Online Activities that Expose your Privacy

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The internet is used in so many aspects of our daily lives. From making bank transactions, booking travel reservation, paying utility bills, knowing the roadmap to a particular address, etc. The present generation is dependent on the internet for most of their daily tasks. The challenge that every online user faces is to enjoy the facilities the internet is providing while protecting their privacy online.  The digital world is witnessing a transition from computers to laptops to mobile phone and tablets; however the mechanism for protecting online privacy is still evolving.

The following are few online[1] activities which can reveal your personal information. Let’s see some best practices of handling these online services effectively:

  • Registering for internet services: If you use the internet, you need to register with an Internet Service Provider (for e.g.: Qtel) and pay to access the internet. Once you sign up with them, you are allotted an IP address. Though the IP address does not provide your personal information but ISP holds your personal information and may share your information with online companies and online advertisers. When you open a website, your IP address traces your geoloaction.
  • Surfing the internet: While browsing the internet you may understand you are not disclosing your personal information. However the fact is you are relaying personal information on websites, i.e. your IP address determines you and online companies trace your IP address and examine your browsing behavior. Based on your browsing activities, they assess your choice / need and try to advertise you with their products. For example, if you surf for games on the internet, they try to advertise you with new 3D games which appear as pop-up messages on the online page.

Countermeasure: You can block your IP address by using online software’s. You can use a proxy server or Virtual Private Network which will conceal your IP address online.

  • Search engines: Most of us use the search engine for browsing information online. These search engines have and use the ability to track our search activities. They can record your IP address, the search items you browse, access to social media, online shopping items you keep checking, etc. This information can be collaborated and be used to gather more information about you. Countermeasure: You need to review the search engine’s privacy policy.
  • Cookies: When we browse the internet and visit various websites, many websites store the data about your visit; this is referred to as ‘cookies’. Cookies are saved on your hard drive. Cookies are bits and pieces of information sent by a web server to a user’s browser. For example, you purchase an electronic product online, by registering on an e-commerce site by providing your name and bank details. These details will then be stored as cookies. Legitimate websites use cookies to make special offers to regular online users and to track the results of their advertising. These cookies are called first-party cookies. However, there are some cookies, called third-party cookies, which share data about us to online advertising companies which in turn communicates that data with other online marketers. These third-party cookies include "tracking cookies" which use your browsing history to deliver other ads.

Countermeasure: Delete cookies regularly on your computer, laptop and smart phones

  • Using mobile apps: Mobile apps which have become a craze these days, now days all online activities have been customized to be accessible on mobile in the form of apps. User have to install the app and then can process their services anytime and anywhere over the mobile device. An app is a program you can download and access directly using your mobile device. There are some thousands of apps available and in development process including numerous free or low-priced choices.  The concern is that, apps can collect all sorts of data and can share it to the app-maker and/or third-party advertisers. This data may then be shared or sold.

Countermeasure: Before you install an app, check the app terms of service and privacy policy to know what data does it collect, how does it store the data and where is your data going? Because by installing an app, you are allowing app services to access certain data from your phone.

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