(WARNING A LONG BUT IMPORTANT BLOG)
Time and again we read news about leading websites playing with our personal data and violating the boundaries of our private life. They misuse the data sometimes for marketing and sometimes they act as a spy for governments or even some private players. Much of this problem has been highlighted by the media and users very lately and we are probably quite late to take care of it. The trap laid for us has been FREE EMAIL, FREE CHAT MESSENGERS, everything FREE….! We were aware that the companies were getting their revenues from the advertisements displayed at the footer of our emails in early stages and then on the email client / browser page itself.
Recently it has been open in the public the way social networking websites or other websites giving free services like email use our data. All our data is been analyzed by computer programs to categorize and prioritize the data which tells what we like, what we talk, who is important to us and maybe also stores the intimate details of our life. Our attachments which contain important documents like bank statements, the photos of our family, friends and perhaps videos too, everything is stored in a cluster of servers since years (that we know as cloud now.) One may never know but yet can assume that the information is sold to third-parties for building of developing of apps or just using your data for research purpose.
Whenever I discussed this issue with my family and friends they seemed to be very careless about their privacy being infringed, and some of them probably still are. Not that they are unaware of the privacy issue, they don’t understand how dangerous it is to give out information that might seem unimportant at the moment. It is hard for me to spend time explaining the dangers of this privacy infringement. Probably people will start realizing it after 10-12 years of the harassment they will suffer out of this outcome. Smartphones connected to the information is helping these companies more. The addicts or some people who simply do it to show that they are up with the latest technology leave prominent footprints of your life on the web. The riskiest and the latest one being CHECKING IN at a specific location. There are softwares that run on your cellphones without your knowledge when you are using a free game or app that scans every SMS, dialed number, contact list and the locations you check into, and then send all this data to their servers. One hardly reads the TERMS & CONDITIONS before installing a software which clearly mentions this usage of your personal data.
Coming back to the same point you might again argue that you don’t have any confidential data on your emails, phones or social networking profiles. Think again… Look back into the archives of your data that goes beyond 2 years and your will realize there is a lot. Again the systems cannot be fooled with multiple accounts. When you sign in your publicized account your IP (A protocol that identifies your device/computer) is recorded. You then logoff and sign in on your other private account for your secretive stuff thinking that both of them can hardly be matched as your accounts. Even if you have different names, usernames or any data of that account, the system identifies YOU. It knows that when a device accesses multiple accounts from the same device over a period of time, these accounts belong to one person. The data is then again compiled into one format which becomes a blue-print of your life. Even you will be surprised to see such an organized format of your life. The best example to see this is the TIMELINE feature of facebook.
Now if you have understood or anticipated the implications of this risk you face on the internet you might want to play safe. And how would you do that? I have some tips which might work only for some months to come. They are crude methods which will take a lot of your time but it will surely work. There are also some precautions you could use in future but they are also applicable for a limited time. As data storage becomes cheaper and takes lesser space the more risk we run into. Lets start!
1.Delete your emails after their purpose is over. It will be surely stored as a conversation in your mail. Unless its very important to store it don’t keep it on the web.
2.Delete thrash regularly. Keep an automated setting which clears thrash every week or after 30 days so that you can still retrieve it if you have deleted something by mistake.
3.Use voice chats / video chats more than sms or emails for confidential communication. The companies still struggle to save such data in their archives due to storage limitations. But its only a matter of some years that even this data will be stored.
4.Clear cache and private data of your browser every time your close it.
5.Install apps that are reputed software companies. Not that they wont invade your privacy but they are atleast clean in their terms and conditions. Not to mention that they are always under the scanner of privacy fanatics and govt laws. Free apps are always risky unless they are provided by your device manufacturer or default OS company.
6.Multiple accounts was a good idea before but not any more since there are softwares that know who own it. These softwares are government authenticated as criminals can be easily tracked down in case of a crime.
7.Be careful of opening any kind of mails esp. bank emails which are regular phishing cases
8.Be careful of adding strangers on your social networking accounts. Many of them can also be bots who are automated to chat with you and advertise various websites. Click on the link in their chat and the link will be forwarded to all the friends in your account. Sometimes it even grabs all the info of your account.
9.Internet banking is good if you use a good browser. There will be a lot of argument about which will be the best, but as long as you use a non-pirated copy of Windows on your laptop PC, Internet Explorer is the safest.
10.Call people or have a voice chat when its discussing something important. Avoid sms and chatting on a messenger.
How to remove your digital footprint –
1.Facebook is the most dangerous thing right now. Avoid chatting in facebook because all your chats are saved in messages. You don’t have any choice to select all of the conversations and delete them. You have to do it one by one. So just take a lot of time at hand and delete all that are stored.
2.Turn of the archiving option in your other chat messengers so that your chats wont be stored officially. They will still be stored on your service providers servers for some years but that’s less risky that officially having them in your account.
3.Keep your mailbox clean. Having a larger storage means getting too tired to delete your mails. The more mails you keep the more your risk into leaving the details of your personal life with someone you don’t want to. Clean thrash, spam and even inbox.
4.Remove and block unwanted apps. Having less apps wont just keep your safe but will also give you more storage space and also faster boot-time incase your apps load at startup.
5.Keep your private photos and videos locked from strangers. Delete them after the people whom you have shared them with see them.
6.Make the best use of the account settings and privacy settings of your social networking site and email websites also.
7.Avoid registering on new sites that seem interesting. Not everyone ends up like facebook and google. You might just add up giving them your address book contacts for free which actually would cost a lot otherwise (regardless of your ignorance about the price of such data).
8.Keep changing passwords regularly. Avoid sharing them with anyone.
9.All websites nowadays have a feature to have your mobile phone number to retrieve your password in case lost. So use that feature and update the number in case you change it.
10.USE OTP (One time passwords) and Mobile Notifications on all possible websites especially banking websites. Even facebook provided secure login where it notifies users when they are logged from an un-registered device.
The most important point here is that you might feel that your data is safe with a service provider e.g. google since it’s a reputed company, but we have heard a lot of cases where their servers were hacked with usernames and passwords being stolen. It doesn’t require much time to loose your accounts and data to someone unknown in such scenarios. There can be a lot more examples, but I guess my blog has already been long enough. So if you have the patience and understand the importance of your privacy and digital footprint act now, because later you might not even have chance to do all the processes I mentioned above. Please also remember that the free world of internet will soon be curbed by government policies and laws. All democratic countries might soon end up like CHINA and feel under a communist rule with their data being scanned and also restrictions on what you can read or post on the internet. God Bless!
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