How to Maintain Your Online Privacy

How to Maintain Your Online Privacy

Online technology is booming.  The internet allows everyone to know everything about everybody.  Posting daily updates to hundreds of people has become the norm.  But you are different, you prefer to stay private.  Here are steps you can take to effectively maintain your online privacy.

Your information is amassed every time you go online. That’s why it’s important to understand the means behind data collection and how it occurs.  Recognizing the different aspects of data collection can actually help you maintain your online privacy; and learning about it is the first step.

Businesses can legally track your online actions and collect data because of two things: their privacy policy and/or their terms and conditions.  Most people don’t read either of the aforementioned documents, but know that it’s up to you to familiarize yourself with the practices.

Privacy Policies

Privacy policies serve as legal documents that explain what personal information a company can collect and what will happen with that data.  The information businesses collect ranges from your name, age, and location to your browsing habits and what device you use to surf the web.  Each piece of information is collected for a reason, and that is typically to create trendlines and gauge the interests of users.  In addition, collected data may also be used or sold for marketing purposes where companies can create ads that specifically target your interests.  Ultimately though, a privacy policy must adhere to federal restrictions, meaning certain information cannot be collected.

Terms and Conditions

The terms and conditions of a website are similar to privacy policies but come in the form of a contract.  This legal document incorporates both federal and company standards, rules, and provisions that a user must agree to in order to use the product or service.  Many times, these agreements include the company’s ability to track, collect, and sell your information to third-party businesses.  Therefore, by clicking “I Agree” you are allowing a company to use your personal information as outlined in their legal document.

How Your Information is Collected

Websites and apps use computer cookies to track and collect your personal data.  They present minimal risks to your computer and serve as storage files that save your online information.  With varying life spans, some types of cookies allow you to effectively navigate the web while others gather and track your personal data.  Used by companies as outlined in their privacy policies and terms and conditions, your information can end up almost anywhere.  Computer cookies do have certain advantages, but while they can be helpful, they can also be intrusive.  That is why you have settings to maintain your online privacy.

How to Keep Your Connection Private

Even though companies are allowed to collect and track online data, you are ultimately in control.  Here are a couple of options you can use to maintain your online privacy.

  • Control Computer Cookies
    • No matter what internet browser you use, you have the ability to manage computer cookies.  There are three main types of cookies, and all have separate objectives. You can choose to block or delete these cookies individually, by type, as a whole, or not at all just by managing your browser settings.  This custom option will allow you to personalize your privacy settings to fit your specific wants and needs. 
  • Use an Incognito Window
    • Switching to an incognito window (also known as private mode) is not a completely private option, but it does provide some helpful privacy settings. An incognito window will keep your browsing history blank, and once you close out of the window, will delete any cookies that were created during your browsing session.  While this prevents outside parties from collecting and tracking your data, other people can still view your online actions.  These people would include your internet service provider and the head of your computer network, such as an employer or school.  So, if you want to prevent tracking, an incognito tab will do the trick, it just won’t keep you completely anonymous.

The Future of Online Privacy

The European Union’s General Data Protection Act (GDPR) has set the stage for future privacy laws.  Effective May of 2018, the GDPR has made it mandatory for businesses to obtain consent from users before any personal data is collected.  The law is meant to give people privacy and control over what happens to their personal information.  And so far, the Europeans have enjoyed their new ability to manage their data.  This has led to renewed attention to online privacy in the U.S. The result: online privacy laws are coming to America.

In June of 2018, the California legislature passed the largest amendment to privacy law that the United States has ever seen: the California Consumer Protection Act.  This Act will be effective January 1, 2020 and will allow businesses to collect personal data under numerous stipulations.  These stipulations will help put the power back into the hands of the people.  With it, individual users can decide what happens to their personal information.

This law is expected to reach people far outside of the Golden State.  In fact, it is predicted that all of the U.S. may be impacted.  This is because a business operating across multiple states cannot easily tell the difference between one IP address and another.  Therefore, it is likely that many businesses operating in America will change their processes as a whole to accommodate the new regulations.  Consequently, this privacy law may affect you.

Changes to online privacy rules can be difficult to follow, but you should try to understand them.  Familiarizing yourself with internet privacy regulations and settings will help you have more control today.  And, by knowing what’s to come in the future, you’ll be sure to maintain your online privacy in the best possible way.

If you’d like to know more about how CRU Solutions can help keep your business safer, contact us.