Digital privacy


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Digital privacy

  1. 1. Digital Privacy besafeonline
  2. 2. Shhh...Do you ever get the feeling someone is watching you? Not literally, in a peeping Tom sense, but in an intangible way. Whereas you used to go shopping on a whim or skim the newspaper, now the products you’re likely to buy and stories you’d probably read are appearing with startling regularity whenever you go online. Well, there’s good news and bad news. Those personalized ads aren’t really anything sinister. What may concern you more, however, is the personal information you assumed was private that’s hidden in the far-off corners of the internet. But there are ways to regain control of your privacy, starting with demystifying how and why such details end up there.
  3. 3. Be Safe Online Digital Privacy 2 S omewhere between the two extremes is probably a healthy balance. It’s good to have an idea of what personal information may have accrued over the years; after all, everything that goes online stays there, in some form, forever. If you use social media, you’ve probably already accepted the trade-off for your ‘free’ account is that you no longer solely own or control any of the content you’ve shared. But apart from the social media aspect, are you aware of what personal data has been collected about you, and by whom? Or what can they do with it? And whether you can do anything about it? You might wonder, too, how the internet seems to predict your every move. That you’re a fan of crime fiction so you might be interested in a book signing at your local Barnes & Noble. That you’ve booked flights and, since you always check Miguel Cabrera’s RBI, you might want to grab tickets for the Detroit Tigers when they’re playing in the city you’re visiting. It’s evident that things you once chalked up as strange coincidences are anything but. Still, do you know how ads seem to be tailored to you? Is it really a matter of concern, or is life made easier now that your favorite products come right to you every time you go online? IntroductionHow often do you think about your digital privacy? Do you Google your name to find out what others can see about you? Or does that seem like the conceited or paranoid action of someone with too much spare time and an overactive imagination? Jim Brock is Vice President, Privacy Products at AVG. A privacy evangelist, he blogs at author/jim-brock/
  4. 4. M aybe you haven’t used a Netscape e-mail account in the last decade, but that doesn’t mean your information has disappeared with your old e-mail address. It’s likely there are dozens of data aggregator sites teeming with your personal details, which are made available, for free, to anyone. Every address you’ve ever called home, sometimes with a Google Street View map of your house. The full names and ages of your immediate family: parents, siblings, spouses. Your occupation, where you went to school, if you’ve ever been known by an alias. Data about your neighbors. If you care to see more about yourself, or anyone, there’s lots to find for around $40 or less. Phone numbers, e-mail addresses, photos, videos, blog entries, and comments, criminal or court records. The aggregator website Spokeo promises to “uncover information search engines can’t find,” while rival PeekYou promotes itself like it’s operating in your best interests. “Your PeekYou Page has been created and is maintained by PeekYou but consists of an aggregate of information from third-party public sources,” its website says, adding ‘your’ pages contain “material that everyone can find on the Internet because it has been publicly divulged, either by you or by authorized third parties.” Be Safe Online Digital Privacy 3 Deep dataRemember the first personal e-mail account you set up, possibly with a provider that no longer exists? Chances are whatever details you were required to register at the time have been swept up by a data aggregator website and syndicated. It stands to reason that the more vocal you’ve been online, the bigger digital presence you’ll have. That’s true to some extent, but even someone who has never ventured onto the internet will still have a digital presence if they’ve ever bought or rented somewhere to live, applied for identification, such as a driver’s license, or done anything else that can be traced through public records. Which is pretty much everyone over the age of 18.
