The online world is both wonderful and frightening in equal measure. On the one hand, we have access to unlimited information and resources, but on the other, we have zero privacy.
For most adults, the internet is a part of every aspect of their daily lives. We work online, shop online, book travel online, and seek entertainment online. Many of us even use the internet to find love. But whilst it’s obvious that some degree of interaction with the online world is unavoidable, there are very real risks associated with online activities.
From cybercrime to data protection issues, some experts argue that online privacy is dead, and the price of online access is way too high. Is this true? Let’s find out.
Is Privacy A Right?
We don’t always consider the risk when we surf the internet. Every site we visit leaves cookies on our computer. This information reveals a lot about us, our likes and dislikes, and even our age, gender, and marital status. Businesses use this to bombard us with targeted advertising because we are more likely to buy a product or service if it’s something that will appeal to our interests and age group.
50% of US citizens would happily sacrifice data privacy if doing so meant it was easier to shop online. 30% of them are also willing to share more data in return for a better online gaming or social networking experience.
Based on this information, it’s not hard to see why Mark Zuckerberg said: “sharing is the new social norm.” Of course, Facebook was built on the premise that sharing is good. If we all stopped sharing our information on Facebook, the site wouldn’t last more than five minutes.
Despite this, if asked, we would probably state we want more privacy and to have greater control over what information is made public.
Unfortunately, while it is perfectly understandable that people want to share their photos and information with friends and family, what we often forget is that this information is then freely available to many other people, organizations, and shady individuals. We might want more privacy, but the way the internet is set up, information is shared by default.
Before the internet came along, we rarely shared private, sensitive information with people we didn’t trust. Financial information was given to our bank manager and personal information was only shared with friends and family in the real world. This made it much harder for criminals to secure the information they needed.
Today, we freely share sensitive information with shopping websites and social media networks without giving it a second thought. Yet this is not just unwise; it’s also dangerous.
Protecting Yourself From Cybercriminals
There are malicious actors lurking in every dark corner of the internet, waiting to steal your information. Using a VPN or proxy to surf the internet is sensible, as this hides your IP address and makes it much harder for hackers to trace your activities back to your computer. However, it’s not always possible to use a VPN or proxy to access some sites. For this reason, make a point of checking what information is available online.
Use people search sites like Nuwber, Whitepages, Spokeo, Intelius, etc, to see which of your personal data is exposed online. And if you find anything amiss, remove this information or have it removed with one of the numerous privacy management services.
Be very careful about what you post online. Even the most innocuous information can be taken out of context or have far-reaching effects on the people around you. You never know what will come back to bite you, so protect your data the same way you would protect a wallet full of cash.
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