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Are You Worried About Your Online Privacy?

Are You Worried About Your Online Privacy?

By Susan Williams

Are you concerned about your online privacy?

In a survey conducted by Malwarebytes Labs, they found that an overwhelming number of the 4000 respondents (96%) felt that online privacy was crucial.  But when they broke the data down by generations, they discovered that the generation most concerned with their online privacy was baby boomers;

 “Boomers are also the least confident (89 percent) generation in terms of sharing personal data online.”

Given this high level of concern and the recent privacy data breaches by some of the platforms that we think we could have trusted – for example Facebook or Equifax  – is our online privacy something to worry about or is it just something that we have to accept as a risk in using online tools, social media and apps?

Let’s take a look at one example of how this works.

Have you ever used google maps or the app Waze on your smartphone? (by the way, if you didn’t know Google owns Waze). If you have, then you are sharing some of your information with google.

From what I understand, Google tracks where you are, where you are going and where you have been. It then uses this information for the app itself (for example to estimate traffic volumes and road details) and also applies this data to deliver specific targeted advertisements to you based on your location and your preferences.

Now as much as you may try to limit this access to your information through your privacy settings, it can be difficult to do if you still want to use the app functionality. The only real option if you want to remain completely anonymous is to not use these applications at all.

So if the idea of returning to one of those massive folding paper maps doesn’t excite you, it may be necessary to accept some sharing of information if you want to see the traffic conditions as you drive or find out how long it will take to get somewhere. Consider it an exchange of information for access to a free application.

Now let’s take a look at Facebook.

So many people were enraged about Facebook sharing the personal data of tens of millions users with Cambridge Analytica and how they then used and manipulated it. In response, Facebook CEO Mark Zukerburg was called to testify in front of a US Senate Committee regarding this breach. Along with commenting on this situation, he as also asked for his thoughts on fake news, the use of click bait plus other privacy and security concerns.

Now let’s circle back to the Malwarebytes survey and how baby boomer’s feel about social media;

“Baby Boomers came out as the most distrustful generation (97 percent) of social media when it comes to protecting their data.”

But here’s what is interesting. Even though baby boomers may not trust social media with protecting their data, 86% of baby boomers use social media everyday and specifically 96% of baby boomers use Facebook at least once a week. So even though we may be distrustful of these social media platforms and we have evidence that our information is / and can be compromised we still use them.

And as for Mark Zuckerburg and his senate testimony, has anything really changed? Yes, he admitted that improvements were needed to be made to better protect an individual’s privacy and security but do we really know whether this has happened? And ultimately, do we even really care? We haven’t necessarily stopped using Facebook as a result.

So here’s the situation as I see it.

If we use any online tools, social media platforms, apps or anything else in this digital space we have to be willing to accept that our personal data is potentially accessible. As much as we may not like this, the evidence has identified that this is a fact – no matter the size or committed data security of an organization. This is the risk we will need to accept in order to function in this digital world.

But there are some basic steps we can take to try and minimize some of these risks;

Keep a close eye on your financials

Always keep a very close watch on the activity on your credit card, your bank accounts and monitor your credit score for any unusual activities. Should fraudsters ever get access to your information, the thing they most often want is your money and/or your identity.

Don’t give your information to just anyone

As much as people may be concerned with their privacy or data, it’s amazing what they will give for a chance to either win something or get something. In exchange for a slice of pizza or entry into a draw, they might not only give their e-mail address, but may also refer a friend and innocently share their information too.

So, before you offer to provide anyone with any information find out more about them. Are they a legitimate company? If they weren’t offering you something, would you normally trust them? Do the check. Find out what they plan to do with your data before just handing it over.

Also Read: Separating Fact, Fake And Fiction On The Internet

Check your privacy settings

As much as there is information that may automatically be shared as a result of using different websites or platforms, check your specific privacy settings and those on the app you are using. You are often able to change the defaults to something less intrusive.

Google search in incognito mode

If you don’t want your search history to be monitored, google chrome has an option – search in incognito. When you browse this way, your cookies, search history and other information is not stored. Now be aware that it’s not completely private (and they tell you this when you open the browser) but it’s certainly more private then not browsing in incognito. Business Insider provides information on how to do this here.

Remember what happens online, stays online

How we behave online should be no different then how we behave in real life. It really is just a reflection of our society. But there is one very big difference – what happens online, stays online.

So as I always tell my kids, don’t say or do anything online that you wouldn’t feel comfortable having exposed in your real life. And it doesn’t matter whether you think it’s being done in private or not – you only just have to ask an Ashley Madison user about this. Once it’s online – think of it as being something that anyone can access and it’s now out of your control – forever.

In Conclusion

There is so much that the online world can offer us. Connecting with family and friends, getting the  information and news that we need, tools that make our lives easier and so much more. But with this access, there are risks. To think that there aren’t any or that our information is completely protected would be foolish.

After all the data breaches we have witnessed, we must recognize that once our information is online, it’s potentially exposed. It’s accepting and managing these risks that is most important thing we can do.

If we can’t accept this as part of our online life, then the best option is to not go online at all. But then there would be the risk of being left behind as the digital world continues to moves forward.

And would this be a risk you would be willing to accept?

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Susan Williams is the Founder of Booming Encore. Being a Boomer herself, Susan loves to discover and share ways to live life to the fullest. She shares her experiences, observations and opinions on living life after 50 and tries to embrace Booming Encore's philosophy of making sure every day matters.