  5. 5. Be Safe Online Digital Privacy Look hereYou may not be able to see every piece of data that online advertisers, merchants, credit card companies and others have collected about you and your browsing and buying habits (read on for more about targeted advertising). But there are ways to find out what others can see about information you might prefer to keep private. 4 Google Google’s first tip, naturally, is to Google yourself. It also offers a service called Me on the Web, where “you can get notified when your personal data (your e-mail address or phone number, for example) appears on the web.” PeekYou Data aggregator sites, such as PeekYou, compile personal details you’ve registered online with other telling content, such as your social site habits and website interests. Those details are then lumped in with public records data to create a profile. PeekYou also provides a list of similar data dumping grounds. Google Or you could set up a Google Alert on yourself, which will send you an e-mail any time your name appears on the Web. Spokeo Spokeo is another example of a data aggregator site, which contains varying degrees of information about individuals - but mostly at a price. Alerts
  6. 6. 5 H ave you ever registered to read an online newspaper or get updates on a particular subject? Given your e-mail address to a real-world retailer who was offering special deals? Joined an online forum or mailing list? Registered to vote, applied for any kind of license or bought insurance? Signed an online petition or made a charity donation? In all these scenarios and more, you will have drip-fed the internet with your personal information. On the surface, it’s no big deal that your full name, age and home address have been registered multiple times; but add to that any information available on public records and comments, photos, videos or other content you’ve shared online, and the digital skeleton of your details begins to take on a fleshier appearance. What’s more, every time you search or visit the pages of many sites, you’re creating a digital breadcrumb trail of your preferences. Companies such as Google can track your key search terms to create an outline of your interests, which you’ll see reflected in the sites and accompanying ads delivered to you. Social sites such as Facebook operate in a similar manner, keeping tabs on your ‘likes’ and shares. Then there are cookies, a term you’ve probably seen but may find confusing. Essentially, when you visit certain sites cookies will attach to your browser to tell it what you are interested in. The next time you search for or visit a website with similar content, the cookies will ‘remember’ you, so that if you were looking at Adidas running shoes on one site, the next one will display the same or a similar product. Your computer’s IP address or your smartphone provide your location, which, based on other information, might flag you as a possible customer for a new pizza place or a sports store opening in your neighborhood. Bingo! A targeted ad pops onto your screen. While it may seem creepy, the idea behind cookies is to improve your experience, and the respective websites’ performances, by directing you to the most relevant content. Cookies do not retain any personal information, unless a website has asked you to fill in things such as your name or where you live. Be Safe Online Digital Privacy Every clickHave you ever bought a domain name or set up a blog, website or wireless router? Do you have a PayPal, Amazon, eBay or Freecycle account? E-mail? Netflix? iTunes? Spotify? Picasa? Facebook? LinkedIn?
  7. 7. Who cares?So why does your information matter to anyone else, especially a faceless website? In a word: money. Be Safe Online Digital Privacy 6 It’s safe to say that wherever you’ve been on the internet, someone has probably made a buck off you A ggregator websites make money from those who pay for more extensive searches. Social networks make money from advertisers. Sites where you may have registered your details, including your favorite social channel, can sell that information to third-party sites, such as aggregators, or for marketing or advertising purposes. The cookies that clock your browsing habits tell retailers and others with a financial interest what content to dangle before you. Merchants, interest groups and others you’ve given your e-mail address to might send you the occasional offer or membership perk, but they’re profiting off you in all the ways previously mentioned, and more. It’s safe to say that wherever you’ve been on the internet, someone has probably made a buck off you. But what about government agencies and law enforcement bodies that may be keeping tabs on keywords in e-mails and on social media, visits to certain websites, video link conversations, text messages and other digital activities? Such monitoring has long been an effort to fight and foil crime, from fraud to illegal pornography to terrorism. It can’t be said how much of this information is volunteered by Google, your e-mail provider, social sites and others, and how much they are pressured to give up. If you’ve looked at it or written about it, there’s every chance someone else has been peering over your shoulder, whether it’s an advertiser or the National Security Agency. Nothing’s free in this world, whether we’re paying in dollars or data. Which is worth remembering the next time you ‘like’ a post, upload a video or make an ill-advised tweet.
