Many of us have a love/hate relationship with technology. For all the good it provides — convenience, efficiency, entertainment, productivity — it does have its downsides, particularly when it comes to privacy.
If you’ve ever done a Google search for a product and suddenly been bombarded with ads for it afterward, you are well aware of one of the pitfalls of technology: the ability to track and merge your information. There’s no escaping it: if you’re like most people, you carry your phone with you everywhere you go. But physical tracking is only one invasion of privacy; virtual tracking takes place online, keeping tabs on your search history. The information collected on your browsing habits is shared and sold with other companies…the whole reason you’re seeing those very targeted ads for products you might or might not want.
If you’re concerned about digital security—and you have every right to be— don’t despair; you aren’t exactly powerless to defend yourself. The following steps will help ensure your information is kept private.
- Adopt good security habits. Use strong passwords and update them every few months. Hint: “password” is not a strong password. If you’re worried about remembering them, use a password manager. When possible, opt for two-factor authentication. Don’t ignore security updates; download and install them as soon as you learn about them.
- Beware of phishing schemes. A day at the lake with a rod and reel is a relaxing way to pass time. Trying to recover stolen funds, not so much. Not all security threats involve software and hardware: sometimes, a voice on the other end of the phone can persuade us to share passwords or other sensitive information. This is known as phishing, and can occur over the telephone, email or text. If something sounds “fishy” or too good to be true, it probably is.
- Don’t go app-happy. Mobile apps are convenient, but many are gateways to surveillance. Apps—even seemingly harmless ones—have the ability to gather data about your phone use. Experts recommend taking a good, hard look at the apps on your phone, and deleting any that you don’t use regularly. If possible, stick to a browser, which tends to be a lot safer than an app.
- Use an encrypted chat app. Services like WhatsApp and Telegram ensure chat privacy by offering end-to-end encryption, meaning the only recipients who can read your messages are the sender and receiver. Even though the contents of your message may be harmless, why take any chances?
- Turn off ad personalization. Some platforms give you an option to receive personalized ads. While this may sound like a good thing, it isn’t. You’re essentially giving companies permission to track you.