So, how was your online experience today? After grabbing that extra strong cup of coffee, you logged on, went to some of your favorite websites to check for sales you couldn’t pass up, hit a few others for work, check your emails, and did a few other things we all do online each day.
All pretty innocent, right? Well, it’s “pretty innocent” that is until you realize that every website you visited, everything you did online, and each item you looked at or purchased online was collected, stored, and ultimately sold to companies that sell your personal data.
If you’re shocked by this, you’re not alone. Many people don’t realize that there are online companies that gather information about you and then sell it to others. In fact “online data brokers take your data and sell it to ad agencies, marketers, political consulting firms and others who want to know all about your likes, habits and search activity.
There’s no mystery why they’re doing this. It’s all about the money. Companies who purchase this data either want to make you buy some goods or products, or sway your opinion on something, whether it’s a state proposition, a national political candidate or a controversial governmental issue.
The more they know about you and your habits, the more they can convince you to do what they want you to do. And guess what? As angry as this might make you – it’s all perfectly legal.
Before you get transfixed on your online activity, here’s something you need to know: no matter how hard you try, you won’t be able to make those companies stay away from collecting data about you. You can do some things to reduce the amount that’s collected, and that’s a good start.
The other thing to know is that it’s not only your online activity that’s being monitored – you really should know who is contacting you via email or text. It may be a phishing expedition, but it could also be a way for someone to hack into your data to learn a lot more about you than you would want to share.
If you receive communication via email or text from someone you don’t know, make sure you know who they really are before you hit “reply.” With the help of Nuwber, you will be able to reveal a person’s true ID and even precise location in some cases, along with background information about that person just by entering their email address or phone number.
If they’re not who they claim they are, hit “delete.” While you’re at it, it wouldn’t hurt to Google your own name and business to see what the cyber world has to say about you. If you find information that’s false, work to correct it.
All that online shopping you did this morning – are your online accounts secure? They are if you use strong passwords, and according to experts, that means a password that’s at least 10-12 characters long, with a healthy mix of numbers, capital letters, lowercase letters and symbols.
Plus, you’ll need a unique one for each account. To accomplish that would require you to make password management your new full-time job. Better yet, get a password manager to handle it for you. There are many available, and according to PC Magazine, some of the top ones include Bitwarden, LogMeOnce, and Password Boss.
To be clear, these are electronic cookies that various websites place on your computer as you click about the Internet. That’s how data collection companies are able to track you, in case you weren’t aware of them. One workaround is to disable your browser’s settings to not allow cookies, but that may prevent you from entering that site. There are ways to easily enable and disable cookies, so check online for how to set them on your particular browser.
Targeted ads are annoying, and ad trackers help provide information about you to data collection agencies. You want to stop that tracking, so you don’t see ads about something you looked up every time you log on to the Internet.
Install a tracker blocker to prevent websites from loading the code that tracks your activity. One of the top ones is Disconnect.me. Other things you can do is clear your cookies on a weekly basis so they’re not stored on your computer or device, and also install an adblocker, like UBlock Origin.
Google is the biggest data violator because it tracks your every move, so one way to avoid your data from being collected is to use a search engine that won’t track you. Several good ones include Gibiru, Hulbee, and if you have kids around, try Yippy, which also automatically blocks adult content from showing up on your screen.
The bottom line – do what you need to do to stay protected and safe from having your data collected and sold. You can’t stop everything – but you can work to help to minimize it!