Protect Your Privacy

May 08, 2020 by Tom Pyke

We generally appreciate our personal privacy, but we don’t always recognize the importance of protecting it.  Let’s discuss the risks to your privacy and some steps you can take to protect against those risks, especially as we rely so much on all our smart tech devices.


The Risks


If your Social Security Number is compromised by someone you gave it to or by a cyber attack, you can be vulnerable to having your identity stolen. This means the bad guys can open up new credit accounts in your name and do other terrible things. If you share too much personal information on social media apps like Facebook, you may be open to attacks on yourself and your family.  If you post information about your vacation plans, you may set yourself up for a home burglary while you are away.


What You Can Do


The first thing to do to protect your privacy when using a smartphone or other smart tech device is to become familiar with privacy settings for each device and each app you use.  Through these settings you can select your level of privacy protection.  Settings you can control include when your location is divulged, when a device’s microphone and camera are activated, which apps can have access to the personal data on your device, and whether you want to share your personal and device usage data to support “research” or other purposes.


You also need to look for settings in each of your social media apps, such as Facebook and Twitter. You can decide how much of your personal information is shared and with whom it is shared. And, of course, you can decide how much personal data to enter into an app, such as your date and place of birth, which is the kind of information that can be used by ill-intended people to steal your identity.


Don’t Share Too Much Personal Information


If you share your location information, perhaps complete with pictures or yourself and your family, you may be endangering your family or home.  Be careful leaving messages on your email that tell everyone you are away.


Speaking of pictures, do you really want the whole world to see those beautiful pictures of your children?  Again, there are a lot of people out there with bad intentions.  What you think is being sharing only with “friends,” may wind up being shared with people who have fooled you into friending them or even with everyone if the settings somehow get changed.


Protect Your Privacy with Good Cybersecurity


Good cyber security protects your privacy, too.  Use longer, complex passwords, use different passwords for each account or device, and change your passwords reasonably often. Use two factor authentication when possible.  Make sure your software is up to date with the latest software patches, and use anti-virus/anti-malware software.


Also, protect yourself when using WiFi.  Be careful when using your smartphone or smart tablet in a coffee shop, airport, or hotel, or other public location, because public WiFis can be compromised.  Either use a Virtual Private Network or refrain from using financial or other apps that access sensitive personal information when using public WiFis. When using WiFi at home, set your home WiFi encryption to “WPA2” and change the WiFi router’s name and password rather than using the default name and password.


It’s Up to You


You can decide how much your privacy means to you.  You can decide how much risk you want to accept, given the benefits of sharing your personal information,  Consider changing privacy  settings and reducing your sharing of personal information to reduce the risk of compromising your privacy.