If there's anything society has learned in the past few years, it’s that large companies can’t be trusted with personal information. There has been breach after breach, and yet still they continue to occur.
Not only that, but many people report the junk email coming into their inbox is only increasing, meaning most email addresses are for sale on the dark web—whether you know it or not.
So, what can you do? Read on to discover some quick methods for improving your data privacy.
Why is Data Privacy Important?
Before we begin, you may be wondering why any of this matters. The problem is, society has become increasingly untrustworthy over the past several decades, and it’s hard to know when someone is out there looking to steal your private information. One of the main proponents of this is the internet, which has allowed criminals to victimize people based on their information alone.
While it may not matter to you that your email is for sale on the dark web, know that in the wrong hands, a criminal could get a hold of your information, use your bank accounts, and even steal your identity and use it for nefarious purposes.
Whether or not you are a good person makes no difference where cyber criminals are concerned—as they may never come in contact with you. Rather, they will just find your information and use it for their purposes, without feeling the same guilt as they would robbing you in person.
So, if you don’t want to become a victim of identity theft or cybercrime, read on to learn how you can keep your personal data private.
Related: Goodbye Cookies
8 Ways to Improve Personal Data Privacy
1. Use a Private Browser
Browsers are the main source of data theft, especially if you use a website like Google, which collects massive amounts of data through cookies. Even though cookies are going away, there are still many ways for browsers to track and store your information.
The best browsers are those that are open source, such as Brave or DuckDuckGo, but even Firefox can be more private than the pesky Google Chrome.
2. Add Privacy Extensions to Your Browser
If you don’t want to stop using Google Chrome, at least download some privacy add-ons to help protect your data. The most popular are uBlock Origin and Privacy Badger, both of which stop advertisers from tracking your internet activity.
3. Use an Encrypted Messaging App
Believe it or not, many messaging apps on your phone track metadata, storing this information for a rainy day. The main perpetrator is WhatsApp, which is owned by Meta, and it stores information such as location, who you call, and when.
Therefore, if you don’t want that information being sold to other companies or the government, you’ll want to look into a private messaging app like Signal. The good news for Apple users is that iMessage is encrypted and programmed not to track metadata.
4. Always Say No to Cookies
All websites have to offer you an option to opt out of their cookies. Always click no. Most people overlook this because they are in a hurry to get along with their purchase, but little do they know that any company they allow to access this data can turn around and sell it to another company.
5. Never Agree to Promotional Emailing
As you are checking out at an online shop, you will likely be asked if you want to create an account and receive emails from the company. Always opt out of these and check out as a guest whenever possible.
The problem with making an account on these websites is that often, your address and credit card information are stored on the site or on the site servers. This is the same as trusting the company to store your information. In recent years, many retailers have been hacked for customer data stored on these servers; the main example is Target, and this has put the identities of millions of people at risk.
Additionally, when you agree to receive promotional emails, while you may get the occasional deal, your email address is placed on a mailing list that can be sold by the retailer to another company further down the line.
6. Use a Special Email for Web Shopping
Of course, when you shop online, there is no way not to provide an email address. Therefore, we recommend having an email address just for online checkouts.
This way, if that email address is compromised or sold on the black market, you don’t have to worry about the individual getting your banking information, and you can delete it if the spam rate becomes too frequent.
7. Delete Old Accounts
Chances are, you are reading through this list and thinking it is too late for you to do some of these things—that is never the case! As the next thing we recommend is deleting accounts on websites that you no longer use.
Not only does this mean you can lower your risk of data theft in the future, but it also means that you can go back and change the emails of accounts you do want to save while you are deleting others. While this won’t be an entirely fresh start, it can help you regain control of your data.
If you’ve recently had data stolen, we recommend changing all of your online accounts to a new email address.
8. Don’t Download Every App
While apps are necessary for some companies, if you are able to use the company website on your mobile device, choose to do that instead. Downloading an app on your phone gives the app company perpetual access to your data, which can be hard to reign in if you change your mind.
Related: XMR Monero 101
Overall, it can be scary to think of all the companies which have access to your data. Hopefully, you take these 8 tips to heart and do your best to improve your personal data security. For more information on data privacy, be sure to check out our article The Best Ways to Increase Privacy Online.