Why does privacy matter? Companies like Google and others would have you believe that they should have access to all of your information. After all, the argument goes that “if you’re doing nothing wrong, does it matter who knows your online activities?” Sadly privacy is a lot more important than this. Privacy in the real world is a simple matter of closing your doors and pulling the curtains – in the online world, this is not as simple.
1. Prevent Identity Theft
Today’s world is a digital one. Personal identifiers like driver licenses, social security numbers, credit cards, and birth dates can all be acquired by unsavory individuals given enough time. This information can be used for a host of different purposes including identity, theft which can cost individuals thousands of dollars to rectify. In fact, in 2017 alone, over 16 million people were impacted by identity theft and that number has only increased during the years that followed. It is possible to protect yourself to some extent from this risk by exercising vigilance and care. Some simple steps to follow include:
- Ensuring that all online forms you fill out are securely protected. Provide a minimal amount of personal data wherever possible.
- Do not click on any links or attachments from people or organizations you do not know. Manually input the company’s website or use a reputable search engine to find the appropriate page.
- Connecting to the internet through a VPN or similar tool helps ensure that you are able to browse securely and privately. Are you concerned about your online security and privacy? PrivacySpark has reviewed a list of VPNs that can help protect you.
2. Your Actions Today Will Impact You in the Future
Online activities are stored forever. Previously mistakes made as a teenager or child could be relegated to history as an adult. This situation is no longer the case. Data is now stored for life and in fact, the volume of data being stored is only increasing. Companies are constantly requesting more and more information about their users. With information comes power and sadly the ability to misuse that power. Data brokers compile and sell information on individuals daily which companies use to improve ad targeting as well as direct mail marketing. We have already seen online activities impact job searches and employment in general. As time progresses, this information and use will only become more prevalent.
3. Your ISP is Not on Your Side
ISPs (Internet Service Providers) are in business to make money. That, unfortunately, means the company with complete access to all of your online activities is also motivated to sell that information as an additional revenue stream. In fact, in 2017 laws were changed in the US that made this legal and to remove the protections that were previously in place. What this means to you is that all of your online activities are at risk of being monitored and tracked.
4. Software Can Steal Your Data
It’s important to have updated and current software on all of your devices. New malware is released almost daily. This software can easily monitor all of your online activities and share that information with the criminal element. Identity theft is only one area where this information can be used. It can also be used to steal funds directly from your accounts which can be an immediate impact. A 2016 report indicated that 62% of American citizens use their smartphones for mobile banking. Today that number is sharply higher with the proliferation of banks that only have web presences.
5. Social Media Privacy
Social media is changing the way we share information in some very disturbing ways. However, with social media, the information shared is information you want to share. You have some control over the content. Search engines and smartphones change this equation entirely. With both, the information stored digitally is available for analysis in near real-time. Clearing cookies and browsing histories is a temporary solution as the information has already been stored in servers and data centers around the world. It’s not only about reselling the information for profit. In fact, individuals that use the internet for research could be unfairly victimized based on their searches.
Privacy and security are both clearly defined rights that should be available to everyone. Changing government regulations have gradually eroded these rights, providing authorities and commercial enterprises greater opportunities to capitalize on your information. Fortunately, there are ways to protect yourself while still enjoying the freedoms of an online world.