A lot of people say that privacy is dead—especially online. In this day and age, everyone is prone to over-sharing, or talking about every single detail of their life online. There are apps that let people know where you are, what you’re doing, what you’ve been eating. And while it may seem cool in the beginning, somehow it also makes you wonder: Is online privacy even a viable thing anymore?
What is online privacy, really?
Basically, online privacy is the security or secrecy level of any information, especially personal that is published on the internet. This involves storing, displaying, or repurposing one’s personal information anywhere online. As you can see, even IP Addresses can be traced, which means that somehow, if you want to keep some level of secrecy, even as a net-savvy person, you do have to take measures that will help protect your online privacy.
Risk to online privacy encompasses a lot of things. Here are some examples.
- HTTP Cookies. This is generally about automation of websites and other features on one’s computer. Google actually tracks cookies to see what their clients have been doing—so really, everything you do online isn’t “for your eyes only” no matter how much you want it to be. HTTP Cookies include cross-site scripting, and putting personally-identifiable tags in browsers.
- Ever Cookies. Ever Cookies are cookies found in forms that you answered in your personal computer—or anyone else’s computer, and is said to be capable of being copied 10 times or more in various online programs.
- Flash Cookies. Meanwhile, flash cookies, which have been prevalent ever since 2009, are mostly around with the use of plug-ins, and other “accessories” to web pages. According to research, this is used by marketers to figure out their target demographic, and offer them products or services that they may want to use.
- Online Photos. This is one of the most common examples of how online privacy could be used against a person. You see, even if you delete a certain photo on the site where you uploaded it, sooner or later, someone will still be able to find it, because it’s still stored in the cloud. More so, new technology has allowed pictures to be uploaded complete with information about where and when they were taken—as specific as could be!
- Canvas/Digital Fingerprinting. Yes, fingerprints are also part of the web of online privacy. Those biometrics are easily used to figure out the identity of a person, and that’s why certain biometric companies are trying to find ways to make sure data remains secure.
- Search Engine Results. This is another basic example of the scope of online privacy. There’s this case about the so-called Cannibal Cop, where he was put on trial because of evidences found in his Google searches. Even if he downloaded something to go do his researches on the Deep Web, those were still traced, and there was a strong case against him. After all, he was searching for ways to cook his wife, and actually posted on forums that he wants to meet up with people so they could eat their wife—and apparently, he got out of jail, and now has a hard time finding a date.
- Google Street View. While it may be cool to be able to check out the exact image of where you live, it also makes you think that somehow, people—even those you don’t know–are actually able to see where you are.
- Comments/Status Updates/Tweets. And of course, these are all part of the risks. Sometimes, especially these days when there are just so many things happening, you tend to put out status messages or tweets that may be considered attacks on people. When the cybercrime law was being pushed, some people felt like it was a little too much because it really does go into your online privacy—and turns it public.
Should you care?
If you may recall, just recently, there was this Ashley Madison leak that showed that even prominent celebrities and figures are actually involved, and have been using their money to register on the site, and meet women behind their partners’ backs. From being respected in their own communites, Josh Duggar, the star of 19 Kids and Counting, and Jared Fogle, Subway Spokesperson, amongst others, became the laughingstock of many. They were ridiculed because then, everyone knew that they’ve been cheating on their wives—and they thought they were safe. They thought that the website really offered anonymity, but voila, in just one big hack, all their information were put out there for the world to see.
There’s also that infamous 4Chan Hack that put out photos—most of them sexy and nude—that celebrities uploaded to their own clouds and accounts that were put out for everyone to see, and most of the people who were online during that time downloaded those photos and videos, so even if they were deleted already, some people still have copies of them. You see how online privacy is intruded?
Again, this would make you understand that anything you put out there—whether it be comments on Facebook or Twitter, photos on Instagram, or personal information—especially personal information—could really be used against you. If celebrities and other famous people are not safe from it, how could you be sure that you are?
Sure, it’s pretty much an open and liberal world now, but that doesn’t mean you cannot do anything to protect your online privacy. Just because you’re fond of using social networking sites does not mean you cannot protect yourself anymore. Here are some tips that you could keep in mind.
1. If network connection is always on, install firewall. Yes, it could get tiring to just turn network connection off and on, so most people just leave them on all the time for them to easily know when a wireless connection is available. However, no one really knows whether those connections are safe, so it’s best to install firewall. This way, you’d easily get to check for viruses and detect whether a certain connection is good for you or not.
2. Always think before posting. Sometimes, it’s really hard to control yourself especially when you’re in this deep surge of emotions, but always remember that again, whatever you post online could be used against you. And when it comes to online privacy, the things you post could be equated to the things that comes out of your mouth. If you really want to keep your own personality safe, just try to use a different email address, or use usernames that are not connected to ones you usually use. And, make sure not to bash people! Cyber-bullying is a big no-no.
3. Do not use “easy” passwords. Sure, it’s tempting to use a password that you have been using since high school, and that people close to you know, but hey, it’s a different age now. You never really know whom you could trust, and having “easy” passwords is also one of those ways that could easily break online privacy down. Just the thought that someone else has access to your online accounts is already scary—you never know what they could do. It’s best not to use the same password for various online accounts. Just try to keep track of them by jotting those passwords down on a journal or notepad that you can keep with you at all times. And, make sure you use a combination of small and big letters, and numbers, too. Be creative—it’s for your protection, anyway.
5. And, never disclose information you’re not comfortable sharing. This goes for anything else in life: you have the right not to share what you’re not comfortable with. It’s not that you’re keeping secrets—it’s just that some things are meant to be kept private. Plus, when you’re already suspicious of a site, and even if you have started typing out some details already, you can still back out, and erase cookies—especially on a shared computer.
Security should be your priority
Sometimes, it’s easy to forget that sharing things online could also mean that you’re putting a piece of yourself out in the world. It’s easy to forget that photos you have uploaded and deleted are still going to be online.
After all, the online world is quite enjoyable—it could definitely make you forget about real life. But, it is your responsibility as a web user to protect your online privacy. While there are things you cannot control, it’s still best to act on those things that you can. You certainly will thank yourself for it sooner or later!