What online tools, tips and tricks are out there to help us shield our own activities online?
Our social networks have become part of all walks of our life. LinkedIn was once your 'go-to' site for connecting with colleagues, but now the paths of our digital personas cross over, making Instagram and Facebook as important as WhatsApp, Snapchat and Twitter. If you're not using these networks as part of your professional life, they are most certainly being used to great effect in your daily life, either by marketers influencing your behaviour or just as a day-to-day communication network.
However, the more these networks are used and become part of our lives, the less secure our personal information is becoming. A great amount of us think our social networks are safe, secure - we tick the box and we confirm the email, but all is not as it seems. A recent study by Pew shows that:
- 21% of internet users have had an email or social networking account compromised or taken over by someone else without permission.
- 12% have been stalked or harassed online.
It's no surprise that as a result of this, people have started to realise how insecure our data is online. 86% of internet users have taken steps online to mask or completely get rid of their digital footprints; activities ranging from clearing cookies to fully encrypting email and messaging services.
So what steps can one take to shield our own activities on the internet? How can you be sure? Here's a top five for you:
1. Install a privacy extension onto your browser. Internet search browsers will have them built into the mainframe, but this is a surefire way to make sure you - and only you - know passwords and integral personal information. Disconnect, Do Not Track Me and HTTPS Everywhere are three notable extension systems; many of which will inform you when cookies (small browsing-trackers) are active on your computer.
2. Sort your social out. Keep what you're doing online completely private by ridding yourself of any people you don't really know on your social networks. Say goodbye to that friend from sixth-form who continuously posts pictures of cats. Unfollow those pesky bots who do nothing for you. And once you've done these things, increase your privacy levels or lock your account so everything you say is said to those who you want to see it; remember, once you've said it, it's there forever.
3. Search yourself. Not in the philosophical way - unless you want to - but by this, I mean search Google (both web- and image-search, don't forget) so you find out what everyone else knows or says about you. You may be surprised with what you find. This is particularly important for potential employees and employers; a Facebook photo of you from six years ago on your first university night out could be all the difference between you getting the job and them running a mile.
4. Store loyalty is a fad. Think twice before you sign up; it's just a way for stores and companies to gain access to your information and data, and you'll not have to jump out of your skin when they text you - having only provided them with your email address.
5. Check out The Onion Router (TOR). Though it's had a bit of a bad rep online - The Silk Road, to mention just one dark alley - TOR was specifically built to be a secure network for anonymity over security. However, the endless other computers and networks your search request will ping through mean that your footsteps aren't traceable. There are no search histories for people to track, and so companies and individuals cannot see where you've been, what you're looking at, or who you're interacting with.
So there we have it. Some tips and tricks for you on ways to integrate integrity across your personal online profile. Simple but effective moves to keep yourself to yourself, and your personal information where it is intended to be. Following these steps, you'll be able to keep yourself to yourself across the vast expanse of the world wide web.