Privacy! Privacy! Privacy! One way or another, everybody wants to keep their info secure and safe from prying eyes. This practice has been going for ages, different ways were being used to cater to this important matter. People have used many techniques and equipment to safeguard their essential data, and these include lockers, which are still being used today. Banks, offices, and even at our homes, we use lockers to keep our info safe. This is the offline way to protect data everybody has and keeps.
You might have heard of the word “SPY”. Yes, the first thing that comes to one’s mind is James Bond 007. While true in a way, what if you come to know that you are being watched, tracked, and being followed, and every move you make is being recorded? Your data and personal info most valuable to you has been “collected” and shared with others without your consent.
In this age of information technology, with the introduction of IT equipment and gadgets, such as mobile phones, GPS, mobile cellular technology, everybody has been connected. These technologies and equipment have enabled us to bypass the barriers of distance. As a result, we can communicate with one another regardless of where we are and even share valuable data as if the other person is sitting right in front of us.
Internet and mobile technology have enabled us to digitally transform our data which was earlier on paper, and save it on our computers or mobile devices, thus enabling us to use it whenever and wherever we want. But as we use our mobile devices more, the risk of data theft and collection also arises, and this is where things get a little tricky.
As one uses their mobile devices more these days, one uses social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Discord, Telegram, WhatsApp, etc., to communicate and surf the internet for official purposes or leisure time. The data stored on these platforms is being tracked by online advertising companies that use it to show you advertisements per your taste and browsing traits.
You will be surprised that this activity is legal, but it doesn’t mean that it is alright to collect someone’s data. These social media platforms and other apps have your entire record, which you would prefer to keep to yourself, such as how much you earn, your gender, hobbies, and personality traits. However, this data is being tracked and used to target you with ads precisely matching your taste and liking.
Ever noticed how while watching a specific clip on YouTube, the app starts showing you the related movies, and advertisements also start to show up as per your watching behaviour? The same is the case with other apps like Facebook: ads show up to your likings, such as a product you liked or shared on Facebook. This is called tracking and targeted advertising.
Your tracking data is being collected and sent to big giants like Apple, Google, Amazon, Aliexpress, Alibaba, eBay, and third-party companies that use it to keep an eye on your activity and target you with customized ads.
How to Stop and Protect your Data From Being Collected
Reading all this info about online data collection you might think, how can I stop this? What are the solutions? Let’s take a look at how we can use our devices to make our online data more secure and control the scenario.
Read Privacy Agreements
One of the major causes of tracking is that when a user installs software or downloads an app, he/she doesn’t read the included service agreement and clicks the “NEXT” button. This will allow tracking your location using GPS or downloading all of the contacts and photos on your phone. My Permissions can help you keep track of what companies have access to your information, and you can limit them while accepting the end-user agreement.
Virtual Private Networks
VPN’s or Virtual Private Networks are another big tool for getting your activity private by making your real IP address hidden and routing your traffic to somewhere else around the globe, thus making it difficult for the companies to track your actual IP address and location.
Ad-Blocking Software and Tools
Using third-party ad-blocking software and tools can make your life a lot easier. Tools like Ad-Guard, Ad-Block+, Hostelry will keep tracking companies from collecting data from your browser by blocking cookies. ‘Cookies’ is a small file stored on your computer’s browser, which helps companies identify you as you visit their website.
You can even install browser extensions of the tools mentioned above or install them as a stand-alone application. These can also give you extra perks like disabling unnecessary and inappropriate ads from showing on your browser screen and blocking annoying pop-ups from the browser.
Fraudsters and scammers are always waiting for vulnerable people and organizations to unintentionally leak their data online. If you meet someone online who claims to give an authentic quotation for a project or even offers you a helping hand for your business, it is possible that they are a fraudster.
You can use Nuwber in case you find a new acquaintance suspicious. Just look for their claimed identity on the website (by typing their name or phone number), and if there are no results or the provided info doesn’t match, then the person’s identity might be fake.
Mobile phones and PC web browsers all have integrated Private browsing nowadays. This means that these will restrict your activity from being tracked online and erase your browsing history, usernames, and passwords at the end of the session. For example, Firefox has a “private browsing” feature. Meanwhile, Chrome has an “incognito” mode.
Check Your Online Accounts
While creating online accounts with big companies like Google, Microsoft, or Facebook, you give them your complete information, including personality traits, your info about lifestyle, and your location. These websites or applications then use this info to track every click of yours and then feed you with targeted ads or posts relevant to your liking. But these companies now have settings which allow users to turn off behavioural tracking and follow you around the internet.
To summarize, it depends on how you want to use your devices and stop online companies from collecting your data without your consent. You can simply follow the steps stated above to eliminate or significantly minimize your data being tracked or used to bombard you with ads.