In 2013, Edward Snowden revealed that that the NSA was spying on U.S. citizens without authorization and monitoring their most private communications. Many people’s response was, “What if I’m on their list? What if the government is secretly watching everything I do?”
What this reaction failed to take into consideration is how much of our lives—particularly areas we consider to be private—we’ve already opened up to scrutiny, not by the government, but by the corporations that try to sell us their products.
Have you ever Googled something, only to see an ad for that thing on social media a few minutes later? Scarier yet, have you Googled something on one device, then see an ad for it on a different device?
This is annoying, but if you have an ad blocker, you can easily ignore it. But the problem goes deeper than that. If it’s this easy for corporations to track your movements online, what’s to stop hackers from doing the same, stealing your bank information, social security number, and more?
Keeping Your Information Safe Online
If you value your online privacy, you should guard your information much more carefully, to prevent it from falling into the wrong hands—i.e. any hands other than your own. Here are a few ways to go about it.
- Use a VPN. When you browse the Internet, particularly on public Wi-Fi, do so using a Virtual Private Network. This encrypts all the information your computer sends out, as well as any it receives. It can also scramble your IP address, making you more difficult to track.
- Don’t Link Accounts. In a world where people often have half a dozen different social media accounts, it’s much easier to keep track of it all if you link them all together. What you post on your Twitter gets automatically posted to Facebook, and your Instagram posts can go immediately to both. This is convenient, but also dangerous. If one account is hacked, it makes it easier to gain access to all the accounts linked to it as well.
- Be Careful with Electronic Transactions. In terms of online privacy, perhaps the biggest thing you need to worry about is your financial information. A lot of people don’t think twice about entering in their credit card number, including expiration date and security code, in order to purchase an item they want. If you’re not careful, someone else can get hold of this information and go on a spending spree, on your dime. The best way to prevent this is to limit your online purchases—and even credit and debit card use in general—as much as possible. Use cash whenever you can, and checks as well. If you do decide to enter in payment info online, make sure the site is secure first: look for a lock symbol next to the URL, and make sure it begins with “https” rather than “http.”
When it comes to your privacy, you can never be too careful. The more technology progresses, the more opportunities there are to exploit it. Be aware of the dangers that come with being online and always take steps to protect yourself. If you remain on your guard, you can keep yourself safe and secure from whatever threats may be lurking.