Better Online Privacy
Is privacy possible in the online world?
After the recent Cambridge Analytica data scandal, “online privacy” can seem like an impossible dream.
But there are ways to protect your privacy and limit the information you unwittingly share.
Jump to my tips here, or read on to get to grips with what privacy really means in a digital age.
How Facebook users were trumped
We all know platforms like Google and Facebook collect data (hello, targeted pop-up ads), but many have been shocked to learn how seemingly innocuous information can be used to manipulate – not just our buying power – but our opinions and actions.
Facebook confirmed that political consulting company Cambridge Analytica gathered data from up to 87 million users.
They did so by inviting users to download a free personality test – online privacy red flag, right there folks!
While the participants were, strictly speaking, willing, they were also ill-informed. The real kicker, is that the app also harvested data from the test-takers Facebook friends without their consent.
What’s worse, Facebook says it doesn’t know how much, or exactly what, information was shared.
Cambridge Analytica collected the information to develop a software program used in President Trump’s 2016 election campaign. The program allegedly predicted voting patterns and, through micro-targeted ads, influenced voting decisions.
Similar claims have been made around the Brexit vote and recent controversial elections in the Philippines.
THAT COULDN’T HAPPEN TO ME
The unsettling thing about these kinds of social media campaigns is that they’re much, much more subtle than a pop-up ad that follows you round. Rather, they’re a hidden nudge here and there that, over time, direct your attention, shape your opinions and determine your actions.
How can they target you so specifically?
Well, in a previous blog post I talked about how, by analysing 300 of your Facebook likes, an Artificial Intelligence enhanced algorithm can evaluate your character better than your partner.
But, of course, Facebook stores more than your likes. The social media platform has:
- every status update you’ve ever made
- every photograph you’ve posted or been tagged in
- every location you’ve logged on
- every messenger conversation you’ve had, and
- every message you’ve started to type and then deleted…yep, they keep and analyse those words too.
It’s important to remember that Facebook sold data well before it started selling advertising. We shouldn’t be too shocked as they’ve never hidden that fact…but they don’t exactly boast about it either.
It’s also important to remember that all social media platforms and internet browers tout themselves as free platforms. But there is a product for sale – it’s you and your information. As the saying goes “If the product is free, YOU are the product”.
DOES MY ONLINE PRIVACY REALLY MATTER?
As the Cambridge Analytica scandal shows, it isn’t so much that your data is being collected, it’s the technology and architecture that allows two or more data sets to be combined to yield a whole other layer of information.
And, as recent events have illustrated, what researchers are proving and social commentators are saying, is the information we willingly surrender through our Facebook pages and our browsing history could potentially allow corporations and influencers to manipulate us individually.
We live in a world where mass media is being usurped by personal devices on which you get a personally curated version of news and current events. You’ve got no real way to recognise if your feed is leading you, or you’re leading it.
TIPS TO IMPROVE YOUR ONLINE PRIVACY
While it can feel like we’re on an uncontrollable slippery slope, there are simple ways to improve your online privacy and avoid giving too much away.
Think before you click. Sounds obvious, but question why, or even if, a business or other agency need the information they’re asking for.
Another obvious step is to get to know the settings on Facebook and edit them to within an inch of their lives. You may think you’ve already done this but look again. You might be surprised at what you find.
- Privacy – who can see your posts and who can send you friend requests?
- Tagging – who can tag you in a post and can you be tagged without your permission?
- Face recognition – I’ve turned it off and you can too.
- Apps – see which apps, games or websites have access to your Facebook information.
In terms of Apps, you can go through each one and limit the access or turn it off altogether. I was stunned at how much information some of these apps had access to. I have my birthdate hidden, but many apps still had access to that information.
Of course, Facebook isn’t the only nosy kid on the block. Look at all your social media accounts and your Google settings too.
Google have a tool you can use to check all your privacy settings – just search “privacy check-up”.
MORE WAYS TO KEEP THE ONLINE HOUNDS AT BAY
- Never ever click on social media questionnaires or surveys – they may sound like fun but, as 87 million Facebook users found out, they just want your data.
- Don’t hand over your date of birth unless it’s relevant and you trust the business – when in doubt, make one up.
- Don’t give your phone number or address unless you are getting something delivered.
- Don’t hand over your credit card details to a site that doesn’t have an SSL certificate. It looks like this
- Paypal is a secure option for making online payments and has a great refund policy.
- Don’t login to websites or online shops using social media – create an account the old-fashioned way.
- Use a secure password saving site like LastPass.com however, don’t put your banking details in any password saving tool. Memorise these – think of it as exercising your brain.
- Clear your cache every now and then.
PROTECT YOUR PERSONAL OR BUSINESS INFORMATION
There’s a lot to online privacy, more than I could begin to cover in this blog post. And, like everything in the digital world, change happens fast.
The team at Online Influence keeps up to date with the latest advice around online privacy. We’re happy to talk to you about what you can do to make your information and your business more secure.
Contact us to find out how we can help your business today.