Everything You Need to Know About Online Privacy

The internet is a whole new world in itself and no one can deny that. Every person has their own identity on the internet which needs to be protected from others. And that’s where internet/online privacy comes into play.

In a world which is connected from one end to another via the internet, it is important that you have some sort of privacy, especially from potential dangers. We are being tracked and surveilled 24/7 from many different angles. That’s why it becomes important that we understand the value of online privacy and learn as much as we can about it.

What is Online Privacy?

Just like you need curtains and blinds in your house for privacy, internet privacy is the concept which is used so that you can stay hidden from companies monitoring us at every second of the day! Privacy has become a rare thing in the digital era. People show off their personal lives on social media without a second thought, and without considering the risks of oversharing.

What are we trying to protect?

From the above explanation, people would think that privacy involves hiding their activities and giving away a small piece of the big picture. However, online privacy has very little to do with the things you post online.

Behavioral Data

The concept of privacy is more related to behavioral data, and a company’s ability to use that data to predict your future behavior. People’s data and identities are stolen, sold, collected, and analyzed every day. You might not have any idea how valuable data is, but the companies that use it have uncovered the huge value that data holds for their businesses.

Internet privacy involves concerns like storing, repurposing, provisioning to third parties and displaying the information that pertains oneself via the internet. In simple words, internet privacy is a subset of data privacy.

Data privacy includes both Personally-Identifying Information (PII) and non-PII information. PII refers to any information that can be used to identify an individual in real life. For example, your age and physical address alone can identify you without disclosing your name. Any factor that is unique enough to identify a specific person are included in this category. Other forms include GPS tracking data which is used by Applications might be enough for someone to track you down.

Does Privacy Still Exist?

Many internet experts believe that privacy no longer exists in the digital era. At present, internet privacy and digital privacy are considered very different from the privacy we once could expect on the internet. While some people may be convinced that it’s impossible to be private online, there are a number of tools you can use that will help protect your privacy.

The people who have casual concern need to not to get an anonymous identity. But in some cases, anonymity is very important as it can cause negative effects on the public. From celebrities to politicians who need to be protected as they have the capability to affect a wide array of the population needs to maintain internet privacy to avoid identity theft or other cyber attacks.

What are the risks to privacy while using the internet?

From the website owners to the government, every move you make on the internet is being captured and recorded by someone. The cybercriminals leave no stone unturned so that they can steal your data for their selfish reasons.

From Wi-Fi, hotspots, mobile internet, broadband connection, to every other thing that allows accessing the internet have their own tracking system. Depending on the websites and services you use, a person can access all kinds of data including your birthday, address, marital status, etc. And all this can be harvested from just one website. Wonder how much data can be extracted if someone can link all the website data together.

As you go through these risks, you will realize how much your online privacy matters.

Web Tracking

You might have noticed that when you visit a website, you get ads for the products you’ve looked at on other websites. That’s because you are being tracked. While some people consider it fine, others think that it is an invasion of their digital privacy.

There are a number of ways that websites can track you. Some sites use cookies, while others keep track of your MAC address or IP address to identify you.

Data Collection

If you think that tracking you in real-time is fine and there is nothing to worry about then think again. Some websites that collect your information share it with third-party advertisers and companies. So your information could get spread around the web without your knowledge.

With the data collected, companies can create your entire profile without interacting with you directly. And now, mobile apps are doing the same level of tracking, which means this tracking is always with you.

Lack of Security

There are lots of websites on the internet which exists without any security features. Their lack of ability to keep your data secure will cost you. It risks your data getting hacked or leaked. Additionally, poor security makes it hard to track down the criminal.

Connected Everything

From your smart TV to your fridge, thermostat to your house’s security system, everything is connected to the internet today. With internet of things devices, a lack of security in one device could allow someone to access all your connected devices.

Public Wi-Fi

We do almost everything with our smartphones. If you’re on the go, it’s not out of the question to connect to a long list of public WiFi networks in a single day.

Many of these networks use very low-level encryption if any at all. As a result, anyone with access to the network may be able to monitor your web browsing. Some public WiFi networks ask for an email address for you to connect to the network. This lets the owner of the network link all of your browsing behavior back to your profile.

Government Spying

Many governments don’t allow their citizens to browse privately. In the United Kingdom, there is an Investigatory Powers Act that allows the government to legally spy on citizens’ browsing. It means that your online privacy is non-existent.

Though the policy is designed so that organized crime can be stopped and the government can combat terrorism, it is pretty intrusive for your privacy. To combat this you can use a VPN or proxy server. It will hide your IP from the prying of government agents and authorities.

