It seems like these days you can’t trust anybody. Everyone is after your personal information. They want to learn about your habits and thoughts and interests and then use that information to take advantage of you. Well, that may be an extreme way to look at it. It is true that some individuals do want your information to hack accounts and steal, but surprisingly a lot of personal information is exchanged between companies who are looking for the best demographic to market their products and services.
There is a good chance that your personal information is already out there. Just check out Pipl.com. I did after reading about the site in a Time article and was a little bit shocked (but at the same time, not really) to see how much information was on there. It wasn’t that surprising to see my social media profiles on there, but I was alarmed to see my past addresses and my relatives on there. I mean they knew who my deceased grandmother was!
Time contributer, Christina DesMarais, has some basic tips for protecting your privacy:
- Don’t fill out your social media profile. The more you share online, the easier it’s going to be for someone else to obtain that information.
- Be choosy about sharing your social security number—even the last 4 digits. Unless it’s your bank, a credit bureau, a company that wants to do a background check on you or some other entity that has to report to the IRS, think long and hard about giving out even the last 4 digits of you SSN.
- Lock down your hardware. Set up your PC/MAC and all mobile devices to require a password when it wakes from sleep or boots up.
- Turn on private browsing. Each major web browser has a “private browsing” setting that deletes cookies, temporary internet file and browsing history after you close the window.
- Use a password vault that generates and remembers strong and unique passwords. Sure it is way easier to use the same password for all of your accounts, but for phishers and hackers this makes you an easy target. For people who have a lot of log-ins and passwords to remember this can be a problem. You can use a password manager that will not only remember all your passwords, but will generate super strong and unique ones and automatically fill them into login fields with the click of a button.
- Use two-factor authentication. You can lock down your Facebook, Google, Dropbox, Apple ID, Microsoft, Twitter and other accounts with two-factor authentication. When you log in, you’ll also need to enter a special code that the site texts to your phone. Some services require it each time you log in, other just when you’re using a new device or web browser. Two-factor authentication works nicely for keeping others from accessing your accounts, although some people feel it’s too time consuming.
- Set up a Google alert for your name. This is a simple way to keep an eye on anything someone might be saying about you on the web. You can tell Google what to look for (your name), as well as what kinds of web pages to search, how often to search and what email address the search engine giant should use to send you notifications.
- Pay for things with cash. According to Business Insider, credit card companies are selling your purchase data to advertisers.
- Keep your social network activity private. This one is fairly self-explanatory. Make sure you tailor the privacy settings on all of your social media account to your liking.
- Don’t give our your zip code when making credit card purchases. By matching your name, taken from your credit card, with your zip code, companies can more easily mine more information, including your address, phone number and email address.
- Lie when setting up password security questions. “What is your mother’s maiden name?” or “In what city were you born?” are common security questions websites often ask you to answer so as to supposedly keep your account safe from intruders. In reality anyone who wants access to your account could easily do some Internet research to dig up the answers.
Doing these things may not guarantee complete privacy, but they will certainly help and they are all a step in the right direction.