On The Hill: Radar Hill Blog

How To Keep Your Data Safe Online

Est. reading time 3 minutes

Have you ever received a Facebook or Amazon ad targeting a seemingly unrelated thing you’d been searching for earlier? It’s an alarming experience, but it’s also a glimpse into just how widespread data tracking, and selling, has become - with companies amassing vast swathes of information and analytics from a single user’s history. 

Fortunately, you have more control over the spread of this than you may realize, as often this level of data collection relies on passive consent, where users agree to something without even realizing it’s happening.

There are in fact, a number of actions you can take to make sure your data is kept private and protected, actions we’re going to cover in this blog.

Opting Out 

While many of us remain vigilant when it comes to giving out our email address or personal details, we don’t truly understand the level of detail we’re handing over simply by visiting a website.

When you visit a website your browser will often disclose a wide range of information about your browsing history, information that can then be sold on or used for targeted advertising.

Opting out of this process is often opaque and labyrinthine, and time-consuming.

There are however a variety of tools that can be used to counter this sort of tracking, including

  • Simple Opt Out
    A database of up to date opt-out advice for a variety of popular websites
  • uBlock
    A wide-spectrum blocker for Chrome and Firefox 
  • Privacy Badger
    A browser add-on designed to prevent advertisers and other third-party trackers from collecting data about which sites you visit and which pages you look at 
  • HTTPS Everywhere
    An encryption extension for Chrome, Firefox, and Opera 

Be Careful Where You Store Private Information 

As cloud storage and other online-based services such as Google Docs become more and more popular, it’s important to remain vigilant when it comes to what information you’re keeping on these services.

Avoid storing sensitive information, such as passport scans, passwords, bank details etc. on services that can be used for the purposes of sharing or distributing information.

Use A Secure Password 

Most people would be surprised just how easy it is to unravel a weak password - in fact as a general rule of thumb if the password is easy enough for you to memorize then it isn’t secure.

A good password should be randomized and over 12 characters long, and the best way to achieve this is through a password management software such as LastPass.

Additionally, if you plan on taking your laptop or mobile device anywhere, we’d advise to password protecting these devices. This password doesn’t have to be as secure, just a simple numeric pin will suffice. 

Review Your App Permissions

If you’ve used a mobile app or installed a browser extension you will no doubt have been prompted to allow it a wide range of access to things such as: 

  • Contacts
  • Device Storage 
  • Camera
  • Locations 

Often these permissions will be necessary for the app or extension for function, but these permissions can also represent a significant incursion on your privacy, as well as a means for gathering data for marketing purposes.

If you’re worried about privacy, only grant these permissions where absolutely necessary, and review them regularly. Does your Spider Solitaire really need access to your camera?

Stay Smart 

The next frontier of data privacy (and one that in many ways has already arrived), will concern smart technology.

Smart devices offer undeniable advantages when it comes to versatility and convenience, but they also further blur the line between the private and public when it comes to data, collecting information about your dietary habits, viewing choices, even recording conversations.

It’s important to be aware of what permissions you’re granting smart devices and exactly what data they’re collecting, and be wary of devices that need to be recording at all times such as the Amazon Echo and Google Home. 

Your online experience - both as a consumer and a business operator - has never been more important. It's nearly impossible to not be online nowadays, which brings its challenges of safety and privacy. It is possible to protect yourself however as long as you stay vigilant and take an active role in protecting your online footprint.

For more helpful tips and information on the subject, check out the rest of our blog posts. Or, to find out more about the variety of ways Radar Hill can help you, get in touch with us today.