  8. 8. Glossary Cookies Also called web or browser cookies, they are data that attach to your browser and ‘remember’ the kinds of sites you’ve visited or purchases you’ve made. Cookies help advertisers, online retailers and others to build a digital profile of you so they can target ads to your device. Cookies can store things such as passwords or credit card numbers that a user has entered on a site, so the website will ‘recognize’ the user the next time they visit that site. Data aggregator websites Websites that pull together and build a profile from all data that can be found on an individual, including personal details the individual has registered online, public records and social content. These websites offer some of this information, such as a person’s full name, age and previous addresses, for free while selling more specific details, such as exact home address, e-mail address and phone number, for a small fee. Private browsing/mode A setting that enables browsing without information such as history, images, videos and text being stored in the cache. Privacy mode can also disable the storage data in cookies, eliminating targeted advertising. So if, for instance, your teenager enables privacy mode in order to view death-metal videos on YouTube, those won’t show up in your computer’s history and you’re less likely to get targeted ads for Decibel magazine. Be Safe Online Digital Privacy 7 IP address Your computer’s Internet Protocal address identifies it and indi- cates its general geographic location. Each computer has an IP address that is unique within its local network.IP Website VisTracking Analysis of how a visitor uses a website and their implied prefer- ences. Such information can be used to present individuals with content they may be interested in. Tracking cookies compile a record of an individual’s browsing history. Targeted advertising Delivering advertising content based on a website visitor’s sus- pected habits or interests. By tracking users’ online activities and building a demographic or behavioral profile, advertisers send digital ads to a target market - for example, skincare product ads to readers of teenage fashion magazines.
  9. 9. I t won’t always be possible, of course, but there are several methods for reclaiming at least some of your digital privacy. By creating a Google profile, “you can manage the information - such as your bio, contact details, and other information about you” and then “ to other sites about you or created by you. For example, you can link to your blog, online photos in Picasa, and other profiles such as Facebook and LinkedIn.” Do you want to make yourself that easy to find? Or do you actually want to remove as much content as possible and be flagged when information about you appears on the internet? In either case, you can get more information here: answer/1228138?hl=us It’s possible to ask aggregator sites to remove your profile, but they may make it difficult and it will certainly be time consuming. As they point out, it’s all information that exists online or is accessible to anyone, so it’s going to be an uphill struggle. Some people feel cookies make their time online more efficient while others choose private browsing, which deletes the cookies at the end of a session. Also called privacy mode or incognito mode, it can clear your search history and keep other users - particularly if you’re on a public computer - from seeing what you’ve been up to. The browser tool Ghostery scans web pages for cookies and other trackers, and tells users which companies are using trackers and how to block them. http:// Take chargeOnce the digital details you thought were private are laid bare on the screen, you can decide how much you’re comfortable leaving in place and what you’d rather try to remove. Be Safe Online Digital Privacy 8
  10. 10. M ore information about private browsing can be found through a search, or AVG offers two privacy tools. Its Do-Not-Track helps you identify and block “websites that are collecting data about your online activities.” do-not-track PrivacyFix is an app or “browser extension that scans for privacy issues... then takes you instantly to the settings that you need to fix.” PrivacyFix also warns of any new privacy issues so, for example, “you know when sites like Facebook change their privacy policies or have privacy breaches.” http://www. The search engine DuckDuckGo claims it “does not collect or share personal information.” Keep in mind, though, that downloading toolbars, such as for Yahoo, can be a free pass to your browsing habits. It’s a good idea to regularly clear your browser history, if only to keep your web wanderings to yourself. If you’re a regular YouTube viewer, go here, http://, to clear your history and get less predictable results in the future. An IP blocker, such as Tor, enables users to visit blogs and websites anonymously. Without an IP blocker, the webmaster of sites you visit can track your approximate location and service provider, and possibly deduce your identity: Finally, always follow basic online safety advice, such as installing safety software; password or passcode protecting all devices and keeping those terms sufficiently obscure and safe; and logging out of accounts. Remember, too, to securely erase the hard drive before disposing of any old device. Data blockers Be Safe Online Digital Privacy 9 Want to keep your browsing sessions private and block those websites seeking to collect and store your data? Here’s how.
  11. 11. Incontrol Learn more about internet security at Join us on Facebook It can take a little getting used to the idea that the web - once either a workspace, a tool of convenience or just a playground - is actually redefining privacy and the beliefs we’ve traditionally held about what it means to be an individual. Most of us are still learning, which can make the process all the more daunting. But as with all things, knowledge is power. You’ve taken the initial steps toward regaining control of your personal digital identity, and probably answered some questions that had been nagging you since you first went digital.