How Private Is Your Internet Use

There’s a school of thought out there that says internet privacy is nothing but a fantasy. And on one level, this is true. The leaks revealed by Edward Snowden showed that if the powers to be really want to know what you’re doing online, they’ll have no trouble looking you up. But most people don’t really get flagged up on the government’s radar. Still, it’s not just terrorists and the like who need to be concerned about internet privacy. It can affect individuals, too.

Leaving a Trail

If you’re involved at all in marketing or the like, you’ll know that there are vast amounts of data available to you. If you’re not involved directly, then you should be aware that advertisers have amazingly detailed information about, well, you. The majority of websites you visit will place a cookie in your browser that’ll follow you from one click to the next.

In the future, this information will almost certainly be able to be used to create a web of your history – and if that falls into the wrong hands, then…tough! The two worst offenders – though they happily admit it – are Google and Facebook, who record just about everything you do and sell this information on to marketers, who are then able to create highly specific ads tailored just for you.

Paying More For The Privilege

The web of YOUR LIFE that is created isn’t just used by others to make money off the back of your browsing habits, it can actively cost you money. How? Well, if you’ve been searching for, say, ‘cheap flights to New York’, and visit a website that has an attractive price but don’t book it, you might return later on and find that the price has mysteriously shot up a little. They know you’re already looking for those tickets, so they try and make more money off you.

Tricks and Tips

They are ways to get around this. One simple way is to use incognito mode when you’re browsing for things you might by or which you’ve searched for in the past. There are also benefits to using a VPN. Take a look at those listed on securethoughts.com and you’ll be able to hide your location, which makes it much more difficult for websites to build up a data block on your browser characteristics (and also helps you get around geo-blocked sites!). It’s akin to being anonymous online, which is getting more and more difficult. If you’re really concerned about the data, you can also use a service like http://suicidemachine.org/ and get rid of all your social media sites forever.

What’s On Your Phone?

It’s not just on our laptops that we need to be concerned about internet privacy. Your smartphone apps can make you life more efficient and entertaining, but you might want to think about what data you’re handing over just by having the app on your phone. Many track your location even when you’re not using it and have access to all your phone contacts. That’s a lot of unnecessary info they’re taking from you!

About Will Chatham

Will Chatham is a Cyber Security Analyst, Ethical Hacker, and Penetration Tester at a federal data center in Asheville, NC. Since Netscape 2.0, he has worked in a wide array of environments including non-profit, corporate, small business, and government. His varied background, from developer to search engine optimizer to security professional, has helped him build a wide range of skills that help those with whom he works and teaches.
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