Being connected to the internet has become a necessary part of our lives.
There is something that we are giving in exchange for all of that convenience and speed. We’re giving away our privacy. Large companies like Google and Facebook have been under fire for not taking privacy seriously enough.
Small companies are unknowingly at risk of a cyberattack, potentially putting your sensitive information in the wrong hands.
Are there things that you can do to improve your internet privacy? Read on to learn the main issues, the laws to protect you, and what you can do to keep your online activities private.
Top Internet Privacy Issues
Let’s begin by going over the main privacy issues. There are three privacy issues that you need to be aware of so you can learn how to protect yourself.
In the most basic terms, every time you visit a website, you’re being tracked. You’ve probably seen and ignored those warnings that there are cookies on a website.
Those cookies are used to deliver ads to you. Let’s say that you have a sudden interest in photography. You start to research cameras and start to learn about different types of photography.
You go to Facebook and you see nothing but ads for photography courses. That’s not a coincidence. That is due to a carefully crafted algorithm and tracking cookies. They collect information about the types of sites you visit and
Your data is bought and sold and used for advertising purposes. Have you ever wondered how companies like Facebook, Google, and Amazon make money? For Facebook and Google, advertising revenue is the primary source of income.
Amazon uses your data to determine what you’ll buy, when, and for how much. They also make money off of advertising, too.
One of the biggest concerns for large and small businesses is cybersecurity. Anytime you pay for anything online, give your email address, or other personal information, you are trusting that the data is secured.
The business may have incredibly secure systems, but it doesn’t take much for those systems to be breached.
Equifax suffered the largest data breach in 2017, exposing the records of over 140 million people. Hackers went undetected for 76 days, stealing data and avoiding detection.
The hackers got into the database not because they were smart. They were lucky and Equifax didn’t apply a security patch to its servers.
Anytime your data is exposed to hackers, it’s likely to be bought and sold on the dark web. That data can be used to take out loans and credit cards in your name.
In 2016, ID theft cost more than $16 billion and cost the average person over $1,000. That number doesn’t include the amount of time spent trying to clear things up with banks and credit reporting agencies.
Internet Privacy Legislation
Technology moves fast. Governments…well, let’s say that they don’t move as fast as technology.
They are far behind the curve when it comes to internet privacy, web accessibility for the disabled, and copyright law.
Europe is leading the way as far as privacy legislation goes. In 2016, it passed the General Data Protection Regulation. This is a broad set of laws that require any website doing business in Europe to give users more control over their data.
They have to ask for permission to collect data, say what’s being collected, and why. Consumers also have the right to ask for their personal data and have it deleted.
In the United States, we’re not as fortunate. The federal government has been largely silent on these issues. States have started to take up the cause of internet privacy. In California, the California Consumer Privacy Act was passed, and it goes into effect on January 1, 2020.
This legislation is similar to GDPR but is mostly applied to larger companies. Other states are starting to follow suit.
Most states have laws on the books that prevent employers from asking for social media accounts and passwords to get a job. Other than that, it’s a wait and see approach.
How Can You Protect Your Internet Privacy?
You may look at the issues at stake and feel helpless. There are a number of things you can do to protect your internet privacy without having to wait for laws to be passed.
Use a VPN
A virtual private network can be used to protect your online activities. Your connections are encrypted and secure.
Change Passwords Regularly
One of the most common passwords used is “password1234.” You’re practically asking hackers to break into your accounts.
You want to change your passwords regularly and make them hard to figure out.
They can be difficult to remember, and you can turn to an app like LastPass which can save your passwords for you.
Check Your Credit Reports Regularly
You never know when someone takes your data and decides to make a fraudulent purchase using your account. There are a few things that you can do to protect your financial accounts.
The first is to check your credit reports often. You’ll be able to quickly spot when someone takes out a loan or credit card in your name.
The second thing is to work with your financial institutions. They probably have some kind of system to prevent fraudulent transactions. Make sure that you’re signed up for these programs.
Become an Advocate
Politicians aren’t technologically savvy, so you really can’t expect them to legislate internet privacy. They don’t understand it.
There are organizations that lobby to keep the best things of the internet while protecting privacy. For example, the I2 Coalition works to protect copyrights and privacy. You can find more info about that here.
You can join these organizations, lobby your legislators, and stay up to date on these laws.
Internet Privacy Gets Complicated
You can’t avoid being online. You can become more aware of the consequences of doing everything online.
You can educate yourself about the various internet privacy issues and take action. You can take the steps to protect yourself and get involved in the legislative process.
Check out this site often for more tech and privacy tips.