More people should be aware of digital security

By Maxwell Cerra
Correspondent

Major websites like Facebook, Google and Amazon have been under scrutiny recently for a multitude of reasons, such as privacy and antitrust concerns, among other reasons, according to a recent New York Times article. 

Sharing too much information online can threaten a person’s safety (Instagram).

Privacy, in particular, is something the average person should give more scrutiny. It is understandable to an extent if people are willing to sacrifice some privacy for certain offered benefits (less so if you are a journalist), but just how much information about you these companies can get should concern everyone.

A 2012 New York Times article discussed how Target can predict consumer behavior based on what individuals have bought from them in the past. This, for example, led to a father finding out through Target that his daughter, who was still in high school, was pregnant. This was due to calculated ad technology, that was able to track purchases and personalize coupons for the shopper. 

While I doubt that this instance will be relevant to most readers, the fact that a company like Target can figure this out should be deeply worrying. If Target can find this out, then what else can they find out about you? What will Target and similar companies do with this information?

It is well known that companies like Facebook and Google have been in the public spotlight related to major scandals regarding user data, but protecting one’s privacy, to an extent, is not that particularly difficult.

If you are like me and want to minimize how much information these companies can find out about you, then that requires familiarizing oneself with how information about you can be leaked and how to protect it, which many readers may not understand the importance of. 

However, going that far is not even that necessary for most people. Switching from Google Chrome to another browser, such as Firefox or Vivaldi, is easy. Switching search engines from Google to DuckDuckGo or StartPage can usually be done in the Settings menu. The same is true for preventing your browsing history from being logged and/or destroying it after you close the internet browser.  There are also a lot of alternatives to popular applications like Gmail, Microsoft Office, Skype, WhatsApp and Instagram that you can find online and are not particularly difficult to use (the latter two apps are owned by Facebook).

If anybody has paid attention to the news cycle, it should be very clear that any data you generate is worth a lot of money to advertisers and Big Tech, and you are not guaranteed to receive the truth about what exactly the companies will do with it or how they will collect it. Practicing privacy online should be a habit you should pick up, even if only to a small extent.

1 Comment on More people should be aware of digital security

  1. Nice to see an article like this that points out why we should all protect our privacy, Maxwell!

    Also good to see practical solutions presented. A few simple changes can make a big difference — without much sacrifice.

    I love that you mention Startpage.com because it delivers mainly Google search results in privacy. DuckDuckGo offers mainly Yahoo /Bing search results in privacy. We are lucky to have easy privacy alternatives like this.

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