Before handheld technology was mass-produced and made accessible in the world, online privacy was assured. Activity, private conversations, discussions, and so on were private. Back then, no more than three decades ago, most people were entirely sure that things they did were done in isolation.
Today, the story has changed. The emergence of the internet broke barriers existing in the world of communication. Mobile apps and websites allowed people to text each other at very cheap rates. However, it has come with a cost. Using the internet leaves you with the risk of getting exposed.
Internet users used to be largely unconcerned about data privacy issues. However, with recent data breaches and leaks like Cambridge Analytica, web surfers are starting to pay more attention to online privacy. According to Statista, 90% of internet users worry about the privacy of their information online.
Top Online Privacy Issues
Search Engines Recording User Data
When you type a search query into the most popular search engines, they don’t just disappear into thin air after closing the tab. Every single question you’ve made gets stored as search engine data. What’s more, search engines track you across the websites you visit. It gets worse if you’re using a web browser made by the search engine. All manner of information would be collected about you, exposing your activity to big tech companies. Some of the information collected includes your IP address, search queries, cookies, and so on. This data is then used to create a profile for you without your permission.
Social Media Networks Tracking Profiles
Have you ever wondered why you’d search for a product, and suddenly, it starts showing up in ads on your social media page? That’s social media tracking in action. One of the biggest social media scandals in history was the Cambridge Analytica scandal. It proved that if data privacy measures weren’t implemented, it could have damning consequences in real life.
When you visit websites, you should see that ‘Accept Cookies’ pop-up once in a while. Your browser stores cookies to track you on the websites you visit. Nevertheless, the application of cookies could be used adversely. For instance, your browser can solely determine what ads to serve you. Your consent wouldn’t be requested before these adverts get enforced on you.
The Data Privacy Status Quo
After the GDPR issued a law protecting its residents from forceful data collection in 2018, Kenya followed suit a year later. Nonetheless, big tech companies still store your data. This is why you need to learn how to protect your privacy online. The best privacy tools in the internet market are listed below.
Fun Fact: Humans generate 1.7 MB of data online each second, which totals up to 2.5 quintillion bytes of data (For better comprehension, quintillions contain 18 zeros) each day. That said, below are some privacy tools to consider in order to protect your information online:
Even if you don’t share information about yourself on social media, advertisers know all about you. The pages and websites you visit help construct this profile of you that accurately targets commodities or services you’d like. Ad blockers prevent advertisers from collecting data from you and tracking you across the internet. When you use adblockers, you’d be sure to receive all manners of ads that don’t make you feel exposed.
Get an Antivirus Program
Although big tech companies have been the focal point, threats can also come from hackers. Cybercriminals like these aim to breach your online data privacy by using malware. Malware can perform various functions on your device, such as keylogging, installing crypto mining software, and locking access to your files. To prevent malware, you need to download an antivirus program on your device. Antivirus software protects your system in different ways, like signature scanning of downloads and blocking malware-infested websites. Antiviruses can also help in removing malware from your device.
Switch to a Private Search Engine
It would be best if you avoided popular search engines. They know a lot about you because of your search queries. If you’re using the search engine’s browser or operating system, it gets worse because you’ll get tracked on all fronts. You’ll have to switch to a privacy-oriented search engine. Search engines like these do not store data about you, like your search queries.
Get a VPN
When advertisers can track you, they find it easy to build profiles on you. However, when you become anonymous, it becomes a lot harder to follow your activity on the internet. A VPN’s job is to establish that anonymity for your online persona. When you are using a VPN, you are able to connect to a VPN server, thereby changing your IP address. VPNs also help with network security when you get attacked by hackers. You’d best get a paid VPN to make sure you experience fast network speed.
Use E2E Messaging
E2E or end-to-end encrypted messaging services make sure that your data never gets intercepted successfully by a hacker. On the issue of big tech companies handling your data, you can only trust a handful of E2E messaging apps. The WhatsApp privacy crisis earlier in 2021 made a lot of people skeptical about the service. Because of this, privacy advocate Edward Snowden recommended a privacy-focused app like Signal.
Switch off Voice Assistants
Using voice assistants sounds cool as they expedite specific processes. However, when you use these assistants, you’re unwittingly making a trade: your privacy for the voice assistant. Everything you’ve said to your voice assistant gets stored on the company’s servers. If your voice assistant is set to listen for your voice by default, your home conversations could be recorded. Samsung once stated that its smart TV listened to private conversations sometimes. To protect your discussions from these firms, you’ll need to turn off your voice assistant option. If you’ve used the voice assistant previously, check how you can delete your data.
Internet users are at risk of data privacy breaches not only from hackers but also from big tech firms. Several of the activities you do online are tracked and recorded. Despite recent laws put in place to prevent forceful data collection, many companies still practice it.
You can protect your data by using encrypted messaging apps, a privacy-oriented search engine, and switching off voice assistants. You can also get tools to enhance further your data privacy like VPNs, ad-blockers, and antiviruses.
Finally, I hope the above-revised guide on how to go about safeguarding your Online Privacy is helpful. But, if you’ll need more support, you can Contact Us and let us know how we can help you. You can also share your additional thoughts, suggestions, recommendations, or questions in the comments section below.