For years now, Internet privacy is a huge issue. Very few of us opted not to use the Internet and stay in complete anonymity, while the rest of the world chooses to think less about how much of our personal information is out there. How much is too much, and how vulnerable we actually are due to excessive sharing of information?
Google, tech giant, the biggest and most used search engine collects a lot of information about its users. From basic information like name and birthday to complete history of our searches, clicks, locations, and devices we use to login. The main reason for such features is to create personalized user experience, but at the same time it is quite handy for the company to increase revenue by displaying ads in accordance to person’s interests. It is like a complete insight in potential customer’s brain – their likes, dislikes, desires etc. There’s no doubt that this is the dream tool of every salesman in the world. Of course, no one is forced to make a purchase, but knowing that this is the way things work, it makes some of us feel used. It is a matter of trust.
“Google knows quite a lot about all of us. No one ever lies to a search engine. I used to say that Google knows more about me than my wife does, but that doesn’t go far enough. Google knows me even better because Google has perfect memory in a way that people don’t.”
—Bruce Schneier, cybersecurity expert
A couple of decades ago when the Internet was created, the decrease of our privacy started. Today we face numerous concerns and there are many ways our private information can be jeopardized.
Millions of people were victims of identity theft which led to financial loss and even legal problems. Almost every website that asks for registration wants our name and birthdate, which is more than enough for experienced hackers to breach our privacy and create damage. Even secured banking applications suffered breaches. Therefore, should be careful when and where we leave data.
The smartphones era brought even bigger privacy issues. Smartphones are based on apps and almost every app out there wants access to your entire phone – contacts, texts, emails, notifications, storage etc. Many people don’t think about it or consider such information sharing dangerous but as technology continues to advance and becomes inevitable in everyday life, we are becoming less independent and more prone to be either victimized in some way or simply used as a plain consumer to buy stuff.
Facebook recently announced they are now able to trace even non-users. With the help of “Like” buttons, which are now on every website. They will display ads to people that are not part of this global social network. Using cookies stored in like buttons and other plugins, they can display relevant ads for non-users as well.
There’s no way to be completely out of it, but there are several things we can do to avoid complete transparency.
- Use ‘turn off’ options whenever possible, like in Google’s activity tracker.
- You can also block ads on your browser and take extra time to actually read privacy policies.
- Next time you wish to install a new application, check what types of permissions it asks, and if you are not ok with it, you can decide not to use it.
- Use more sophisticated methods for protecting your online identity and communications, like end-to-end encryption.