While the Internet has opened our lives to amazing possibilities, there is one downside that concerns many users. If you guessed that it has to do with privacy issues, pat yourself on the back, because that’s one of the most concerning issues to those online. Privacy advocates have been fighting this battle for years. Across the globe, experts have been trying to encourage the government to take action and pass legislation that would effectively restrict companies from gathering and selling our private information.
Unfortunately, it’s been to no avail as of now, as the practice continues. Collecting and selling user’s private information has become a big business. Many companies have sprung up as data brokers legally collecting data on the websites we visit, the purchases we make, the items we’re looking at and the searches we conduct. Most people’s initial reaction is, “hey – that’s none of your business!” But alas, it’s 100% legal, and it goes on every day.
Who is buying that information about your online habits and searches? Advertisers take the top spot, followed by political influencers and marketing agencies that take your information and try to sell you something or manipulate your opinion on any one of many key issues. The biggest concern – you can never completely stop this from happening, but if you follow some simple steps, you can reduce the amount of information companies collect about you and their impact on your life.
Photo by Ono Kosuki
Check your Information
A good starting place is checking out your information on the Internet – be sure it’s accurate, and there aren’t things posted about you that are damaging or untrue. Find out who is communicating with you – or trying to communicate with you via text and email. Use Nuwber, an easy to use online tool that will provide you with a person’s true identity and location, as well as background information on those individuals you might find useful. Doing this will also help minimise phishing, where cybercrooks often gain access to your data and financial information.
Take Control of Social Media
Review every profile you have on all social media platforms. Frequently reviewing your data will help you gain control of social media and what it says about you. One way you can minimise social media problems is by limiting access to your accounts by changing all social media account settings to “private.” This one setting change will help prevent some social media companies, like Instagram and Pinterest, from having your content show up on Google searches.
Use Password Management Tools
Cybersecurity experts agree that having strong passwords is an ideal way to protect your data from being hacked. That means a minimum 10-character count password that is different for every account you access. It should include numbers, letters, capital letters and symbols. If you wanted to sit down and create strong passwords for each account you have and manage them properly, it would end up being a full-time job. That’s why you need to get a password management tool to do the work for you. These include NordPass, DashLane, Bitwarden and others.
Protect your Financial Data
Sign Up with Federal Registries
Have you placed your name on the Federal Trade Commission’s “Do Not Call” list? It’s free, but with all the Robocalls sent each day, some will undoubtedly slip through. There’s even a “Do Not Mail” registry you can sign up at to minimise the amount of junk mail you receive. Here, too, there is so much junk mail you’ll still receive some, but it won’t be as much as you were receiving before adding your name to the list. (We also have a do not call list here in Canada, check your country to see if it’s an option)
Change your Search Engine
Google and other search engines track your every move and sell that info to third parties. Your option here is to use a different search engine that won’t track you. While it’s hard to give you “googling” something, it’s better to keep your information private. Try DuckDuckGo or Startpage – neither of which tracks or sells your data.
The key is to do whatever you can to minimise the amount of web data collected about you and minimise access to companies who sell it to others. So be smart, be safe, and remember to have a bit of fun still!