From communicating with friends on social media to buying medicines online, the digital world has made life more comfortable. But if we look at the other side of the picture – it also invades one’s privacy. Saying that privacy is skewed in the digital world wouldn’t be wrong. The reason is that people have no idea about digital privacy.
Online privacy is all about who you are and what you do. ‘Who you are’ involves your personally identifiable information (PII), name, social security number, date of birth, and so on. While ‘what you do’ are the websites you visit, the searches you perform, things you buy online, and the articles you read.
Whenever you use a social media platform, visit a website, or download an app – chances are that the digital force is collecting your data. People surf a lot with their mobile devices and computers these days. We search about medical conditions, shop online, interact with friends, arrange vacations, and whatnot.
Unintentionally, people are providing a huge amount of personal data with these actions. Now the question arises, ‘is there any way to secure data?’ Of course, there is! Following are the 10 tips that can help you improve internet privacy.
1. Avoid using public storages for private data
Oversharing isn’t just about social networks. Avoid using online services that are intended for sharing data to store your personal information. For instance, Google Docs isn’t a secure place to store a password list, and Dropbox isn’t the safest place to keep your passport scans unless they are stored in an encrypted folder.
2. Check social privacy settings
If you have social accounts, those networks have a lot of information about you, and by default, you may be surprised at how much of that is visible to anyone on the Internet. That’s why we strongly recommend that you check your privacy settings: It depends on you to decide what information you want to share with your friends versus complete strangers – or even nobody except yourself.
3. Keep your email address and contact number private
Do you know the reward for sharing your phone number and email address? Hundreds of robocalls on your phone, and tons of spam in your email inbox. Even if you can’t avoid sharing this info with online stores or internet services, don’t share it on social networks with random people. And consider forming a disposable and separate email address, and even a separate phone number for such cases.
Create an additional email account and purchase an additional SIM card to be used for online shopping and other situations requiring sharing information with strangers.
4. Evade tracking
When you visit a website, your browser will reveal a lot of stuff about you and your browsing history. Marketers use this information to identify and target you with advertising. Most people believe that using incognito mode will keep everything private; however, Incognito mode can’t really avoid such tracking; special tools are required for that.
5. Avoid using public Wi-Fi networks
Public Wi-Fi networks do not usually encrypt data, which means that everyone including hackers on the same network can snoop on your data. According to the research by Privacy Affairs, “hackers can easily steal your personal information (like credit card details, bank account numbers and other financial details) and sell it over the internet for a few bucks”.
It is suggested to avoid sharing any sensitive data – passwords, logins, credit card details, and so on – while connected to public Wi-Fi. If you connect to a public hotspot, make sure to use a secure VPN connection to encrypt and protect your data from prying eyes.
6. Use messaging apps with end-to-end encryption
Most modern messaging apps use encryption, although in some instances, that is what they term transit encryption – messages are decrypted on the provider’s side and stored on their servers. What if the servers are hacked by someone? Do not take the chance – select end-to-end encryption – even the provider of messaging services cannot see your conversations this way.
Use a messaging app with end-to-end encryption – WhatsApp is the best example. Be sure that by default, Telegram, Facebook Messenger, and Google Allo do not use end-to-end encryption. Manually start a chat to enable it.
7. Review permissions for browser extensions and mobile apps
Mobile apps prompt you to give them permissions to access files or contacts in your device storage and to use the camera, microphone, geolocation, etc. Some can’t really work without these permissions, but some use this information to profile you for marketing purposes. Luckily, it’s relatively easy to control which applications are given which permissions.
Never install browser extensions unless you really need them. Also, always check the permissions carefully when providing. And review the permissions you give to mobile apps.
8. Use secure passwords
Using weak passwords to protect your private information is as good as shouting to passersby about that information. Memorizing long and unique passwords for all of the services you use is almost impossible; however, you can memorize one master password with a password manager.
Use a different password for each service with the length of at least 12 characters.
9. Secure your devices with passwords
Our computers and phones store a great deal of data that we would like to keep private, so secure them with passwords. These passwords don’t have to be unique or complicated, but they should keep strangers out. Do something a little better on mobile phones: six-digit PINs or actual passwords instead of four digits and screen-lock patterns.
This is fine for devices that support biometric authentication – whether fingerprint reading or face unlocking – but remember that these technologies have limitations. Lock your phones, tablets and computers using passwords or biometric authentication.
10. Disable lock screen notifications
Secure your phone with a long, secure password but leave lock screen notifications? This way, all passers-by can see your business. Set up alerts correctly to prevent the information from showing on the protected screen.
Hide sensitive information or disable lock-screen notifications from the lock screen.