Beginner’s Guide to Online Privacy: Why You Need It

Internet privacy or online privacy refers to browsing, personal, and financial data that should remain private while you’re online. However, with the rise of various internet services and e-commerce, there’s a growing risk of privacy violations. Personal, browsing, and even financial information is stored, shared, or sold without the owner’s consent.

Cybersecurity is a confusing term, and users often end up giving up more information than necessary. Many people often either underestimate or are unaware that their data can be misused. Those who grasp that the internet is intrusive by design might work hard to swim against the tides. As reported by BBC, living without smartphones and other high-tech products is achievable, but not all might be ready to go that far.

Importance of internet privacy

You should value online privacy just as you value it in the real world. Would you let someone eavesdrop on you while you’re having a confidential conversation in your home or office? No. Similarly, when you’re online, you should never give away personal, financial, or even browsing data to anyone without justifiable reasons. In some cases, even your virtual conversations can be recorded in some shape or form. If that conversation is not secured correctly, even more dangers come to the surface.

The internet is flooded with a wide range of services, apps, and products. However, nothing comes free, even if it’s marketed to be so. For instance, irrespective of whether you’re using the free email service offered by Gmail or create a profile on Facebook, everything has a price tag attached to them. In many cases, your data becomes the payment you make to such free services.

Data gathered by popular online services or apps ends up stored in remote servers. Companies often analyze, use, and even share your data without your consent. While transparency is one of the goals in digital privacy, it is not that easy to achieve. Many terms of use documents include claims that “your data might be shared with third-parties.” This exchange could be done to present you with more personalized offers. However, rarely do companies name their partners. Hence, this limited disclosure leaves users clueless about where their data might end up.

Collecting, using, and sharing user data without consent is a violation, and many internet companies around the globe are committing it. For instance, a period and fertility tracking app called Flo was recently criticized for sharing user data with third-party analytics. The news came as surprisingly disturbing as app owners had explicitly stated that they wouldn’t perform such exchanges. Hence, even an app or service claims to keep your data private; the reality might be different.

General Data Protection Regulation or GDPR

The European Union has addressed the issue of internet privacy by framing and implementing a law called the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). This law came into force in 2018, which protects the data and privacy of EU citizens.

Some of the important articles included in the GDPR comprises the following:

  • Users have the right to know what data is gathered and stored by a company
  • Users must have the right to refuse access to cookies and browsing history when they visit websites
  • It’s the responsibility of the companies to gain users’ consent for accessing their information
  • Stricter regulations about sharing contact details with third parties or contacting customers

Difference between information security and privacy

Data privacy and security are often confused as both are interlinked and influence one another. There’s some information that we share with our bank or on social networks, which they’re supposed to store but not share. If such data becomes public due to external attacks, it is a security breach. However, when companies deliberately share user data with other parties, it becomes a privacy issue.

How to protect data?

Data traveling online is always vulnerable. Fortunately, a reliable VPN will help you evade many unnecessary privacy intrusions. How does it do that? By creating a secure channel between the device and the internet. Thus, you can browse the web or use apps without worrying about leaking data.

An important feature of a VPN is that it prevents IP-based tracking. This helps you stay under the radar and even bypass unnecessary censorship by government institutions. Additionally, providers like Atlas VPN block potentially malicious domains, protecting you from phishing attacks and scams. After all, it’s about time to exercise control over personal data and prevent unwanted data harvesting and tracking.

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Christophe Rude

Christophe Rude

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