Online privacy

How much of your personal data is available online? It’s becoming increasingly difficult to hide your details as companies track your interests, personal preferences and even your current location through your account settings.

Social media sites such as Facebook encourage you to include personal information such as your date of birth, where you work, live and even your political and religious views.

Ad blockers

Advertising is something which is becoming increasingly intrusive, and Facebook has recently taken the step to make its adverts indistinguishable from non-commercial content. That means even with an ad-blocker, you’ll be targeted with data-driven marketing depending on your preferences, the posts you like and your general activity on the site.

Cookies often track your history and note when you visit a certain site, which is likely to lead to filtered adverts depending on which sites you like visiting. Facebook has even been known to track which posts and pages you like to target users with adverts. Sites including Wired, GQ and Forbes have used one or more of these strategies to re-monetise readers who have used an ad-blocker, which do not prevent sponsored and strategically placed content – in fact, this form of advertising is perhaps becoming increasingly encouraged.

Facebook claims to make its users’ ad preferences “easier to use” so that Facebook account holders can select whether they want to stop seeing certain types of ads. And while the update means your Facebook profile will be even more specific to your own personality and interests, it means the company will know even more about you and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to hide personal data online.

Is this a problem?

“What’s the big deal?” You may ask. But as social media sites continue to evolve and learn more about their increasingly large number of users, it is worth ensuring your privacy settings are secure. Apps such as Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat also request personal information and preferences to their services.

Facebook thrives on data, encouraging you to share as much personal information as possible in order to ‘complete’ your online profile. The social media platform has even reportedly been getting hold of people’s phone numbers without their permission, so it’s worth regularly checking your account details and ensuring only the information you desire is displayed.

How to protect your personal details online

You can take some steps to protect your personal information online and safeguard your privacy online.

  • Choose a secure password: Your password is the gateway to your personal information, so you need to make it hard to crack. Choose a password that includes letters of both cases as well as numbers. Better still, you can use a password generation system such as LastPass to safeguard your password and manage different sites so you don’t forget and/or write them down.
  • Install antivirus software: Hackers often use computer viruses, spyware and malware to gain access to your private information online. Ensure you have ample antivirus software and that all of your software is up to date – both on your laptop and mobile – to prevent hackers from targeting you. Most antivirus software also gives link protection, remote protection and pro versions can give enhanced firewalls and shields which protect your personal information.
  • Utilise social media privacy settings: Ensure that only the details that you’re happy with are displayed on your profile. Some details are necessary to set up your account, but you’ll never need to show your address, phone number or account information to other users. Make sure you take the time to check through and refine your preferences.
  • Look out for the padlock: You should always use a secure site when you’re shopping or banking. These feature a padlock sign in the left corner and include ‘https’ at the start of the URL to indicate that they’re secure. Don’t put your payment details or private information into one which only has a ‘http’ domain or you could be targeted by hackers.
  • Log out: You should always log out of websites and close the window down. This will make it harder for cyber-criminals to gain control of your online accounts.

You can find out more by checking out Igniyte’s Guide to Managing Your Personal Information Online.