Maybe we don't care that companies are buying and selling our personal information. Maybe we feel like we have nothing to hide, so it is okay for big tech and the government to have access to our data. Maybe we are okay trading convenience for our personal data. The ugly truth is that the government and businesses are working to build a profile on each of us. According to Pew Research, “roughly six-in-ten U.S. adults say they do not think it is possible to go through daily life without having data collected about them by companies or the government.” It might feel daunting to know where to start, but we can take ownership of our data.
Take these five steps toward protecting your privacy in 2020 if you aren’t comfortable with your location being tracked during the coronavirus stay-at-home order, or if it doesn’t make you feel safe knowing that there are hidden app trackers that are leaching your information while you sleep.
1. Rethink Social Media Settings
We all knew social media was tracking us, but now the Netflix documentary The Social Dilemma (2020) has revealed a darker reality than imagined by even conspiracy theorists. Here are four quick social media checks:
- Make social media profiles as private as possible.
- Stop tagging the location in posts.
- Check advertisement settings.
2. Find an Alternate Search Engine
Searching Google in private mode simply means that the computer isn’t keeping a history of our movements, but our browsing is still being tracked. Google, Yahoo!, and Bing are just a few of the search engines that are collecting our data under the guise of making life easier with search prompts and browser history. DuckDuckGo, Startpage, Search Encrypt, and Swisscows are a few of the search engines that aren't collecting our data.
3. Stop Taking Login Shortcuts
When we sign in with Facebook or Google integration to other websites or apps, we aren’t just giving over our passwords, we are allowing that site to access our data from those platforms. The cyber world is connecting the dots of who we are, where we go, and what we like with each link we make by signing in with another account’s password. Turn off website integration with Facebook, and remove other accounts that have already been integrated.
4. Is Your Texting, Emailing, and Video-Conferencing Secure?
5. Our Phones Could Be Betraying Us
Our phones are compromising our privacy and sharing our information with third-party companies. Here are four ways to tighten up the privacy on your phone.
- Turn off location. On your iPhone, go to Settings > Privacy > Location Services.
- Turn off your microphone. To make sure that you aren’t being listened to, on the iPhone head to Settings > Privacy > Microphone.
- Rethink Siri and Ok Google. Disable Siri on iPhones by going to Settings > Siri & Search. On the Android turn off Ok Google by heading to Settings > Google > Search > Services.
- Check Advertisement Settings. On the iPhone, go to Settings > Privacy > Advertising.
Once we start noticing how we are being tracked and how our data is being mined, it can be overwhelming to know where to begin. Most of us don’t take action because we believe that the benefits of free apps, the convenience of easy logins, and our phone being able to find a good restaurant close to our location outweigh the risks of our personal privacy being exposed. Don’t take the easier way out when it comes to protecting personal privacy—take action today.