Privacy. It’s the hottest topic online and if you are still not too concerned about it now—you will be. The rapid growth of social networks, geolocation services, and data mining daily puts your personal information at risk.
Think you are in the clear? Just spend a few minutes on sites like Spokeo and you may have a slightly different take on the issue of privacy.
Yes, just about anyone can find out where you live (right up to a photo of your front door), who your relatives are, your job and moving history, and even what you paid for your house. For a fee, they can learn about any legal issues, liens, or bankruptcies. And, depending on how casual you have been with your information, they can likely find out a lot more.
Here are 7 basic steps that can reduce the risk to private data:
- Block or erase cookies on your Web browser. Computer cookies are coded information that gets stored in your computer’s hardware every time you visit a web site. A simple way to ensure safe browsing is to clean out your cache (accumulation) of cookies. To do this, go to the “preferences” option in any browser and click the “delete cookies” option.
- Use multiple usernames and passwords. Yes, this is a hassle but it’s well worth it. Diverse passwords put up an extra wall between you and people out to exploit your data. When possible use combinations of uppercase and lower case letters, numbers, punctuation and special characters. Make sure you keep a log of your usernames and passwords handy.
- Think before giving your info. Pop up screens, newsletters, coupons, mobile apps, websites—all want your information for marketing or, in some cases, for theft. Think before giving out your information. Use a fake name and establish a separate email account for “additional” correspondence and signups outside of business and personal email. Teach your kids to do the same.
- Close old accounts. Your dormant MySpace, Flickr, and Bebo accounts need to be deleted. Old accounts are one more door you leave open for hackers to harvest your personal information.
- Max privacy settings. Keep the information on your social networks private. This is simple but powerful when you consider all the businesses online that exist to scrape together information about you so they can sell it.
- Invest in protection. If you are serious about your privacy, then it is worth the dollars invested to go that extra step. McAfee Total Protection allows you to guard your PC, social network, identity, family, and home network against hackers, malware, thieves, phishing, and other online threats. Go one more step with McAfee All Access to protect all your devices including PC, Mac, smart phone, and tablet.
- Use https:// whenever possible. If you are accessing the Internet from a public place, use the full https:// address when possible. This direct URL ensures that your connection is safe and not vulnerable to potential attacks.
The next obvious question is how to clean your name off of the data collection sites mentioned above (there are dozens more). You can hire record removal companies for a fee. Or, if you want to do it yourself, it will take time (and patience) to correspond with each site. This great contact list compiled by LawyerCT will help you get started and get you started on the “opt-out” process for some of these data collection sites