Don’t Expose Yourself: A Guide to Online Privacy
The next time you see a commercial for something you just saw trending on Facebook organically, you will get a better image of who’s watching these organic social media conversations unfold. Many marketers and companies try to use social media to plant products with influences and hope they turn viral. This is done by giving a YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat or Twitter influence the product and asking them to either review it or make some comment about how great it is and how they are “loving it.” All of the data accumulated about you by data brokers is used to generate this type of marketing, which is called “influence” marketing. People, though are much smarter than they realize. Most people know they are being manipulated and won’t buy in unless they see real reviews from real people saying the product works or is good. All that aside, what we start to realize from the marketing pushes we see and ads that are forced down our throats, is that we have offered up a lot of this data freely. When we download an app that tracks our fitness goals, we enter or height, weight and fitness progress. This information is sold to data brokers, who now know your height, weight, eating habits and exercise regime. That’s pretty scary.
The best way to avoid exposing yourself online is to not post private things about yourself. Every time you post a Tweet, comment, status update, picture, or story online, it is saved, files, stored and sold. Every time you download a new app and enter information about yourself such as your date of birth, occupation, height, weight, interests, hobbies, that data is being stored and sold. This same storing and selling process is happening when you shop at the supermarket using a discount card or at the pharmacy. All that data is being used by a variety of people to make money or make decisions about you.
If you’re comfortable letting people know how you feel about certain topics, or if you don’t care if information about you is bought and sold, then don’t bother taking any of the following steps, however, if the idea that your insurance company, loan companies, banks, credit cards companies, and others use this data to make decisions about you bothers you than you might want to curtail, or even totally eliminate your data footprint.
Some steps to decreasing your digital footprint:
- Use a private browser such as DuckDuckGo or set your browsing session to “private”
- Use a VPN when you’re online, especially when accessing public networks at stores and airports
- Delete all cookies from your browser settings
- Set your tracking and location to off on your smartphone
- When you set-up social media accounts, use alias information
- Set all your accounts to private
- Don’t provide personal information to third parties or to apps
- Opt-out whenever the option is given
- If you can easily opt-out of data brokers, do so
- Use encrypted email instead of public email servers
- Don’t enter online contests that require personal information other than name and email address
- Don’t pay your bills online, but if you must, use a VPN or don’t store your credit card or debit card info, opt to not save your credit card info
- Don’t answer any phone marketing “surveys” often these are scams, if they’re not scams, they are usually data brokers trolling for data
- Don’t ever give out personal information like your social security number or passwords to banks or other people over the phone or via email, companies won’t ask for this information