The internet is a vast storehouse of information on any topic. This benefit can also pose a risk to private individuals. Every piece of information you enter through credit card transactions, subscriptions to streaming services, and even social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter is made available online.
This poses major questions on data security and privacy which are critical issues that affect entire governments and individual users. Whether you are using the internet for work or leisure, it’s important to know how much of your private information is vulnerable and how worried you should be.
Your Life Online and On the Line
It’s shocking to know that websites gather private information, but this is simply how the online world works. Businesses and other organizations require private data to handle transactions, check criminal backgrounds, and provide services where such data is needed. Where does all that data come from?
Some of the information comes from government entities that manage local and national databases. Everything from birth records to credit scores is collected by agencies and stored in online servers that are meant to be secured. As governments become less dependent on physical paperwork, digitalization has made it easier for individuals to obtain Social Security Numbers, file taxes, and apply for retirement benefits at just a click of a button.
Social Media Platforms
Aside from governments, social media platforms are also collecting information about you to the benefit of advertisers. In addition to your name, birth date, and the language you are using, these platforms are also tracking your browsing behaviors. Every link you click and every video you watch translates to data that advertisers need to understand how you consume their ads.
There are also free people search services that serve as directories containing not just names and phone numbers, but also employment, educational, and residential histories. Every photo you upload online is also visible on image searches. For instance, Google can index your photo from the staff page of your employer’s website as well as your yearbook photo if your high school keeps an online alumni database.
Every time you open an online account or upload documents, every piece of information you share directly and indirectly on the web is vulnerable to the prying eyes of hackers, scammers, and the dark web market.
Securing Your Life Online
Having information about yourself available online isn’t always a bad thing. In case you are running a business, you can employ a company to do background checks on candidates before hiring them. You can also use online databases to check your reputation and correct any misleading information about your government records and debt obligations.
All this is offset by the fact that your data isn’t always secured. While personal information is protected by laws such as the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation as well as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, keeping your data safe from hackers and scammers boils down to your online habits.
By being vigilant and taking control of how much of your information is out in the open as much as possible, you can prevent criminals from taking advantage.