We are constantly on our devices engaging on various websites and social media platforms. Some users get into the routine of giving information and sharing their lives with the world without giving a second thought. We like to believe and trust that our information and personal data is confidential. It is only shared with who we chose, or at least that’s what we’d like to believe. Without our knowledge, our information is collected and sold to companies. Who exactly has access to our information? Why are they selling it? What are ways to secure our data?
First, let’s start off by discussing what data brokers are. “Data brokers" or “information brokers" collect information on people and sell the information to companies or organizations for various reasons including marketing and advertising research. This is scary and frustrating as it is done all the time without the users knowledge. The user does not know what information is collected on them and where exactly that information is going to.
Billions of people are using sites like Google and Facebook. However, these sites are not always transparent with the user about what is stored about them and what isn’t. Recently, these sites gave users the option to see what is collected on them- and the results are shocking. Google knows one’s location, search history, apps used, and more. Facebook has collected messages, files, locations, photos, etc. If you are curious about your Facebook information, download it by logging onto your account, going to settings, then under “Your Facebook Information" click download your information.
Now that we have covered the who, what, and why, let’s discuss the steps to take in the future to protect oneself and feel more safe online. Some basic security tactics to keep your information protected is by first using different passwords for your accounts and implementing two factor authentication. This helps make your accounts less vulnerable to hacking. Prevent tracking by disabling your location services. Another way to prevent tracking of your information is by blocking third party cookies in the privacy settings of your browser under cookies. Also, try anonymously surfing online by using a virtual private network. Some highly recommended VPNs to use are NordVPN and Hotspot Shield .
It feels like today some things are almost impossible without the internet and technology. It holds the power to do so much and assists us in daily tasks. At times it feels like second nature to rely on Google, social media, and other sites; however, we must be conscious and educated about where our personal data goes. We must protect ourselves by taking these small but meaningful steps into securing our privacy.