The pandemic has dramatically changed ordinary life as we know it. The sudden surge in demand for food deliveries saw skyrocketing revenue for delivery apps. As many people sought indoor entertainment, online streaming took new highs, with internet activities rising by as much as 70%. Apps like Zoom saw meteoric growth as everyone turned to new ways of communicating with their distanced loved ones. And with the boom in remote working arrangements, many individuals adopted new tech tools and resources to help them work efficiently from home.
But all these extraordinary shifts in lifestyle have led to new ways of exposing your data to privacy risks. Each time you order dinner, the delivery app is collecting your data. And so are your streaming sites, communication apps, and all those tools that are making your work-from-home experience less stressful. Zoom, for instance, has faced massive backlash for collecting and sharing user data without consent.
The truth is, the sudden changes encountered with the pandemic have driven many people towards technology in search of comfort and relief. And this has created boundless opportunities for companies to get access to your personal information. So, after all, it’s not just your health that’s at risk because of the pandemic. Your data is increasingly in danger, too.
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Remember, it’s not just cybercriminals that are after your data. Many companies collect customer and user information with vague privacy policies and practices. What they collect is even sold in exchange for financial incentives. And this intrusion of privacy could lead to irreversible consequences, from identity theft to fraud. Even malicious acts like publishing personal data in public, often called doxing, have become common. These could expose you to more severe dangers and may also cause reputation damage.
Today, taking urgent steps to curb predatory advances on your data has become a necessity. So, here are three simple approaches to protect your personal information and safeguard your privacy.
Many people worry that technology is putting them at risk. But this is far from the truth. Technology is just a tool. Whether it’s used to improve your life or to deteriorate it lies entirely in your hands. And if you’re looking to ensure data safety, technology has provided plenty of tools and resources to help you.
Here are some essentials to keep at hand:
- Use Nuwber to understand your digital data footprint. It will help you identify how much of your personal information is available in public resources. The more there are for data collectors to access, the higher the risk.
- Use a reputed VPN service to shield your online activities from being tracked.
- Install a caller identification app to avoid unsolicited calls from telemarketers and even scammers. According to the Federal Trade Commission, phones still seem to be the most common means of initiating scams in the US.
- Deactivate data tracking on your social profiles. This could prevent social media platforms from monitoring your activities and collecting your data.
- Turn off data tracking on your browser. This is especially important if you’re using Google, which tracks user data across all its platforms, from the search engine and email service to Google Maps, YouTube, Play Store, and Meet.
- Avoid website cookies that monitor your online activities. Delete installed cookies every few days by visiting your browser settings.
- Delete your search history and disable the auto-complete feature in your browser to prevent it from collecting data.
- Turn on the “Do not track” alert on your browser.
- Install a virus guard to protect your devices against a malicious attack.
No one should access your personal data without a valid reason. And when the request seems unjustifiable, you have the right to say no. Remember, the responsibility to protect your data lies in your hands. But today, oversharing information has become one of the most common risk factors of breached data privacy.
So, here are some essential steps for a responsible data sharing approach.
- Think twice before sharing posts, photos, comments, and other data on social media, even with your closest network.
- Read privacy policies before clicking the “agree” button.
- Carefully check app permission requirements each time you download a new app.
- Avoid free online offers that request personal information like your email address and name. Newsletters, memberships, and loyalty programs may all fall under this.
- Avoid setting up accounts without a good enough reason. Use online services without logging in wherever possible. For example, you can browse shopping catalogs and news sites without signing up for a personal account.
While you adopt responsible data sharing practices, you must also attempt to reduce the existing data footprint.
Here’s what you should do:
- Browse your social media profiles and delete personal content that may place you at risk.
- Set your social media accounts to private mode to prevent third-parties from checking your content. Some platforms will even allow you to hide your profile from search engines.
- Delete blog posts and any other published content on websites.
- Close down unused accounts like old emails and memberships.
- Request third-party publishers to remove content that discloses your personal information.
- Get credit bureaus to place a temporary credit freeze to prevent companies from accessing your credit report. This is a free service offered by all credit bureaus.
- Request data aggregators to remove your files from their databases.
Keep in mind that it’s not just your digital data that’s at risk. Even hardcopies could be misused once they reach the wrong hands. Companies are getting smarter by the day and are finding new ways to access your personal information. So, remain alert and practice caution to stay ahead of them.