Welcome to the last of our six-part series on getting back to the basics of online security and privacy. This story looks at how to own your online presence.
Owning your online presence is all about protecting your privacy—from what you post on social media to your internet browsing habits, to the information that organizations collect about you while you’re using an app or walking around a store. Data about you can be used in a variety of ways — sometimes in ways you wouldn’t expect or approve of.
In a recent study by the National Cybersecurity Alliance and TRUSTe, 92% of surveyed U.S. internet users said they worry about their online privacy, but only 31% of the respondents said they understand how companies share their personal information. Because privacy and security on the internet are everyone’s shared responsibility, we’re all more secure when we are all aware of how our personal information is captured and used. Here are some great first steps to start owning your online presence:
Think before you app
Information about you, such as the games you play, your Facebook friends, where you shop and your location history, has value—just like money. Be thoughtful about who gets the information and how it’s collected. The Hill newspaper reminds us that before we install an app, we should ask these questions:
- If the app is free, how does the company make money? If the app developer is not charging for their product, they could be making money by allowing other companies to advertise to you via their app or selling your data (such as location info, shopping habits or frequent searches).
- Who is the company that made the app? Be leery if the company history or contact info is missing from the Information section of the app. If there are no lines of communication between the app developer and their app users, how can we know if they can be trusted with our data?
Be aware of what’s being shared
Set the privacy and security settings on web services and devices to your comfort level for information sharing. It’s okay to limit how and with whom you share your information. The National Cybersecurity Alliance offers a great cheat sheet listing more than 30 online services, with links to view and update your privacy and security settings.
Share with care
Think before posting about yourself and others. Consider what a post reveals, who might see it and how it could be perceived—now and in the future. The internet is permanent, vast and always listening—any one of those selfies could show up at a job interview some day! Here are some ways to ensure you’re sharing with care:
- Before you hit “post,” ask yourself if you’d share that information with a stranger.
- Some sites require you to fill out an extensive profile. It may seem harmless, but all that personal data can fall into the wrong hands or even get sold to scammers. Be sure to only share personal information with sites and services you trust!
- Treat any pictures like you’re a criminal investigator, paying attention to the background, too: What personal details can you piece together about you and your friends in the image? The Federal Trade Commission recommends that before posting a picture or video of someone, always get their permission: “It can be embarrassing, unfair and even unsafe to send or post photos and videos without getting permission from the people in them.”