Social Networking

A social media profile is like a stalker’s dream. Social media accounts like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, etc. are like an open book for your personal life. Facebook contains details about the city you grew up in and your present contact number. Instagram and Twitter access your present location which allows anyone to see your whereabouts with precision. No matter how much you boost privacy settings, criminals are constantly finding ways to bypass them.

Online privacy isn’t something that you should ignore. We are living in a connected world. Maybe a burglar will take advantage of the fact knowing that you are not home and break in trying to steal your stuff. And things only get scarier after that. They can access your accounts and money and interrupt your personal life completely.

But don’t worry. Before you get out your aluminum foil hat and cut your internet connection, there are a number of ways that you can protect your privacy on the internet.

Tips To Protect Your Internet Privacy:

The most important thing to keep in mind is that it’s your life, your information, your habits, and your actions and no should be able to steal it from you. These steps can make it harder for hackers or cybercriminals to access your information.

1. Secure Your Passwords

Passwords are the first step towards online privacy. The first thing hackers and cybercriminals use is your account’s password. If you’ve used a strong password and enabled two-factor authentication, it will be much harder for someone to crack into you account.

  • Use a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters, special characters, and numbers which is at least 8 characters long. Avoid using your name, address, contact number, or commonly known things about you as a password. And never use the same password for all accounts across multiple websites.
  • Use Two-Factor Authentication which makes you verify your identity before you log in to your account.
  • Never save your password on the device. It might seem convenient to you, but if you lose your device then anyone will be able to access your accounts. Consider using a secure password manager to keep track of your password.

2. Be Aware Of All Privacy Settings

Almost every application on the internet offers some level of privacy settings. In many cases, these settings are enough to keep criminals at bay. Always choose the least amount of data sharing for your account and stay cautious about sharing your name and location on unknown sites.

When you are using social media, don’t forget to review your privacy settings. There are various options among those platforms so that you can keep your audience limited.

3. Keep Track Of Your Digital Footprint

People might not even have any idea of this but when you post something online, it stays there forever. Nothing ever gets deleted from the internet. A digital footprint is like a digital paper trail. As you write on the paper and erase it, the marks are left and they stay there forever. The concept is similar to the digital world. The traces left from the post can be used to track you down.

4. Get Reliable Security For Smart Devices

It’s important to establish the security standard for all the smart equipment you use in your daily life. From your car to the speaker in your home, everything needs security.  For this, you can rely on software. Just make sure it’s a reliable and trusted program.

There are services which offer free online protection for mobile phones. But don’t trust them blindly as they also mine data from your phone. Internet privacy can only be maintained if you actually make an effort, otherwise, it’s just a matter of time before you feel the consequences of losing control of your data.

5. Use Anti-Theft Features

From Android to iPhone, almost every smartphone in the present world comes with a remote control feature. You can use the Anti-Theft feature to locate your lost devices or lock them permanently or erase everything from the device. It often comes in handy to keep the data on your device private.

6. Watch Out For Bluetooth and Wi-Fi

Whether you are using Bluetooth or a WiFi sharing feature, both of them have a relatively low level of security. So, you have to ensure that you don’t keep the Bluetooth and WiFi feature on even when you are not using it.

Securing your home network is essential. Always use Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) to encrypt the data traveling through the network. Keep the firewalls on the software programs as well as on hardware. Most Wi-Fi is secured properly, but Public Wi-Fi is not. That’s why VPNs are commonly used for online privacy.

7. Familiarize Yourself With Hacking and Phishing Problems

The worst kinds of threats you will face on the internet are the phishing attackers that impersonate a well-known organization such as a bank or financial institution. Their main motive is to obtain your credentials or deliver some malware or viruses that infect your computer. You need to familiarize yourself with these techniques and how they work.

This way, you will be able to avoid the potential threats like emails or attachments sent to you by an unknown sender or suspicious emails. If at any time you think that your account is under threat, you can directly contact the website and secure your account immediately.

Global Privacy Policies

Unified privacy policies, like the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), have been passed to hold big companies like Google and Facebook to a higher standard of privacy. GDPR sets rules for how websites track users and how they handle these users’ data.

The policy also defines the term “personal data” and punishments for the individuals who violate someone’s online privacy. The regulation will also hold companies accountable for the violation act and they have to face repercussions for the violation based on the severity of the cases.

Final Words

Privacy is a difficult issue to address. On the one hand, there are clear issues with letting websites access every detail about us. On the other hand, companies use data to improve user-experiences and the conveniences their products offer.

With social media and other platforms, people are over-sharing their life details and they are doing so intentionally.

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