64% of Americans have experienced some form of data theft or online privacy violation. This means that experiencing one of the situations described above may be more likely than you think.
Online privacy violations can be anything from someone taking over your twitter account to an identity thief using your information to open a bank account.
But this statistic will make you think twice: 8 out of 10 cases of identity theft occur online, suggesting that our online social media habits are not centered around keeping our information private.
It is not uncommon for social media platforms to share private data. We have all heard about the Cambridge Analytica scandal. It involves Facebook, where the data of 50 million users was exposed and used for political reasons without user permission.
Most platforms that you can think of are involved in some type of online privacy violation scandals.
Yes, this is the unfortunate truth – most platforms that you can think of have had some form of data or security breach and online privacy violation scandals.
What you may not have heard, is that Zoom has shared data with third parties, WhatsApp sacrificed the privacy of several senior government officials, Twitter hackers gained $100,000 from users by posting tweets with bitcoin links on the profiles of influential users (Barack Obama, Elon Musk, Kanye West, etc.) stating that they would get double the amount in return and there has even been evidence of third party trackers in the Amazon Ring Doorbell.
What other examples of online privacy violations should you know about?
- Social media platforms sharing your personal information with third parties
- Data analysts tracking your online activity and selling it to businesses for their own financial gain
- Data analysts collecting data about you including your location, hobbies and interests
- Analysts serving you with targeted or personalized adverts
- Hackers taking over your social media accounts
- Cyber criminals using your personal information without your knowledge
Whilst we can never be fully certain that we will not be a victim of online privacy violation, there are ways to reduce the risks.
Whether you want to prevent the sale of your data or reduce the risk of identity theft, we have some tips for you to implement in your online social life.
#1 Review your privacy settings on social media
Check that your account is private. This means that in order to access the content you post, your photos and account profile, people will need to send you a request. Only once this request has been accepted can they interact with you on social media. If your account is public, anyone and everyone can see what you post. This can make it easier for thieves to steal your information.
How can I change my privacy settings?
To change your account to private on Instagram, go to settings > privacy and turn on the ‘private account’ feature. On Facebook, go to the ‘settings and privacy section’ then click ‘privacy shortcuts’. This area allows you to review and edit what others can see when they visit your profile.
#2 Keep up to date with privacy breaches
Read about the latest updates on technology, particularly social media. If you hear about a breach of privacy and data sharing, ensure that your password has been changed or that you delete your account.
Other platforms may ask you to update the application on your phone once they have fixed a bug, as was the case with Whatsapp when they discovered that their platform was used to install spyware.
#3 Read privacy agreements and cookie policies
Do not recklessly accept cookies. We are all guilty of clicking on this button without reading the small print. Don’t just mindlessly click, but make sure that you read the accompanying message, as it could surprise you.
‘Do you agree to the use of your personal data by (name of business) and its partners to serve you targeted ads?’
This is just one of the messages that can be hidden in the small print. You may have been agreeing to those personalised ads without even realising. If you do not agree with the content of the pop up message, click ‘no’, choose cookies you agree with, or close the site.
#4 Clear your browser frequently
If you have clicked the ‘accept’ button as described above, the cookies can be sent to your browser and stored in the hard drive of your computer. Cookies are small files that can be used as digital identifiers.
They tend to be used in order to track your online activity, however hackers can also use them to access your information. By clearing your browsing history, these cookies and the information stored within them is erased.
To clear your history on Chrome, click ‘more’, then ‘history’ and then ‘clear browsing history’.
#5 Use strong passwords for social media
Yourname123 is not good enough, but many are still using passwords like this. You need a strong password as your first line of defence against hackers. Make sure that you include numbers, capital letters and even symbols if the website allows. You should also use varying passwords for every account, as if one account is compromised and your passwords are all the same, it could expose your other accounts to hackers. Before you know it, they could have access to sensitive information such as your address and financial information.
If you are not feeling creative, you can use a password generator to help you.
#6 Think about what you post online
Your information cannot be stolen if you don’t put it out there. Never post your address, location, holiday plans, financial information or occupation online. Think twice about sharing an image of your bicycle trails or a cycling route. Be selective.
Think before you post. The internet is forever. Whilst we cannot control data analysts collecting and selling data behind the scenes, the more reserved you are, the less likely you are to experience online privacy violations.
#7 Use private social networks
We are not helpless when it comes to protecting our identity and information online. There are steps, such as those listed above which can help us to take charge of our online social life but there are also private social networking sites.
If you worry about the lack of control you have over data scrapers and the sale of your data, you can try using a private social network to ensure your privacy.
An example of a private social network is Fourview. Fourview provides an ad-free, entirely private social media experience so that you can share your photos and thoughts safely with your friends and family.
Your content will only reach the people who are interested to see it. There are no hackers, cybercriminals, data analysts or adverts to worry about.
Nobody wants to experience an online privacy violation.
Ensure that your social media accounts are as private. Review regularly your privacy settings, be careful about what are you sharing. Always use strong passwords. If you want additional security, join Fourview today.
Don’t be one of the unlucky 64%.