3 Simple Solutions to Keep Your Data Safe From Data Collectors
While you’re busy sharing your latest self-isolation updates on Facebook and doing your weekly grocery shopping online, there’s something more complex that’s discreetly taking place behind the scenes. All your data together with that of millions of others are being constantly tracked, gathered, stored, analyzed, organized, and even sold.
But what kind of data? Everything! From your product purchasing habits on Amazon to the movies you watch on Netflix, your personal information is exchanging hands at an alarming rate. And this is all happening often without your knowledge or consent.
Today, millions of dollars are invested in the data economy—from setting up sophisticated technical infrastructures to devising deceivingly simple data-collecting mechanisms.
And contrary to popular belief, it’s not just the marketers and advertisers that are after your information. Take employers and hiring managers, for instance. Now it has become a common practice for many of them to access these data networks to do informal background checks. According to Nuwber, a people search site popular among employers, it can provide details of work history, financial status, and criminal records among other things about potential candidates. And this is particularly useful when hiring for high-stake positions to verify the authenticity of the information provided.
Keeping data collectors at bay
While data collection, no doubt, could prove useful in many circumstances, it also poses a significant threat to privacy and safety. The line between your personal and public lives is increasingly blurring thanks to unregulated data collection practices.
The fact is, at the moment there is little governance and legal backing to protect you and your data from this complicated web of data aggregation and trading. However, there are still simple steps that could help you protect your data from becoming part of a massive database of an unknown company halfway across the planet. Here are 3 solutions to help get you started.
With social media becoming an indispensable distraction and a vital source of entertainment, information, and socializing, oversharing has become an addictive habit for many people today. This has made social networks a gold mine for data collectors, giving them access to an alarming amount of your personal information. But it’s not just what you share. How you interact and engage with others, from your likes and comments, to who you follow provides invaluable pieces of data to help profile you with incredible accuracy and detail.
And to make matters worse, chances are that your social media platform is also busy collecting and sharing your information. Earlier this year, Facebook faced renewed lawsuits for tracking user data even after logging out of the platform.
Anticipating the technologies that are constantly at work collecting your data is no easy task. However, you can still prevent your personal data from exchanging hands by becoming selective when it comes to information sharing. After all, what’s been collected is mostly what you have released to the digital space, either purposely or unintentionally. So, you also have the option to control your impulses to overshare and become more guarded and prudent about what you disclose, whether it’s on your Facebook page or your personal blog.
Limit your signups
Are you aware of how many times you give away bits and pieces of your personal information during signups?
Free signups are one of the most popular hacks to lure users into unwittingly disclosing data. From free newsletters and loyalty cards to discounts and free giveaways, freebies are often used as bait by both marketers and data collectors to build databases. Let’s face it, the psychology of “free” can inarguably deliver results.
But it doesn’t stop there. Everywhere you sign up, your data is getting tracked. Each time you purchase something online, the retailer is collecting your product searches, purchases, and spending habits.
Then, there are sites that allow you easy sign in using your Google or social media login details. This is meant to save you from the hassle of creating a new account. However, the reality is that they are gathering even more data from you than what would have been otherwise possible. In fact, in February, Facebook brought another lawsuit, this time against One Audience, for data harvesting using the “login with Facebook” option.
So, as enticing as all these options may be with their promises of freebies and hassle-free use, limiting your signups to only what is essential can prevent you from unwittingly sharing personal information.
Guard your browsing activity
Your browsing activity could significantly leave you exposed to data collectors. Cookies are the new norm to easily access a frightening amount of data about anyone who visits a website. Apart from tracking which pages you visit and how much time you spend on a particular site, your online searches are also tracked, seriously compromising your privacy.
And this often extreme level of data tracking even extends to your browser, which serves as a vast pool of information about your browsing activities. While it’s meant to make your life easier by, for example, retaining your search histories, how these data are used is only limited by the imagination of those who get access to them.
However, following simple practices such as regularly deleting the cache and browser history, and turning off autofill and password-saving features can save you from third-party tracking and storing of your browsing activities.
A Virtual Private Network or VPN is another important tool that can prevent others from prying on your online activities. It can provide you with better privacy and allow you to remain anonymous by redirecting your traffic through various servers.
The bottom line is, while there’s no real solution to illegal and unethical data collection right now, acting responsibly and practicing caution and self-regulation can help you protect your data to a significant level.