In this day and age, it seems like our lives revolve around digital devices and the internet. From staying in touch with friends via social media, to shopping for gifts and groceries online, to applying for jobs, banking and studying via websites, our entire lives are online. However, this means we are leaving trails of personal data and information all over the internet that can not only be used by third party companies to send you advertising material and control what shows up in your search browser, but can be used by those who know how to hack into personal data and steal identities.
For those very reasons, it’s important that everyone has a basic understanding of how to protect their data and privacy online. Here’s how you can protect your data and privacy online in 6 easy steps.
1. Know the basics
One of the easiest ways to keep your data and privacy safe online is by taking basic precautionary steps. You should change your digital passwords regularly and make sure they aren’t easy to guess. You should always ensure the software on your device is up to date and you have virus and malware protection installed on it. Be aware of internet and email scams, and never give out sensitive information online. Only download programs and files from reputable and trustworthy websites and sources.
2. Use a secure wi-fi connection
If you’re travelling it can be very tempting to use the free public wi-fi. Don’t. Free and public wi-fi is usually an unsecured network and it’s impossible to know who is watching the traffic on this network, or if it is being used to steal sensitive information about you.
3. Log in and out the right way
Only log in to an account when you really need to, and always completely log out. If you’re shopping online and you’re logged in to every shopping website you visit you’re telling that company exactly what you’re interested in and looking for, and they can connect that data to your private account information. Furthermore, you should avoid logging in to websites using a social media account as it opens you and your data up to being collected and used by third parties.
4. Clean up your desktop
Check what apps and programs you have on your laptop, computer or devices, and remove the ones you don’t use anymore and remove any features you don’t need.
5. Do a social media cleanup
Spend some time going through the privacy settings on all your social media accounts and make sure that you aren’t inadvertently sharing information you don’t want to. For example, set your profiles to private, don’t show your date of birth, be careful about putting up extra information about where you work and where you live. Remove people from your friends list that you don’t know, and limit who can see old posts.
Check what other websites have permission to access your social media information and remove permissions from those that you don’t need or no longer use.
6. Block trackers, adware and data requests
One of the easiest ways websites and companies collect data about your online behaviour is via data requests. It’s a good idea to install an extension to your web browser (Google Chrome, Mozilla, Firefox, etc.) that can block adware and trackers and enhance your privacy. Browse in ‘private’ mode. You can also disable JavaScirpt and turn off third party Cookies.
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