Although people are becoming more reliant online, most of us still underestimate the importance of online privacy. That said, this guide is created to help increase your online privacy awareness.
Online privacy, also known as digital privacy or internet privacy, refers to how much of your financial, personal, and browsing data stays private when browsing online. In today’s increasingly digitized world, online privacy has become a growing worry with personal data and browsing history at increased risk.
To give you perspective, the number of data and privacy breaches publicly reported in the US alone through September 2021 exceeded the whole year by 17%.
- The Importance Of Online Privacy Awareness
- Major Online Privacy-Invading Methods
- Top Tips To Protecting Your Online Privacy
The Importance Of Online Privacy Awareness
There are hundreds of articles online, outlining the importance of online privacy. But let’s give you a much simpler example.
Try to make a mental list of all the personal things you have. These may include your bank statements, medical records, or even certain items from your shopping carts. Then, imagine a complete stranger having access to these personal things. It’s scary, right?
It’s even scarier if these data of yours are used for bad things— let’s say using your bank account to purchase illegal drugs.
Online privacy awareness is the first step to preventing such things from happening.
Major Online Privacy-Invading Methods
Internet privacy issues can range from the information and data that you don’t mind sharing (for instance, a public social media account) to extremely personal and important data that can result in public embarrassment or may affect your financial life.
Below, we look at some of the most controversial and privacy-invading practices online.
1. Social Media Data Harvesting
Recently, social media privacy has hit the spotlight after various privacy scandals including the Cambridge Analytica scandal in which hackers used data to manipulate voters, doxing (or publicly sharing private information), and cyberbullying.
What’s more, is that major social platforms have suffered data and privacy breaches that left millions of users exposed. For instance, the recent massive data breach on Facebook has exposed the personal data of over 530 million users.
2. Search Engines User Tracking
Search engines log the things you’ve been searching for. That seems normal. But did you know that they also track every website you visit after that? And if your search engine also serves as your browser (we’re looking at you Google), they also keep your browsing history.
Search engines collect a variety of data including cookies, search history, click-through history, IP addresses and so much more. Taken together, these data can be used for creating a profile.
While a profile is mainly used for creating a customer persona and helping businesses create customized marketing, it can become a serious privacy issue when the data-matching algorithms connect someone’s profile with their personal information since they may cause a data breach.
In general, cookies are harmless and are actually helpful. Cookies allow websites to collect your browsing information and help them remember your login, language settings, preferences, and other details.
That said, cookies can become a concern if a vast amount of data is collected without the user’s consent.
4. Mobile Apps
With the rise of mobile technology, more and more people are now glued to their smartphones. With the increasing popularity of mobile devices, there’s also an increasing demand for mobile apps. As a result, apps have learned a lot more about us too.
Most apps will request personal data usernames, location details, email addresses, phone numbers, and more. Some even go further and ask for riskier information that could cause trouble when it fell into the wrong hands.
Top Tips To Protecting Your Online Privacy
1. Utilize An Antivirus Software
One of the most important steps to protect your online privacy and prevent a data breach is to use reliable antivirus software— whether it’s for your computer or mobile device.
The best antivirus software for online privacy should have an anti-tracking tool that prevents websites from collecting your information. It should also have an anti-spyware tool that stops hackers from spying on you as well as a VPN that can hide your online activity and IP address.
2. Incognito Browsing
If you don’t want your browser or computer saving your browsing history, cookies, or temporary internet files, then opt for incognito browsing.
Web browsers offer their own versions of this form of online privacy protection. When you search and browse the internet in this mode, your browser or hackers won’t be able to trace your browsing history from your computer.
Take note, however, that these private modes are not completely private. When searching in private or incognito mode, your Internet Service provider or ISP can still view your browsing activity. The website you visit may also track you.
So, while incognito browsing does offer some privacy, it’s far from the only tool that can provide you complete privacy online.
3. Review Privacy Policies
Admittedly, most of us just click on the “Agree” button to any privacy policies and user agreements without even reading them. That said, we strongly recommend you skim through any document before agreeing or accepting.
If you don’t have time to read it (mainly because some user agreements can be several pages long), you can do some research on what kind of data the website or app asks of its users and whether or not you’re comfortable with those.
Is online privacy dead?
Well, this depends on who you ask. But we’d like to believe that it’s not dead, yet. While it has become much more difficult to browse the Internet anonymously and protect your privacy, it’s up to a user to be on guard about their privacy. With better online privacy awareness, you should be able to maintain your online and offline personal data private.
What’s the largest data breach ever?
Yahoo holds the record for the biggest data breach of all time, with over 3 billion compromised accounts.
As the modern world continues to expand and migrate into the online world, you should also expand your knowledge of the latest privacy trends in order to stay protected.
We hope that this article has helped increase your knowledge and awareness of your privacy when browsing online.