Simon Wadsworth

How can you maintain privacy online?

Posted by September 16, 2016
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It is getting increasingly difficult to shield your personal data online. Firms are now utilising your personal settings to monitor your preferences, interests and even your current location. Social media platforms like Facebook encourage you to share personal information such as your birthday, place of work and even your political beliefs. Within this environment, how can you maintain privacy online?

Exploring ad blockers

Digital advertising is becoming ever-more intrusive by the day. Recently, Facebook announced changes which will make it harder to identify commercial from non-commercial content. When you are using Facebook, you will now be targeted by data-driven advertising, even if you use ad blockers. This draws on your likes, posts and general activity on the site to push commercial content your way.

Is it important to note that when you visit a site and click “accept cookies,” these cookies go on to track your activity on the portal in question. Facebook uses cookies to monitor the pages and posts you like, for targeted advertising purposes. Portals such as Forbes and GQ utilise these approaches to re-monetise visitors who use ad blockers. In fact, sponsored and strategically placed content are becoming increasingly popular, partially because they cannot be stopped by ad blockers.

Facebook has suggested that its latest update makes it easier for people to use their ad preferences, as they can opt out of specific categories. So yes, with this update your Facebook profile will now be more catered towards your personality. However, it also gives Facebook the ability to find out more about your online activity than ever before, making it hard to shield your personal data online.

Explaining the issue

So why is this a problem? You would be advised to ensure that your social media privacy settings are secure as these platforms grow increasingly sophisticated, learning more about their ever-expanding number of users. It is also important to note that social media apps on smartphone, ranging from Snapchat to Instagram, also track your personal details and preferences for similar purposes.

You are encouraged to reveal as much personal data as possible to complete your Facebook profile. Reports suggest that Facebook has even acquired users’ phone numbers without gaining their permission first. Therefore, it is in your best interests to check your account details on Facebook routinely, so it only features the information that wish to be readily available online.

How to shield personal information

There are a whole host of measures which you can implement, in order to shield your personal information – and ultimately your privacy – on the internet. These measures include:

  • Selecting secure passwords: It is vital that you utilise secure passwords online. If your passwords can be bypassed easily, then your personal information is left vulnerable. Ensure all passwords include both numbers and letters. It is advisable to utilise password generation programmes like LastPass to create secure passwords on multiple sites.
  • Logging out: When you are finished browsing a web site, remember to log off and shut down the window. If you fail to adopt these simple measures, cyber-criminals will find it spectacularly easy to view your accounts online, gaining access to your personal information.
  • Check for padlocks: Always check to see if there is a padlock symbol on the left-hand side of the search bar, when shopping or banking online. Along with the ‘https’ code in URLs, these signs illustrate that the site you are visiting is secure. If you type personal and payment details into websites without the https code, they could be hacked by cyber-criminals.
  • Installing antivirus software: Cyber-criminals typically utilise malware, spyware and viruses to access your private details online. Install strong antivirus software on all of your devices and constantly ensure said software is up-to-date, to stop these cyber-criminals in their tracks. The majority of these services also provide remote and link protection. Pro-versions supply stronger shields and firewalls, which serve as robust shields for your private details online.
  • Use social media settings: With social media settings, you can ensure that your profile only features the information you are comfortable sharing online. Yes, you will need to include some information to create your account. But this does not mean that you need to display information such as your phone number and address for other users to see.

Find out more

It is important to remember that with technology advancing every day, ad blockers often cannot help you maintain your privacy online. In other words, you should conduct extensive research in order to ensure that you can manage your private information effectively on the internet. Download Igniyte’s Guide to Managing Your Personal Information Online to find out more.

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