For years now, we’ve been using the internet and enjoying the great content, possibilities, and accessibility that it brings to our daily lives. In the early days of the internet’s more widespread popularity, there used to be fear-mongering about illicit activities that people can get up to online. Others propagated ideas of the negative, mature, and dangerous content it can expose kids to. Everyone had an opinion on platforms like MSN and Yahoo! Messenger – you either loved it or hated it and spoke about the way kids and teens could be groomed via those platforms. Yes, the negative aspects of the internet were very real.
With all the discourse that flowed freely, the internet trudged on and we’ve been loving it ever since. It’s changed the way we work, communicate, shop, and enjoy content. And then, something began to boil to the surface. With the advent of smartphones and other devices like tablets, the darker side of using the internet started to gain notoriety. We soon became aware of the fact that we were being watched while online – even when we’re mindlessly scrolling through memes or liking photos on Instagram. Our online behavior is logged, every click tracked, our tastes in fashion, movies, and even the things we voice when in the presence of our smartphones and other devices.
How Is My Data Used?
Your phone, tablet, and even laptop, knows exactly where you are right now and big data companies know this information about you. We’ve become aware of this and of targeted advertising, where companies shove ads onto free space on your screen – ads that are specifically meant for you. Facebook, Microsoft, Amazon, Apple, and yes, Google, make big money from the ads that they sell to other companies. The companies we’ve just mentioned, along with many others, track your data when you’re using their platforms or devices, and sell targeted advertising to rake in billions of dollars. These companies also explain it away saying that they track your personal calls and emails to prevent fraud, for example – as in the case of Apple.
If they’ve got all this data about you, including your personal details, as well as credit card information and other sensitive data, what happens when there’s a data breach? No big data broker is safe from hackers who steal data. Data breaches occur all the time, so your information may very well be floating out there on the dark web somewhere, waiting for a buyer who will pay a tidy sum. Identity theft often happens this way, too.
So, how do you prevent online companies from collecting your data?
If you want to learn more about cyber security & hacking check out our article.
Change Your Location Settings to Suit You
We’re so used to our smartphones, tablets, and laptops now that we’ve become dependent on the ease that it gives us to navigate through daily life. Pun intended. Location settings help us get from place to place easily – even if we’re in a country we’ve never been to before. What if we only want our phone to know our location when we tell them to? It’s possible, but for both iOS and Android, it’s not possible with just a tap or two. Remember, these companies want your data, so they’re not going to make the process a simple one. Make sure that you tweak your location settings so that your Significant Locations or Frequent Locations are not saved, keeping data companies from knowing about your routine, where you live, where you work, etc.
Use a Private Browser
You are not limited to using Google Chrome, Safari, or Edge to browse the internet. Many of you may know this already, but it needs to be said. Mozilla Firefox is one of the more well-known browsing apps that claims to erase your passwords and browsing history after each session. It also makes web browsing anonymous, blocking advertising, analytics, and social trackers – without you telling it to. They’ve also got a mobile app for your phone, but you can also check out other third-party private browsers like Dolphin.
Be Wary of Phishing Scams
This has been an online problem for a very long time now. Phishing scams are most prevalent over email, as well as now through Facebook and WhatsApp messages. Ensure that you don’t open emails that appear suspicious, and never open emails from people you don’t know. If you need to confirm the address or name of a sender, search their name or email address on a site like Nuwber to confirm their identity.
Can I Opt Out of Ads?
For the most part, yes! It may come as a surprise to many of us, but we can, in fact, opt out of most internet-based advertising. This won’t allow you to opt-out of having any adverts shown to you on your devices, but it does stop advertisers from serving you targeted ads.
Invest in a VPN
VPNs are increasingly popular today. To be honest, many people use VPNs for their more “fun” benefits, like allowing you to access various countries’ libraries of online streaming services, like Netflix, or make flight and hotel bookings from other countries to get better rates. But what does a VPN do for your privacy? VPN stands for virtual private network. It encrypts your data and redirects your network connection through another virtual network at a different location. This way, websites and data brokers can’t collect your actual IP address or location, which is what they use to build a digital fingerprint for you. A VPN is also a great safety net when you’re connected to public Wi-Fi networks – when you’re sitting at your favorite coffee shop, for example.