Protect your privacy online

Most people are concerned about protecting their privacy, but how many actually take any steps to do so on the internet? Maybe they aren’t aware of the extent of tracking and spying that takes place online. It is much more pervasive than you might think. In most cases, it is used by advertisers to try and sell you goods and services, but in other cases it may be much more sinister.

Have you ever been on a website that requests your postal code before you can get to the information you are requesting? The seemingly innocuous act of supplying your postal code can reveal a lot about you such as your age, marital status, income level and other relevant demographic data that has been compiled by researchers. Social media and search engines, like Google, are some of the biggest privacy offenders. Have you ever wondered how certain websites have an uncanny ability to display ads on items that match your interests? This is because you are being tracked online and they have built a profile on you.

Sometimes the tracking may not be to sell you a coffee maker, but for more malicious reasons. Identity theft is the most well known reason, but in other instances it may be to physically harm you. There are many reports of thieves robbing homes when families informed the world on social media sites that they would be away on vacation. Also, you or your children may be unwittingly revealing your physical location on social media sites with GPS coordinates that are embedded in the images you post.

Now that you are aware of the problem, what can you do about it?

  • Apply all new security updates to your computer and keep your anti-virus software up-to-date.
  • Change your passwords frequently with strong passwords made up of numbers and letters and don’t use the same password for all your online accounts.
  • Avoid giving out personal information online or in emails.
  • Turn your browser privacy settings to high and only allow trusted sites to save cookies to your computer.
  • Create a throw-away email address with one of the free services, such as Hotmail or Gmail, for giving out online.
  • Avoid installing browser toolbars and add-ons.
  • Be conscious of the apps you install on your phone as they may be tracking you and collecting information.
  • Turn off geotagging in your smart phone or remove embedded location coordinates information with an EXIF editor.
  • Avoid giving social media sites your full personal profile as they share your personal information; this is how they earn revenue.
  • Tighten up your privacy settings in your social media sites and be aware that new updates to those sites may reset your privacy settings.