers
Cookies and other trackers are rampant in today’s digital world. One way to, at least sort of, escape them is through privacy extensions and private browsers like DuckDuckGo. There are a couple of great options in this area, so make sure to shop around to find a good fit. You can also check sms messages to find out who they are coming from at Short Codes.
Don’t get caught with the proverbial virtual pants around the ankles. Online privacy is more important than ever and it’s worth taking some steps to protect it. While complete anonymity isn’t easy to achieve, there are a few things people can do to take back control over their own digital lives.