Online privacy is an obscure, complex problem filled with conflicts between different parties with different interests. There is a substantial amount of misinformation available on the web. Also, technology allows companies to find out pretty much everything they want to know about their customers.
When asked about, many of us want our privacy protected. Warnings about giving out personal information online sounds like an obvious statement, however, many among us still ignore these warnings.
Sometimes we don’t even realize how much personal information is stored somewhere online. Many also don’t realize that this information is available to hackers if they hack into a database, steal information and use it for fraudulent activities or personal gain.
Think about it
On how many websites did you leave your credit card details? Your home address? Phone number? Etc.
Don’t upload images or write certain things on platforms or social media channels you don’t want your boss, partner or parents to see. For example, placing a comment on a forum about mental health issues seems to be relatively “private”, yet many people register and reply with their real names and are therefore easily searchable on Google.
Advertising firms want to gather as much personal data as possible and track people across the web. The goal of such data is to accurately promote offers to people who have already shown interest in a certain product or service.
User data is extremely valuable for these companies and significant sums of money are paid to parties who sell this data. That makes it even more lucrative for hackers to steal data and sell it to the highest bidder.
There are multiple examples of incredibly large data breaches that took place of which Yahoo is probably the most-known breach. Millions of personal details, email addresses, and more were compromised. And Yahoo didn’t even tell their users when it actually happened but was made known years later!
In addition, more often we see websites showing pop-ups asking every visitor to accept their policies and cookies. In some extreme cases, you won’t be able to see the site’s content without accepting. Which might be ridiculous as it basically means: “You can only visit our website if you allow us to track you for X amount of days”.
In the future, many experts think that online tracking and storing personal data will become an even bigger risk as technology advances and it becomes easier and cheaper to track and store data.
This information isn’t only available for large corporations with a lot of money or governments, but also small- and medium-sized companies that are able to collect personal information and use that to their advantage.
However, with an ever-increasing risk of being exposed online, falling victim to identity theft or credit card fraud, there are companies who are doing something against it and aim to protect you.
Typically, these companies focus on a particular area of online privacy and to your data safe and anonymous.
ExpressVPN, PureVPN, NordVPN, and IPVanish are examples of businesses offering VPNs that provide a way to shield yourself from Internet Providers. A notable mention is NordVPN and ExpressVPN because the business operates under the jurisdiction of Panama, which does not oblige them to store any user data. The latter in particular proved their no data retention claim after Turkish authorities were unable to identify ExpressVPN users in an assassination investigation. Important to note is: many VPN providers store user data including PureVPN and IPVanish, both of which have provided user data to the American government. Important to note is: many VPN providers store user data. Ideally, you want to find a VPN that does not do that.
These companies focus solely on improving their VPN tool in order to keep the data safe and what makes tracking cookies impossible.
Next, there are companies such as SUPERAntiSpyware and Malwarebytes fighting against the threat of malware, old and new. When it comes to privacy protection, these tools do a great job at identifying spyware on your device. Once installed, the tools offer a outstanding protection against future threats as well.
Spyware is usually hard to detect and a lot of people who own an infected device are not even aware of the fact that all their data and online behavior is reported to a hacker or organization behind the spyware.
Lastly, in order to protect your online privacy, you could use privacy browsers such as Tor and Dooble, or privacy search engines like DuckDuckGo or OscoboUKSearch.
At the end of the day….
Privacy is not only a technical issue but also a behavioral problem. Simply put, people put up everything about their lives on the internet and social media. And there is absolutely no technology that can protect you from your own actions. Regardless how advanced the technologies of privacy protection companies are, online privacy protection starts with yourself.
The rising threat of government-funded spying agencies, large corporations and hacker organizations to get a hold of sensitive user data is real.
People have to be more aware of the fact that once their data is online, it’s stored somewhere and available to others. Thus, it may end up in the wrong hands.