10 tips for maintaining privacy on the internet

The internet is a very democratic means of communication: anyone can create their space on blogs, social networks, services like YouTube to manifest themselves. But this wealth of possibilities requires care. Some of them concern your intimacy. To help you with this, we present below some simple but important tips for your online privacy.

First, what is privacy?

Defining privacy is far from a trivial task, given the many possible interpretations. However, in the context of the theme aborted in this text, we can understand privacy as a person’s control over the availability of information about himself, in order to prevent personal data from revealing very particular details about his daily life, to the point even to expose it unduly or harm it in any way.

Why should I care about my privacy on the internet?

What would you do if someone stopped you on the street and wanted to know where you live, who your friends are, what are your favorite places, how much do you earn, what assets do you have? It is very private information and, as this person’s intentions are not clear, you will certainly try to get rid of them.

That’s right, it is really necessary to act like this, after all, for people or institutions with suspicious intentions to succeed in their actions, they need to obtain as much detail as possible about their “targets”. The problem is that in the streets we take the necessary precautions, but, not infrequently, we deliver this information “hand kissed” on the internet, without paying attention to the risks.

As if that were not enough, there is a disturbing aggravating factor: what you reveal about the internet can be accessed by a very large number of people or organizations, regardless of geographical barriers. So, you really need to take care of your online privacy. So, let’s go to the tips!

Mind what you post on social media

There is no problem with maintaining a personal blog or pages on social networks (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.). But you must do it with common sense, avoiding providing information that reveals sensitive details of your life. In this sense:

A) Be careful when informing the places you frequent

Today, it is very easy to make it clear where you go through photos or check-ins on Facebook or Foursquare, for example. If you make a point of using these tools, try to inform only public places that are very frequented, such as shopping malls and parks. Avoid checking in at more reserved places, such as private farms, condominiums or houses rented for a few days.

When possible, restrict access to location information to your friends only. Also, consider checking in or posting photos when you leave, rather than on arrival.

Finally, when traveling, do not disclose the details of your itinerary, in order to prevent third parties from knowing exactly where you will be or how far away from home.

B) Do not make your financial situation clear

Beware of ostentation on social networks. It is not a good idea to disclose the assets you or your family have, as well as any other information that makes your financial situation clear. Criminals also access the internet, so you can end up being the victim of muggings or even kidnappings.

internet privacy and crime

C) Have discretion with your photos or videos

The photos or videos you post on social media can also reveal a lot about you. So avoid:

»Post photos that show the entrance to your home or display any feature that allows you to identify it, an orientation especially useful in small towns;

»Likewise, avoid posting photos that allow you to accurately identify the address where you study or work;

»Show pictures of cars that belong to you or your family (remember tip B). If unavoidable, avoid showing the license plate;

»Publish photos of relatives or friends without their permission. It is not recommended to publish images of young children, but, if you decide to do so, at least avoid recording situations that facilitate their location, such as pictures with a uniform that makes it clear in which school the child is studying;

»Disclose photos that are excessively sensual or that may cause embarrassment in everyday situations.

D) Use the social network privacy settings

Depending on the social network, you are able to determine what information your contacts can access through privacy settings. So take the time to understand how these resources work to limit the most important information about you to those close to you.

Use the following links for the privacy settings for each social platform:

Avoid responding to provocations, intimidation or threats

If you receive provocations, intimidation, threats or anything like that in comments on blogs, emails, social networks, WhatsApp and the like, avoid responding. You may end up falling into unnecessary discussions, damaging your image because of the words used, or even leaking private information because of the tension of the moment.

In that sense, don’t do anything “hot-headed”. If you can’t ignore the issue, take some time to calm down and deal with the issue more rationally.

If you feel seriously threatened, humiliated or harmed in any way, it is strongly recommended to keep a copy of everything and seek help from the legal authorities.

Change your passwords periodically, especially for emails and social networks

Although it is not an easy task, your password can be discovered in several ways: through keyloggers (small software that capture everything that is informed by the keyboard), security breaches in online service, attacks on servers and so on.

Believe me, situations like these are not uncommon. If someone is interested in learning about your habits and getting your email password, for example, you can watch everything you receive and send without saying anything. Therefore, it is recommended to change your passwords regularly, at least every three months, as the new combination will cut off the access of a possible attacker.

Also avoid using the same password for everything. If you register on an unknown website, the person responsible for that page will be able to use the email and password that you entered in the registration to try to access your mailbox. However, if you enter a different password when registering, it will not be successful.

Another recommendation is to enable two-step authentication for the service. Google, Facebook, Twitter and several other companies already offer this protection.

