Online Privacy – All You Need to Know

By  //  October 4, 2021

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Online privacy, also known as digital privacy or internet privacy, refers to the amount of your personal, financial, and browsing information that remains private when you are online.

This has become a reality these days with all your browsing and personal data being at risk online. A lot of people underrate the importance of online privacy, but they should be aware of how much information they share – not just on social media, but also simply by browsing stuff. Your data is sold by every company on this planet in some way or another. Even a cybersecurity leader suggests that you should browse privately as much as possible while you are online.

To this end, there are proxies, VPNs, TOR, and many other online services that can be used to preserve your online privacy. You can try going with a dedicated online privacy service that can help protect your digital footprint, while also securing your data against any fishy websites.

What is the importance of Online Privacy?

You must value data privacy online in a same way as you would value privacy in the real world. In general, you might have confidential conversations behind closed doors and share your financial details only with your bank. 

It is critical to know that nothing comes for free – whether downloading games/apps, using a free email service (such as Gmail) or social networks like Facebook and Instagram. Even browsing a simple website means that you are sharing your usage data with someone.

Just like how some people in your life know you better than others because they have various degrees of knowledge about your personal life, online privacy also exists on a spectrum. Some websites or online entities store more information about you than other platforms.

Online privacy is critical for numerous reasons. You definitely don’t want to share your personal  details with strangers and it is hard to say what personal information is collected and by whom. The worst part is that information one company possesses might have already been shared by some other company. You never know who has what and from where.

For example, targeted ads that remember your internet search history could be used against your best interests. Even more problematic are your biometric data collected by inocuous everyday devices (phone, fitness bracelet, smartwatches) that can end up sold from one company to other, or any such data gathered or shared without your consent. This is ultimately a form of unintended data collection and the hard truth is you can’t do much about it.

The Biggest Internet Privacy Issues

The internet related issues exists on a specific spectrum from the information you don’t mind sharing to the privacy compromises and public breaches that might affect your personal life. Here are a few areas that are worth discussing:

User Tracking by Search Engines

Even the most popular search engines such as Google log your information including the sites that you browse.

They also capture your browsing history. Here are a few things that the Google search engine collects:

  • Cookies
  • Search History
  • IP Addresses
  • Click-Through History

This information can be collectively used for profiling i.e. compositing a customer persona based on shopping, browsing and social media preferences.

Data Harvesting on Social Media

Social Media has really hit the media spotlight in recent years. This occurred thanks in no small part to various types of scandals, from cyber-bullying and doxxing to spreading misinformation, conspiracy theories and political propaganda. Additionally, there are a few social networks that have had breaches and have left the data of millions of users exposed. 

Cookies

Cookies are harmless for the most part. They are just a bit of code telling a website information on your browsing history that can help the user by remembering:

  • Credentials
  • Preference settings
  • Ad setting
  • Language settings

Cookies have only raised concern when third-party ad serving got involved. When you visit a website, your web browser assembles the information from various sources, dictating the advertisements you see. You have thus become an advertising persona even if it is only seen by the search engine/website bots.

This has been questioned by privacy advocacy groups as companies like Google host and procure a vast amount of consumer data to deliver personalized or targeted ads based on user browsing history.

The Bottom Line

Absolute online privacy is a myth and it’s better to get out of this myth soon. That said, a reasonable degree of privacy is still attainable, and using online privacy services such as proxies, VPNs, or TOR can be a handy way to help you stay secure and anonymous online. VPNs mask your IP address so that it looks like someone is browsing from a different location.

So, do try to stay anonymous while browsing to prevent prevent your data from being stolen and to remain cognizant of the digital footprint you leave behind you as you surtf the internet.