Protecting digital privacy is a must for netizen life.
We are living in a digital age where large amounts of data are generated every hour.
Some of that data is personal and has become attractive for marketers, information brokers, and cybercriminals.
In what follows, we discuss the importance of digital privacy in the 21st century, its biggest threats, and several effective ways to protect yourself.
Why digital privacy matters
Your full name, email address, home address, driver’s license, Social Security Number, credit card information, financial information, and medical records are sensitive personally identifiable information (PII).
In the “offline world”, you wouldn’t share this data with anyone unless it is strictly necessary.
After all, disclosing such information would put you at risk of financial fraud, identity theft, and other types of criminal activity.
Yet, you provide data about yourself whenever you engage in online activities, such as creating a social media profile, using a search engine, signing up for a mailing list, or enrolling in a company’s loyalty program.
This data is harvested and, in certain cases, analyzed and traded with third parties.
While most internet users would expect some degree of privacy, the fact of the matter is that data has become a commodity in the digital age.
Hence, it’s difficult to tell who has harvested your sensitive information and for which purposes.
Nowadays, being “privacy aware” is important because it gives you control over your identity and personal information.
Otherwise, anyone could use your data and manipulate your information for their own purposes.
What are the biggest threats to digital privacy?
Cybercrime is believed to be one of the biggest threats to digital privacy.
In 2022, student loan technology service, Nelnet, reported a system breach that exposed the data of 2.5 borrowers.
In July of the same year, a hacker posted on a hacking forum that they had the addresses and phone numbers of 5.4 million Twitter users for sale.
In certain instances, however, internet users consent to have their data and online activities collected and analyzed.
Cookies, for example, are technologies that monitor information about your computer and browsing habits and send it to websites.
While it is possible to “reject” certain cookies, others are always active and cannot be avoided.
Personally identifiable information, browsing habits, and interests are also collected by data brokers.
These entities make a profit from building detailed profiles of a person, which they trade with companies specialized in marketing, people searching, recruitment, health insurance, and finance.
Process of protecting digital privacy
There are several measures you can take in order to protect your digital privacy, such as the following.
- Use a robust VPN. Browsing the internet in incognito mode isn’t as private as you might think it is. A better alternative is using a virtual private network (VPN), which establishes a secure connection between you and the internet, hiding your personal information. VPNs are especially useful in the event you need to connect to public Wi-Fi at a cafe or the airport.
- Install effective anti-virus. While viruses might seem like a worry of the past, they still exist and pose a real threat to your sensitive data. Not only can viruses infect your devices with malicious software, but they can also scan them for personal information. Fortunately, this can be avoided by installing efficient anti-virus software.
- Disable interest-based ads. To prevent companies from using your past online behavior to target you with ads, you can opt out by customizing Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter, etc.
- Protect your passwords. Have strong passwords and passcodes for all your devices and guest accounts. Ideally, you should have different passwords for every single one of your accounts and each of them should contain a combination of upper and lower-case letters, numbers, and special characters. If possible, enable two-factor authentication for an extra layer of protection.
- Delete unused apps and browser extensions. You are at less risk with fewer app accounts. So try to keep the number of apps to a minimum and always download from official app stores. Delete unused apps and do the same with browser extensions. Although they might seem harmless, certain extensions have been found to track browsing activity.
- Avoid oversharing on social media. Before posting on your socials, think carefully about whether that picture or information is something you’ll feel comfortable sharing with strangers. If you don’t know who is seeing your posts and profile, check your account’s privacy settings and customize them according to your needs.
- Services like Ingoni have several step-by-step guides for opting out of data brokers and people search sites, including Acxiom, FamilyTreeNow, Fast People Search, and many others. In addition, these services provide automated tools to remove your information from third parties databases.
Nowadays, digital privacy is extremely crucial as it helps you maintain control over your personal identity and dodge third parties and malicious actors.
You can adopt some of the strategies listed above in order to stay secure. This was the fact of protecting digital privacy.