The concept of privacy has no ambiguity in theory, but things get complicated in reality. Technological innovations have greatly changed how we experience the online world. These days, we surf the net not just for doing research or doing our work. We also shop, connect with others and share our opinions. While doing so, we share a large amount of data (either intentionally or not) that can reveal a lot about us. However, many users tend to assume how the internet works. For instance, the digital space gives us a false sense of anonymity. After all, you sit in front of your computer, and no one can see what you do physically. Sadly, you have eyes all over you, and entities tracking your steps do their best to identify you. Let’s take a look at the biggest misconceptions that users might have about digital privacy.
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My Information Is Kept Private by Browser
When we are browsing in incognito or private mode, we presume that we leave behind no trail of our surfing history and other bits of data that reveal information about us. Of course, when you end a private session, your online history is supposed to be erased by the browser. However, in reality, not only is your online activity still visible, it can still be saved with the information being sold to third parties. Why is it so? It’s because while browsing in the private mode does prevent any automatic storing of information on your device; your Internet Service Provider can still see what you are doing online. The organization providing the internet connection, like your school or your company, can also keep track of what you do online. Again, your session on a website can also be viewed by the website itself. Thus, incognito modes are an improvement. However, they are not as stealthy as you would like them to be.
Online Privacy Should Concern Only Criminals
There’s a widespread misconception that only those involved in shady or criminal activities should be worried about online privacy. It’s believed that regular people should have no fear of being as open as possible. After all, you might have nothing to hide. However, you might still like to keep some things secret. Our privacy should concern all of us. That’s because when we are online, we share data, some of it sensitive as well. If we are careless about our privacy and security, we are vulnerable to having our data being stolen by criminals. You may not be comfortable with how many companies use the information they gather from your online activities. Websites and apps are monitoring what you do online. Data can be gathered on where you are and what your likes and dislikes are. In some cases, the internet might know you better than your significant other. Such data is then used to generate profit through targeted advertising or data exchanges between companies. When such data tracking and sharing is done without your knowledge or consent, it indeed is a violation of your privacy. Have you ever received a marketing email from a company you have never interacted with? It might be that the company you do engage with shared or sold your data to that provider. Spooky, right?
Your Data Is Gone after You’ve Deleted It from Your Device
Cybercriminals can retrieve personal files like your images, documents, etc., by using recovery tools that are easily accessible online. Therefore, simply emptying your recycle bin, formatting your computer’s hard drive, the USB thumb drive, or the memory card may not be enough to wipe out all traces of your activities. You should avoid selling, donating, trading in, or recycling your computer until you thoroughly clean the hard drive or Flash drives.
You Can’t Control Your Online Privacy
The definition of privacy has changed over the years with increased data collection and tracking. Today, most of us feel that we have no control over it, and it’s something we have to surrender helplessly. All of us are concerned about how tech giants like Google and Facebook monitor our behavior, but most of us have no idea what we should do about it. There are fortunately measures we can take to protect our privacy. Following these rules helps a great deal.
- Be cautious when downloading apps that ask for permissions that can be risky to your privacy.
- When you aren’t using any app, turn off the location sharing option.
- When you sync your apps with your social media accounts, read the disclaimers carefully.
- Use a VPN to encrypt internet traffic and protect your IP address. It helps to prevent advertisers, ISPs, and websites from keeping tabs on you.
- Be careful about your privacy settings on Facebook (or another platform), making sure that you share things only with those you are comfortable with.