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In this current digital era, people rely on the internet for virtually everything. We find our answers online, make friends and share personal information online, and reveal our private financial information in online shopping platforms among other activities.

While the internet has made life a lot easier, it certainly raises serious issues regarding the privacy of the thousands of its users globally. All these activities we perform online are monitored and the information stored. In most cases, we don’t know how far that goes neither do we have control over which information can be stored or shared.

So before you check any boxes to have access to sites or online services, here are some things that you need to know about your online privacy.

1. What Your Digital Footprints Are Sharing

You’ve probably visited a site and seen ads related to some content you were browsing earlier. How does this happen though? Internet service providers (ISP) and carriers often track the activities of their users. Once you subscribe to a particular ISP,they allocate you a unique identity or the IP address.

They then monitor all the activity related to that IP address and even share it with advertisers online. Perhaps this calls for protecting your IP address with VPN’s.

Basically, all information regarding your online presence is often recorded without your knowledge. Monitoring this data constantly gives them a clear picture of your habits, likes, interests, and location, which are all termed as Personally Identifiable Information (PII). These might be shared with third parties,particularly advertisers, who can then manipulate the kind of content you see whenever you go online.

The carriers themselves can also use the information to either block your access to the internet if need be or limit your bandwidth when performing particular tasks online.

The same tracking is done by search engines such as Google. They monitor search data, visited sites, and location and save/archive them under the fallacy that they use the information to provide you with a better browsing experience.

At this particular point, you need to ask yourself whether a better online experience is more important than your personal privacy. And with the ever-growing numbers and strength of hackers, should such valuable information fall in the wrong hands what happens?

2. Social Media: What You Need to Know

Currently, there are quite a number of social media platforms where you can express yourself to your friends and the world. Common ones such as Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp,and Snapchat have built quite a portfolio mainly from ad sales.

Ever wondered what’s in it for them considering that these services are rendered free? Sadly enough collection of user information is not prohibited by law in most regions of the world as long as the collector anonymizes the data.

With advanced data analytics programs such as Facebook’s Atlas program, companies can easily put a face to the data that they have without the owner’s consent. In addition,cases of data breaches especially in social media platforms have become all too common. Talk of the Facebook data breach earlier in 2018.

WhatsApp isn’t that private either considering they are now a Facebook subsidiary following the purchase in February 2014. Therefore, it is critical that you be wary of the information you share on social media.

3. Importance of Reading Your Privacy Settings

One too many times do we click the “accept and continue” in the privacy settings prompts that we receive when using new apps or websites online. While it might feel easier to breeze through these settings maybe because they are too long or you are too anxious to access your new program, you risk losing far much more in the end.

Such settings often carry valuable information regarding what kind of information can be shared by the developer and the kind of apps the program has access to.

A scary fact is that nowadays, most programs come with default settings that allow sharing of your personal data. They make it your responsibility to opt out of these settings. This means that failure to scrutinize the terms and conditions available leaves you susceptible to privacy infringement.

So check the access privileges each app is demanding and decide whether it is relevant or the needed information is safe in the hands of a third party.

4. Be Careful When Using Wi-Fi Networks

Connecting to Wi-Fi networks especially public ones can cause a serious privacy breach.Anyone within an unencrypted public Wi-Fi can easily peek into your personal stuff and even steal valuable information. Information regarding apps on your phone, your location, and internet usage can all be gathered from a simple Wi-Fi connection.

A good solution to this problem is to consider VPN’s for better encryption of your data. VPN Geeks can help you find a great VPN to secure your privacy. For private networks, turn off your Wi-Fi settings when you don’t need it or in public places.

The above aspects might seem a little scary. You might even give up hope of privacy if it means limiting your social life in platforms such as Facebook and Instagram. However, internet privacy is crucial especially when it comes to activities such as emailing, online banking, shopping online, credit card info, and health-related data.

The information on this post gives you control over your privacy to help protect your identity, reputation, and financial details.

Contributor: Jack Foster

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