Online privacy has become a much-discussed topic by cyber experts, media, businesses, as well as governments over recent years. The truth is, your privacy is constantly being tested each moment you spend enjoying the countless conveniences the internet offers.
And a privacy breach could not only involve an unpleasant intrusion into your personal life but can also, at times, place you in significant danger by exposing your personal information.
So, what type of personal data is at risk? In simple terms, everything. From your home address and contact number to your online purchasing habits, any amount of data is vulnerable to being unnecessarily exposed. And there are several ways your privacy could be compromised every time you go online. Here are the 4 most critical privacy issues you can encounter with the internet.
Internet Privacy Issues: Tracking, Leaking, Trading, and Hacking!
1. Tracking and Monitoring Data Without your Knowledge
Tracking your data could take place in multiple ways. And it’s not just criminals but also business organizations, governments, as well as law enforcement agencies could be responsible for it.
For instance, many websites track your data all the time using cookies. From the web pages you access to the amount of time spent on specific pages, these websites are constantly collecting data about your online behavior. And this information could be used to display targeted advertising as you browse the web or to provide a more customized user experience.
This is why sometimes you will find specific online ads following you around as you browse the internet. This is also how online retailers like Amazon could make product recommendations for you based on your past purchases and product search history. While sometimes you may find these services helpful, more often than not, they could feel overwhelmingly intrusive.
So what steps can you take to avoid or minimize data tracking? The easiest measure would be to delete your web browser’s cache regularly. You can also activate the “Do Not Track” feature in the browser settings. And when it comes to online retailers, keep your accounts logged off when browsing through their product catalogs and only log in when you want to make a purchase. Also, avoid using public Wi-Fi to prevent unwanted spying on your online activities and use a Virtual Private Network whenever possible to prevent anyone from tracking your location.
Moreover, even mobile apps could be monitoring your data unknown to you and could be sharing personal information such as your photos, messages, and contact lists. Therefore, avoid downloading third-party apps as much as possible and when it’s absolutely necessary, resort to reputed app stores such as the Google Play Store.
2. Misleading you into Divulging Personal Data
According to one study, phishing attacks were responsible for 90% of data breaches last year. And the majority of phishing attacks are executed through emails that are designed to trick you into revealing some form of confidential data such as your bank account numbers or user login details for personal accounts. For instance, these emails could impersonate your bank and request you to share or verify bank account information.
Or it could impersonate a reputed organization with a request to verify your account login details. These phishing attacks that collect your personal data are often financially motivated. And sometimes, they could even focus on identity theft where your personal data is used for other illegal activities.
Therefore, the best way to avoid a phishing attack is to practice caution when sharing details based on email requests. If you feel suspicious, Nuwber can help you verify the email address with a reverse search. You can also contact the respective organization and personally verify the request.
3. Third-Party Sharing
Sharing data with third-parties is another common phenomenon driven by lucrative financial gains. From social media platforms to online retailers, many organizations are collecting your data such as your personal information, online user behaviors, and likes and dislikes.
And this data could exchange hands many times without your knowledge and may often end up with large-scale data aggregators. These organizations monetize their massive databases, for instance, by using them to provide certain services such as offering credit scores. Alternatively, they could also sell data in their possession to third-parties. This is a significant intrusion on privacy and could even put you at risk in the event your data reaches cybercriminals.
So, how can you avoid your data from being shared? While there is no permanent solution to prevent this, you can certainly take precautionary measures by limiting the amount of data you share online. For instance, think twice about what you share on social media and avoid signing up unnecessarily for newsletters, free gifts, or memberships. Also, keep track of all the user accounts you set up for various purposes.
4. Hacking Attacks
Launching a malicious attack on your devices and stealing personal or confidential information is another common threat to privacy. Spyware that quietly collects data from your devices can be launched through malicious websites, file downloads, and even clickbait. And such an attack could compromise not just documents stored in your devices but also saved passwords, your browser history, as well as biometrics such as fingerprints used to log in to the device.
So how can you protect yourself? Using a reputed anti-virus guard, keeping your software regularly updated, setting up strong passwords, and refraining from saving important documents on your laptop or mobile devices are all essential steps. Also, delete your browser history periodically and deactivate its password saving feature.
The legal frameworks covering internet privacy in many countries are still not comprehensive enough to keep up with the rapidly evolving technology. This often prevents them from providing adequate protection for online users. Therefore, it is your responsibility to take effective precautions, so you safeguard yourself with timely and prudent measures.