Internet Privacy. How to Increase the Safety of Your Data

Internet Privacy. How to Increase the Safety of Your Data

How many times in your life have you pressed “agree” without even glancing at the terms of use? Let’s face it, we all are guilty of it more than we care to admit. However, it doesn’t come as a surprise. Who in their right mind will read 20 or even more pages of company’s policies, which are as exciting as staring at the blank wall for 3 hours straight? Companies are obliged to compose such documents while consumers don’t even have to look at them before agreeing.

However, corporations no longer have to ask us anything. Registration for their services automatically assumes that we agree to disclose the data for their benefit. Most of Google’s revenue comes not from their products, as many people tend to assume, but from advertisement using their users’ data. That’s why each of the services such as Google disk, Gmail, or any social media for that matter, are free. They monetize people’s activity which can only be achieved on such a large scale if there is no cost associated with the product.

World wide web is no longer about the connection but rather about the money our data can bring. A week doesn’t pass without a major breach at one of the internet giants. Companies have become more interested in the value of our data than in the security of it. Moreover, research proves that it hasn’t passed unnoticed by the public:

2016 survey of Canadians on Privacy consumers indicated that roughly 9 in 10 Canadians expressed some degree of concern about their internet privacy, including 37% who indicated extreme levels of concern and only 8% of the participants who indicated that they were not concerned about internet privacy at all. Compared to the 2012 data, where 25% were extremely concerned, and 11% had no concerns about their online privacy.

In just 4 years we see a significant rise in worry about internet privacy among Canadians. This only proves the point that it is no longer clear how and where our data is used and what should we do to protect it.

The same research showed that compared to 2012, more Canadians feel like they have sufficient knowledge of how new technologies affect their privacy. Thus, in the recent years, the awareness of the public has been increasing. However, with 32% of participants still not confident of their knowledge of new technologies and their effect on the privacy, there is a long way to go until we can say that World Wide Web has become safe once again. “We need to return to the basic insight of the founding generation, which is that when people are under surveillance, their behavior changes,” says Georgetown Law professor Laura Donohue, evoking the Fourth Amendment of the United States. “Their intimate relationships are affected. Their ability to question the world and their role in it is harmed.”

Today we want to share some practical steps each of you can take to secure your data and behave safely on the web:

1. Manage Your Passwords

It may sound simple, yes. However, it’s not just about creating a hard password and using it for months afterward. Forget about pet names, dates, anything that traces the password to you. It has to be as random as possible. Moreover, each account has to have a different one. If you want to feel secure, it is a necessary measure; if you find it too hard to remember or store so many passwords, you can use password manager or keychain (on Mac). It takes some time to set up, but it will pay off in case one of the accounts gets hacked.

2. Use Two-step Authentication

Most large services include such option on their websites or apps today. Don’t be lazy to spend a few more minutes to set it up and then just 10 more seconds to log in. Even if your password is compromised for one reason or another, two-factor authentication can be a savior of your data as the hackers won’t have access to the code.

3. Spread out

Very often, security experts recommend using tools developed by different companies. Try not to store all of your data with one provider. If there are alternatives, try to use them as much as possible. It is harder for marketers to gather the full profile on you and, in a case of a data breach with one of the providers, only small part of your data will be exposed rather than the entire set.

4. Don’t Forget About Encryption

If you use Facebook Messenger or Whatsapp, don’t expect complete privacy from them. Even if the company guarantees encryption of your messages, they will access your conversations to sell this data to ad agencies. It is who they are. Businesses such as Facebook get all their profit from data so while they may protect you from hackers, the data from your conversations is still not private.

Consider switching to alternative messengers, such as Telegram, whose mission has always been directed towards consumer data privacy and not monetization on their data. Such messengers include end-to-end encryption where the only devices that can access conversation are the ones you add to the chat. No third parties, including the messenger developers themselves, will access the data of your private conversations.

5. Check Your Apps’ Privacy Settings

Take a few minutes to check how many apps you have on your smartphone. How many do you use? How many are there “just in case”? Now go to setting and look at what each app has access to. Do they need access to your microphone? Contacts? Recent scandal with Cambridge Analytica and Facebook only proves that we forget to control the scale to which each app can access our devices whether you are using it or not. Make sure you are aware of it and know the risks you are taking when you give accesses to your smartphone controls to each of the apps.

6. Ask Your Employer

It is not a topic that should worry you while you are at work. Take the time to talk to your employer about how they protect personal data of each employee. If there are no policies in place, express your concerns immediately. Hackers are much more interested in corporate data as it contains more information than each person can give them separately.

7. Secure Your Computer

It cannot be said enough. Pick an anti-virus software of your preference and pay for it. It doesn’t matter if you have Mac or Windows, each system has its weaknesses, and you want to be aware if any of them are compromised. Anti-virus software allows you to take immediate action in the case of breach and minimize the damage it can bring.