Harsh Reality: What It Takes to Have Digital Privacy?
The Internet is a pretty remarkable thing. It provides us with so many opportunities to learn, socialize and entertain ourselves. What’s especially astonishing are the free and open services we all can enjoy. Unfortunately, most of them that are advertised as ‘free’ are not so free. Recently, it has become clear that the value of data is kind of a new digital currency.
The Internet is full of our data. It allows us to have a better user experience than ever felt possible and it allows businesses to understand our preferences, experiences and desires. Yet, it all comes at a cost.
Everything can be tracked: where are we, who are we with, who are we interacting with, what are we communicating about. There has never been time like this before, the whole generation can be followed throughout their lives. Each time a person goes online, these trackers automatically start recording his activities. When a person shuts down his computer and reboots it up again, it will restart and continue. This is being done with different types of trackers and cookies.
What Is Digital Privacy?
We have all heard the term before, but what is it? Basically, when talking about digital privacy, people are referring to the protection of the personal data that is being published via the Internet, through various digital channels. In fact, most people don’t care about digital privacy because they don’t understand it, it’s intangible and people simply can’t visualize it. Bringing privacy into the digital age is complex, thus some people choose to ignore it.
We’re used to looking at all kinds of information on the Internet but it seems be looking back at us. When we visit websites to get information, to do social sharing, send instant messages by email, we leave something behind. According to the Internet Society, our digital footprints are the traces we leave behind as we use the Internet. Digital footprints have both benefits and cost. For instance, they may offer convenience, by saving you time logging in, or retyping your personal details. Most of us realize that when we deliberately share information on social media or upload pictures, we lose some degree of privacy. But we’re less likely to think about the footprints we create by default, simply by searching a web, shopping online or enabling location services.
It’s not uncommon for people to say “I have nothing to hide so why should I care about my digital footprints?”. There are many reasons but the simplest is this: your digital footprints reveal a lot about you, they build up into a detailed picture of your likes and habits – and that information has significant commercial value.
Did you know that some ecommerce sites offer you different prices based on your browsing history or which operating system you use? According to Northeastern University study, you may pay more when shopping online. Back in 2012, the Wall Street Journal found out that Staples was displaying different prices to people based on their locations and Orbitz had shown different hotel offers to Mac and PC visitors after learning that Mac users spent more on hotels.
Therefore, our digital footprints are monetized by organizations with which we have no relationship and which we can’t control.
Companies and Privacy
Tech companies such as Facebook, Google, Microsoft or Yahoo use peoples’ personal data as a payment for free digital services. For example, recently everyone learned about the fact that Google paid Apple $1 billion to keep search bar on iPhone. The search engine giant has an agreement with Apple that gives the iPhone maker a percentage of the revenue Google generates through the Apple device. What is more interesting, is that later on, Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple, delivers blistering speech on encryption and privacy where he criticizes Google’s advertising-based business model as an intrusion of privacy. Tim Cook claimed: “We believe the customer should be in control of their own information. You might like these so-called free services, but we don’t think they’re worth having your email, your search history and now even your family photos data mined and sold off for god knows what advertising purpose. And we think someday, customers will see this for what it is.” An yet… Google search stays on iPhone and continues gathering data.
How to Manage Online Privacy?
How to protect yourself from undesired data collection, and your collected data from misuse or misappropriation? According to Robin Wilton, identity and privacy director for the Internet Society, there are particular data protection techniques:
“Divide” your online identity. You may use different browsers, email addresses, credit cards and even devices for different web activities (for instance, personal, work and online shopping) in order to make it more difficult for entities to assemble one cohesive data set about you. Also, don’t go to shopping site while you’re logged in to Facebook to prevent them from tracking your purchase experience.
Check privacy settings. Devices, apps and browsers are set by default to share your personal data. Review the default settings and amend them if you don’t feel comfortable sharing your data automatically.
Regularly manage cookies. Cookies let websites collect information about what else you do online. Most browsers have privacy settings that let you block third-party cookies. Visit whatismybrowser.org to identify the browser you’re using, and to see if cookies are enabled. This site tells you how to find and control cookies for different browsers.
Prevent auto-login. This might be annoying to type your email and password every time when logging into a website but it’s definitely safer that way. Probably goes without saying that the passwords must be strong. Make sure you think of something more complex than “123456” or “password” as those passwords are included in the annual “Worst Passwords List 2015” created by SplashData.
Install SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) Certificate. It enables encrypted communication between a web server and a web browser. SSL ensures that all data passed between the web server and browser remains private and secure. Preserve sensitive data – passwords, credit card numbers and other – with a SSL Certificate.
Start using a VPN. Another great data protection approach – to use a virtual private network (VPN). It is a network technology that creates a secure connection over a public network such as the Internet or a private network owned by a service provider. To put simply, it is a secure tunnel through which all the traffic between you and a website travels. While your traffic is in this tunnel, nobody can see what it is or modify its contents. Those at the other end of the tunnel also can’t tell which computer the traffic came from. VPN encrypts all of your traffic and you can choose where in the world you want transport yourself, so you can change your location. This means you can take control of your online privacy. Host1Plus also offers an opportunity to set up a VPN on your virtual private server.
The benefits of the web have, of course, come at some cost, one of which is a loss of privacy. But there are many things we can do to minimize the risks. So if you’re worried about this, use these tips and take control of your digital privacy now!
Are you concerned about your digital privacy? What tools do you use to prevent it? Share your experience in the comments below!
Found this article valuable? Click to share. Thanks!