In light of the Facebook data sharing issues, the new GDPR (the General Data Protection Regulations) that comes into effect within the EU and UK at the end of May and the general ease of access to anything we need or want 24/7, we feel that a greater understanding of your internet usage and the imprint you leave is more important than ever.
39 million of us in the UK alone are using social media. Facebook specifically, is a great tool to keep in touch and inform our friends and family what we’re doing but it’s also a great tool for businesses to gain access to our personal information, habits and tastes. If the scandal at Facebook has taught us anything it’s we need to be more vigilant when it comes to agreeing to companies having access to our information and in some cases, we’re the ones doing it.
Take for example the MANY quizzes you see on Facebook; you know the ones- test your IQ, which Disney princess are you most like, what would you look like as a man- they’re tempting but when we click to complete, we’re actually giving consent for companies to access our personal information, friends list, photos and other information about us. It’s generally not a one off either, we’re actually giving companies the opportunity to impress themselves on our profiles and to monitor what we do day in and day out. Scary huh! You can actually STOP companies from getting access by heading to settings > apps and websites > and editing the settings on each application or removing them altogether.
Speaking of settings, it’s worth reviewing your privacy settings in general every now and then as these do change from time to time. To keep your information as secure and private as possible, we’d recommend friends only- don’t be concerned about people finding you, those you want to connect with, will be able to get hold of you.
One other thing to be mindful of is WHAT you’re sharing, particularly if you have open settings or even if you have a large number of friends/followers. Be sure that no private information, such as your bank card, is in the background of your photos, be careful to share your location especially when you’ll be out of your home for a few days/weeks and the #’s you use- location and #’s serve as keyword searches and if you associate yourself to a place you are inadvertently letting everyone know your movements (whether you’re friends with them or not). Not only could this be an opportunity for a hacker to gain access to a variety of information but could leave your home, family and friends vulnerable too.
Bear in mind: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc. although is seemingly a ‘free’ service, you effectively, like the old adage, are the product. The insight they gain from your movements allows them to sell this to companies and target you for advertising. Want to know what is of interest to them? Go to www.facebook.com/ads/preferences to see the information of interest and alter the settings for adverts that you see.
This has been drained into us forever; don’t change all of your cards to the same pin number, don’t let all your accounts have the same password etc. etc. we appreciate it can be pretty challenging to manage all of this but it ultimately is best. You could have a staple 4-6 character password which you alter either side with an additional 4-6 characters to help you remember your passwords, though ensure that it isn’t something that personally relates to you, as with the information readily available on you, it’s easier than ever for hackers to gain access to email accounts and other more private details. Try and ensure that your password is a mixture of letters in upper and lower case, numbers and special characters to make it more complex.
Also consider creating a document that can be shared with your partner/children should anything happen to you so they can gain access to anything you want them to have access to- keep this with a copy of your will, insurance policies etc. so they don’t have access to it unless absolutely necessary.
The mark you leave
Whenever you use the internet, regardless of device, as you move from page to page and account to account, you leave a trail of breadcrumbs that are collected and stored, known as cookies. The cookies information is shared with website owners but identifiable information such as your name, email, address are excluded. The information shared tells businesses your likes, habits, usage (time of day, what device you’re using, the searches your conducting etc.) to allow businesses to tailor their products and services to you. This is also used in social media to tailor the adverts that you see which is why you may see adverts for things you’ve just searched for in your social feed.
If you don’t want to leave a trail- whether buying a present you don’t want found or accessing your online banking- you can conduct incognito/private browsing. This may still entail some trace back but ultimately it doesn’t record a history, cache or cookies on to the computer based on the search you conduct in this mode. This is an ideal function if you use a public computer or even if search sensitive information (even on your phone) that you don’t want other to see.
Who to trust
It’s bad practice for any site not to be secure. In fact, it’ll harm their ranking potential if they don’t, so more fool them if it isn’t. They way to determine if a website is secure is to look for a padlock in the left hand corner of the website URL. If this is missing (and it is even missing from some very big, trusted companies) we don’t recommend making a purchase through them. It means that the site is more vulnerable to hacking/having your information taken so you’re best staying clear of it.
If you’re looking for additional proof of a good site a quick google search of the company can be quite enlightening; specifically ask for reviews on the company and see what others experience is of them. If you feel comfortable with what you see, then by all means make a purchase/fill out a form through the site.
It’s not just websites to be weary of either- if you’re looking to share a post on Facebook/Twitter etc. just take a second or two to see who the original post is from and make sure you’re happy being associated with them. Often we can be tricked into sharing propaganda because occasionally it’ll be something we relate to when in reality most of what they produce day to day does not reflect who we are.
We hope you’ve found this post useful. If you’ve any other tips, we’d love to hear from you, just share your ideas below!