Digital Privacy: Are You Too Paranoid?
There are people at all points on the range of digital paranoia. Reactions range from refusing to use computers to indifference — but how much do we really need to worry about digital privacy?
Social Norms Change, So Do Opinions On Your Digital Behavior
Davey Alba reported in Popular Mechanics, back in 2014, that social norms and digital privacy are constantly evolving. The problem that comes up is how something on the internet may seem acceptable right now, but in 10 years…the behavior could be frowned upon.
Because your information is out there, you or someone else could harm your reputation in the future.
In this regard, digital privacy is very important. Though the information about you may not change, the context of that information may change dramatically over time.
So You Think You Have Nothing To Hide?
Most people probably feel the same way. And this is exactly why you shouldn’t have to surrender your information. Within the last 15 years, a major shift has occurred from little or no tracking to major, widespread tracking of your digital behavior.
The reason for this shift is the ease and convenience of online surveillance.
Massive amounts of information about any one person on the internet seems normal, but is concerning. Imagine you are charged with a crime and have to go through a trial. The opposing party can use your public internet profiles to portray you in a skewed and negative way.
“When you say, ‘I have nothing to hide,’ you’re saying, ‘I don’t care about this right.’ You’re saying, ‘I don’t have this right, because I’ve got to the point where I have to justify it.’ The way rights work is, the government has to justify its intrusion into your rights.” -Edward Snowden
We need to create a culture that values privacy…
If we all decide that we have nothing to hide, we give up our right to protect our privacy. However, if we choose to create a culture that values privacy we maintain our rights and our abilities to protect our personal information.
How To Protect Digital Privacy
There are many ways to avoid being tracked and to avoid sharing information unwillingly.
Privacy-Based Services & Products
Silent Circle’s solutions, along with other privacy services, aren’t free. The company makes a mobile firewall Wi-Fi hotspot and VPN device, which costs $500. Those looking to protect their privacy will have to pay until the technology becomes widely available for a nominal fee, or for free.
Some Common Sense
You should take a few key steps to make you aren’t leaving yourself vulnerable.
- Use strong passwords. If your password is your last name or your birthday, change it. Those types of passwords are easy to guess for anyone who has access to your computer or for hackers trying to crack into your accounts. Password managers make it easy to use strong passwords, because you don’t have to remember all of your passwords.
- Keep your phone and computer updated. Updates help protect your information and private data. These updates contain security patches for weak spots in your system.
- Cover your webcam and phone camera. Cameras are weak spots on computers and phones. Hackers can gain access to your device and record your behavior. Just put a piece of tape over the camera when you aren’t using it, and you ensure your privacy is upheld.
- Opt-in to privacy. While it isn’t always obvious, a lot of the services you use online have privacy options. Turn off tracking whenever possible and make your social media accounts private. Don’t be surprised if you have public social accounts and something comes back to haunt you down the road.
Be Proactive, Not Paranoid About Privacy
The reality is that maintaining privacy in the digital age is very hard. Many of the products that have become ingrained in our lives track and share our information with third-parties. However, the solution does not have to be getting rid of every electronic device you own. Being paranoid will hinder advancements in technology and user-friendly products.
Luckily, as tracking and data scraping become more complex, so do the security products that protect us. There are countless ways to protect ourselves and our sensitive information that don’t involve going off the grid completely.