Protecting Your Identity Online
For those of us who are active online, maintaining privacy can be a difficult task as your information is constantly being captured and in some instances it can be used in ways you are not always aware of. Also as the digital world enters all areas of our personal and public lives there will be more and more issues surrounding privacy. Below I have looked into a number of the websites we use on a daily basis, including Facebook, Google and Amazon, to understand exactly what data is captured and how it is used. By taking control of your online identity (including your content, video or images etc), you will not only help to safeguard yourself against cybercriminals, it will also help you to sidestep advertising and protect your computer against viruses.
According to Facebook’s founder Mark Zuckerberg, the traditional concepts of privacy are no longer a social norm and have instead been replaced by an even greater sharing impulse. Critics tend to argue that Facebook’s policies have regularly changed to push you into revealing even more information. Although Facebook have a taken a new measure making groups private by default, you still need to be proactive to protect your information. To control how third parties see your data go to Account>Privacy Settings>Applications and Websites from your own Facebook homepage.
On Facebook, you can state you like particular people, music, TV programmes and activities etc, however Google knows what you really like and want. Although before you sign into Google its memory is rather limited, it is only when you actually sign into an account that it knows more. Signed in, Google keeps an extensive history of your searches. This data is so valuable is because Google is an advertising company. Although Google are adamant that they handle your info carefully, they say they never sell it on to advertisers and as a rule, don’t share data between their own services.
You will have probably purchased something from Amazon previously and will no doubt be used to receiving their emails which include product recommendations including some items of particular relevance to you. Although like Google, they don’t share data with other businesses, it is more valuable for them to keep it consistently feeding back in an effort to make you buy more. If you read down to the small print of these emails, there is an option to opt of this kind of consumer manipulation.
With the travel reservation website, you can unknowingly be sharing your data with ad networks. Although many of these harmless trackers are cookies, small pieces of code attached to your browser, they are useful allowing shopping sites to remember what you have stored in your basket. It is possible however to find out how many of these ad networks are tracking you and you can select to opt out if you wish.
Accessing your online band account using unsecured Wifi can leave you vulnerable to cybercriminals. If you don’t have the adequate protection set up, other could perhaps access your hard disk, view the URL you’re visiting, or even read your emails. You can protect yourself from most of this by having decent firewall or HIPS (Host – based Intrusion Prevention System) software on your laptop.
Privacy Predictions for 2011
In the Econsultancy’s digital predications for 2011 and beyond, privacy was identified as a key topic. It is thought that the debate is likely to heat up this year as the privacy issues have to be regulated and there will need to be consensus between regulators and the industry about the scope of personal information which forms an online identity. Online activities such as Cookies, digital fingerprinting and behavioural targeting are expected to come under strict surveillance. With this in mind, here are just few top privacy tips for you to bear in mind next time you are surfing the net.
Top Tips for your Online Data Protection
- Take advantage of privacy protection tools – There are plenty of ways you can deflect the cookies and common technologies that are used to track your every move online from dedicated programs to browser based plug-ins. The latest versions of Firefox and Internet Explorer also offer private browsing functionality that is easy to take advantage of.
- Use different Browsers – Using different browsers may also be a good way to help defend your privacy. For instance you could use one browser for all your social networking activities and another browser for everything else you do online.
- Opt Out – This often not easy to find but many sites do let you opt out of them gathering your data or sharing it with third parties. Check out the Network Advertising Opt – Out tool, Google’s Ads Preferences, Yahoo’s Ad Interest Manager and read the privacy policies of the sites you use regularly.
- Change your Passwords – Ideally change your passwords every two to three months, so that they are harder to crack. Always use different passwords for different sites.
- Don’t always select to click Run – When downloading files, save them to your hard disk instead of running them immediately. This gives your security software scan for threats and alerts you to their presence before you open the can of worms.
- Stay in safe places – Be careful of international domains such as China (.cn) or Russia (.ru), which are often used by cybercriminals.
- Look for the padlock – A padlock symbol in the bottom right hand corner of your browser is a good sign the site is secure. Alternatively use a free browser ad-on such as Browser Defender, which warns against or blocks potentially dangerous sites.
- Don’t give out too many personal details to Social Networks – Most sites should only require your basic contact details to register.