Internet security and privacy is big news right now. From data breaches to Cambridge Analytica to Facebook information collection, it’s everywhere we turn. I’ve read calls to delete social media accounts (particularly Facebook), and talk of penalties and punishments, but not a whole lot of realistic talk about what individuals can do (besides becoming Luddites and swearing off internet use, which is pretty unrealistic in the 21st century) to protect your privacy on the internet and be a smart surfer.
First, before you decide to plug the plug on your social media, think about this:
Deleting your account won’t change that you have already given up your information. Deleting the accounts won’t remove information that has already been collected and sold. So what you have to decide is whether the protest you’re making by deleting your accounts is more important to you than keeping up with the friends you’ve either made or reconnected with through the platform.
An alternative, and perhaps a better move, would be to start by reviewing and updating your privacy settings. To review and lock down your Facebook privacy, visit these links:
And if you want to check your Twitter and LinkedIn settings, use these links:
And once you’ve taken care of your social media accounts, here are six more ways to protect your privacy on the internet.
1. Use a “throwaway” email address
It’s common these days for websites, vendors, and other companies to request your email address, even if it’s just for a one-time use. To avoid being inundated with an eternity of spam and marketing emails, set up a second email address just for this purpose. I have one email address that I use for friends and family, my business and important accounts and information. I have another email address that has no personal information attached to it, no contacts and nothing to be gained if someone chooses to sell it for marketing spam.
2. Cover Your Laptop Webcam
This should be a no-brainer. It’s known that hackers can remotely turn on webcams without your knowledge. Make their skills useless by covering the webcam. All you need is piece of opaque tape or a sticky note to do it. And leave your desktop webcam unplugged when you’re not using it.
3. Turn Off Location Tracking in Apps
When using your mobile devices (phone or tablet), only allow apps that need to see your location to track it. Ride-sharing apps, restaurant or hotel recommendation apps, or navigation apps are examples of legitimate uses. For everything else, you can turn it off in your settings.
4. Hide Personal Information that Can Provide ID-Theft Clues
You don’t have to share your full birthdate, place of birth, and other information that you may potentially use as security questions with Facebook and the world. Use the FB privacy settings to either remove this information or make it available to only you.
And speaking of those security questions that companies ask you when you’re setting up accounts? You can answer them with anything you want. For example, if it asks you the name of your first pet, you don’t have to reveal that it was Fido. You can put any word you want in there as long as you can remember what you wrote. And speaking of remembering all that information. . . .
5. Use a Password Manager
If you have 328 zillion sites to remember passwords for like I have, do yourself a favor and get a password manager. like Bitwarden. It will improve your security and lower your frustration levels. You can also keep a written password list. Yes, I know everyone says you shouldn’t write them down. Unless you’re planning on writing down your passwords and sticking them under your keyboard (I’ve seen it done), there’s nothing wrong with this. I have a printed list of my 328 zillion passwords in a secure location.
And unless you’re required to, by an employer or a data breach, if you’ve got good strong passwords, you don’t need to change them just to change them. That increases the likelihood of you ending up with a weak password.
6. Don’t Click That Link
Did you get an email saying your bank needs to verify your transaction or that PayPal needs to complete a refund? Chances are they are what is known as “phishing” attempts, an effort to extract your passwords and other personal information. If you aren’t sure they’re fake (and I’ve yet to see one that’s real), don’t click on the link. Instead, go to your browser and type in the website you normally use. DO NOT copy and paste the link out of your email. NO LEGITIMATE COMPANY WILL EVER EMAIL YOU AND ASK FOR YOUR PERSONALLY IDENTIFYING INFORMATION, INCLUDING EMAIL ADDRESSES, ACCOUNT NUMBERS OR PASSWORDS. Yes, that was in all-caps for a reason.
These are just a few simple things you can do to protect your privacy on the internet. There are many more things you can do, including creating more secure passwords.
So what are you doing to protect your privacy on the internet? And what is your response to the Facebook debacle? Will you delete your social media accounts or will you tighten down your privacy settings and ride it out? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.