Online privacy has always mattered, however, online threats and data breaches have escalated way more now than a few years ago. So this is certainly not a good time to be heading online without security measures.
Online privacy is becoming a growing concern these days for people of all ages, let us walk you through the major aspects of online privacy and how you can protect it.
What Exactly is Online Privacy?
Online privacy, also known as internet privacy, is a part of data privacy and also a fundamental human right. It refers to your privacy when you display, store, or provide information regarding yourself on the internet. This can include both PII (personally-identifying information) and non-personally-identifying information, such as your behavior or actions on a website. Without paying attention to online privacy, all your activities are subject to being tracked, collected, and analyzed by interested parties or as we know them as hackers!
Why is Online Privacy Important?
On the Internet, data has a high value, it’s stolen, sold, collected, and analyzed.
Whenever you download an app, visit a website, or use a social media platform, brands and companies are tracking and collecting data for selling their products. With our actions on the internet, we are inadvertently creating a huge digital trail of data about ourselves. And this is what these companies are looking for on the web to collect your data. There is so much happening on the internet through computers and mobile devices today. The most important thing to remember about online privacy is that the data and information is YOURS. Your habits, patterns, and your actions should be protected in any way possible.
4 Online Actions that Impact Your Privacy
Most of us practice bad internet hygiene and don’t even realize it, here are a few actions we might be taking unknowingly, but they largely impact our online privacy:
1. Same Login Credentials for Multiple Accounts
Yes, this definitely is easier and gets things done online when you use the same credentials across your accounts. But if a cybercriminal or a hacker gains access to one account, they’ll most likely get into the other ones as well using the same credentials. It’s like helping the hackers make their job easier!
2. Staying Logged into Websites
Not logging out of websites and having them remember your credentials is also convenient for us as users. However, it also leaves your personal information and credentials vulnerable to anyone who hacks into your device.
3. Not Reading “Terms & Conditions”
Most of the time we click ‘agree’ without reading the terms and conditions, and this leaves us unaware of what we’re getting ourselves into. You wouldn’t want to legally grant companies and service providers access to all kinds of data, hence make sure to go through this before clicking on the ‘agree’ button.
4. Opening/Downloading Suspicious Attachments
We should be very careful while opening attachments in emails or social media as they could contain malware and viruses. Moreover, make sure to download files from trusted sources otherwise it may result in viruses affecting your system.
Follow these 5 Steps for Better Online Privacy
1. Secure Your Account
Passwords are the secure keys to our digital presence. Cybercriminals and hackers try many tactics to crack them. Hence it’s our responsibility for our own online privacy to make this task difficult for them, by using strong, complicated passwords. Furthermore, two-factor authentication, if available, is another way of securing your personal data and information other than just a username and password. Usually, this two-factor authentication is a mobile phone code that can be sent to you before logging in.
Lastly, saving passwords on your device is convenient, yes, but if you need to safely store passwords, look into a secure password manager.
2. Protect Your Web Browser
Your browser needs to be secure and protected as it’s the main program you use to go online. Every ad and website collects information about your location, browsing history, and more. All this data collected reveals more about you than you might expect. This is a part of how targeted ads remain one of the most unsettling innovations for users all across the globe. Furthermore, even hackers can take advantage of loopholes in browsers to access the personal data on your device. Hence to protect your online privacy and security you can use browser extensions like uBlock Origin, it blocks ads and the data they collect. It also prevents malware from running in your browser and gives you an easy way to turn the ad-blocking off. Combine uBlock with Privacy Badger, as this blocks trackers, and thus ads won’t follow you around as much.
3. Be Conscious and Aware of All Your Privacy Settings
Most apps offer privacy settings for users and the freedom to know how much and what kind of information is shared. Always be cautious when sharing your content and personal information. Ensure to turn off location services and deny access to your camera. For social media, make sure to review your privacy settings, so that you’re aware that those settings are set only for trusted individuals in your circle, rather than setting them to the public where the whole world can see, including the hackers.
4. Keep Your System and Software Up-to-Date
Cybercriminals are always on the search for the vulnerabilities which you might leave in your software, simply to exploit them. Keep your operating system, browser, and other software up-to-date to ensure that you don’t miss out on the new security fixes. You can always use tools to automate your software updates if you find it difficult to update them manually.
5. Back-Up Your Data
Backing up data is often overlooked and taken very lightly by most of us. But it is a very important aspect of data protection because some hackers hold your data hostage for a ransom. There are cloud-based services that offer backup or you can even use an external hard disk just to back your data up in the easiest way.
There are many other online privacy tips that you can follow like using anti-virus software, being conscious of your digital footprint, etc. However, starting with basics- strengthening your passwords, turning on two-factor authentication, and watching out for scammers can make your accounts a lot more secure. There are a lot of other steps you might want to take, depending on your needs and you can keep going!
The Internet is going to be there in the future, the more each of us understands how our data is collected and used and how to keep it private, the better, safer, and healthier our digital presence will be.