Don’t send your resume indiscriminately

When looking for a job, it is common for people to send resumes to various companies. However, care should be taken with this practice, as this document says a lot about you.

When sending resumes, do a search on the internet to check if the desired company is suitable. If the company offers a resume registration service on its website, read the privacy statement to find out how your information will be treated.

If you have a personal page, it is also not a good idea to make your resume available in detail. Prefer to report your professional experiences or academic achievements. Please pass on more information only when a company of interest to you contacts you.

Also, be very careful with job placement sites or social media pages geared towards that end, especially if you have never heard of them. Often, these supposed services apply the false job scam.

Watch out for sites that ask for a lot of information

It is common – even on renowned sites – for users to try to register and find a huge form. If the company does not make it clear why it asks for so much data (and usually does not), avoid registration or, if possible, fill in as few fields as possible.

It is necessary to be even more careful if the site requires financial information, such as a credit card number, without the intention of purchasing paid products or services.

If you are not careful with these entries, it will not be long before you receive offers for magazine subscriptions, credit card and others in your email or even phone. In addition, there is also a risk that your information will be passed on to SPAM services.

Don’t believe everything that comes to you over the internet

The internet is full of rumors (hoaxes) and fake news, so you should not share or click on everything that reaches your email, social network or WhatsApp, even when the sender is a known person .

Such content may contain links to malware or fake websites, which pass for a new service or an online petition, for example, but only capture data. In addition, in the case of false news, simply sharing it can cause embarrassment or inconvenience to you.

Double your attention when online shopping

Buying over the internet is a great convenience, but it also requires care, after all, it is a process that involves not only personal data but also your money.

Give preference to renowned online stores. If you find a product that interests you on an unknown website, before registering and making a purchase, search for opinions about the store on search engines or specialized services, such as Reclame Aqui.

It is also important to verify that the online store offers an online privacy statement and that a lock symbol is displayed in the browser. If not, it is recommended not to complete the purchase, as the padlock indicates that the site is encrypting the sending of your information, adding an important layer of security to the process.

Another important guideline: be suspicious of very advantageous prices, sites that do not offer telephone assistance, products with misspellings in their description, lack of information on delivery times and so on. See more online shopping guidelines here.

Be careful adding new friends

For someone with malicious intent, simply knowing that you are online can be important information. So, avoid adding people you don’t know to instant messaging services (like WhatsApp and Telegram) or social networks.

When adding someone you know, but have little intimacy, it is recommended to check if the service has settings that allow you to define which contacts can access certain information in your account, such as photo albums.

Be extra careful when using public computers

You should avoid using services that require login on public computers as much as possible (from school, college, library, airport, hotel, etc.), but, if it is unavoidable, pay attention to the following:

»Avoid leaving files with your information on the machine, for example, an academic paper that has your data. In the case of very important documents, it is recommended to use passwords whenever possible. This guidance is even useful to keep the information confidential if you lose the external hard drive or the USB stick that stores the file;

»Make sure that the web browser is not programmed to save passwords automatically. If the browser (or the website) asks you if you want it to keep your password, click No or equivalent;

»After accessing e-mail services, social networks or any page you are logged in to, use the link / button named Close, Logoff, Logout, Exit or any other that serves to end your use. It is not recommended to simply close the internet browser, as it can keep your login information for some time, even when in disuse.

»Currently, the main internet browsers offer a private browsing mode (InPrivate in Internet Explorer, Incognito Window in Google Chrome and so on). It is a good idea to make use of this option, as the feature does not leave “traces” of your navigation, being especially useful on public computers.

Avoid public Wi-Fi networks

Wi-Fi networks are everywhere: restaurants, shopping malls, road buses, hospitals, stores and so on. But the less you use these networks, the better. This is because it is perfectly possible to track or collect navigation data through them.

In addition, some public Wi-Fi networks require registration or check-in on Facebook. The data from these actions can be used for obscure purposes.

So whenever possible, give preference to a 3G or 4G data plan for your cell phone.

Use a vpn

Using a vpn or a privacy focused browser like tor can be of great value to hide your location and encrypt comunications.

Read also: Tor vs VPN

The bottom line

Not that it is necessary to be “paranoid” with the security and confidentiality of your information on the internet, but there is little care, so stay informed and don’t limit yourself to the tips given here.

It is important not only to take precautions, but also to guide friends and relatives about the risks that exist on the internet, especially when you notice that someone close to you is overexposing yourself.

Such care may seem tedious or irrelevant, but they are simple and easily assimilated procedures in everyday life. Believe me: if put into practice, these guidelines will certainly help you avoid privacy-related inconveniences.

Author: Joy Stephens