Complete Guide on Internet Privacy

By Jayden Andrews. May 12, 2020

The internet is a wide network of computers that can connect or talk to each other. It is one of the greatest inventions in human history, which has facilitated communication across global boundaries. Nearly half of the world population has access to the internet. Yes, that is how loud the internet sounds.

Whenever you access the internet, one question must ring on your mind. Is your internet connection secure? The topic of internet privacy has been here for the longest time, with many countries coming up with policies and laws that seek to regulate access to personal information. So, what exactly is internet privacy?

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Defining internet privacy

Internet privacy is the extent to which your personal information is secure on the internet. It can also refer to all the measures that individuals, companies, and websites take to ensure their confidential and personal data remains safe in the cloud. The concept of internet privacy is a bit complex that it may take you some time to understand it. The purpose of internet security and privacy is to protect sensitive personal data and enable private communications.

The gradual growth of e-commerce makes internet privacy a critical topic of discussion as technology advances. Every business and individual is looking for a better way to safeguard their information from unlawful access by third parties. Online privacy becomes a primary concern for anyone that uses the internet to access information or to communicate with others.

There are risks associated with the use of the internet. Everyone should take the right measures to protect their devices from these risks. Some of the internet privacy risks that you should be aware of include malware, pharming, spyware, and phishing. When using a personal computer (PC), a smartphone, or a tablet, to access the internet, you expose your device to online risks.

Ensuring that all internet users are secure when they go online is a collective responsibility of all ISP companies, website admins, governments, and internet users. To ensure that your information is safe on the internet, you must always use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) when accessing websites that you believe are unsecured or susceptible to attacks.

Internet Privacy Issues

Needless to say, internet privacy is becoming a major global concern of the 21st century. Everyone is looking for a better way to ensure their personal information is safe and secure. The first step to ensuring online privacy is having an idea of the risks and privacy issues that you should protect yourself from.

Every internet user is vulnerable to online privacy issues, and there is an endless list of security threats that everyone should be aware of. Here are some of the significant online privacy issues worth your attention:

Spying

When you visit an unsecured website, you are more likely to download spyware to your device without knowing. Spyware is an offline application that collects information from your device without you knowing. Trackers can spy on you, whether you are offline or online, without you knowing if they intend to find out more about your location, browsing activity, and personal information.
By tracking your browsing history, hackers can establish the websites you frequently visit and use the digital footprints that you leave on the sites to access your financial accounts or even damage your online reputation. All the information that hackers get from your device helps them in carrying out illegal activities that put you at risk.
Tracking is a breach of one’s privacy and is punishable by law in countries with strict online privacy laws like China, Russia, and the UK. However, it’s sometimes difficult to find out who’s been tracking you if they are doing it without you knowing.

Mishandling of data

Some online stores have set up websites that will normally ask you to accept cookies. When you visit such sites and allow cookies on your browser, the sites will collect information about your browsing activity and use it later for different purposes.

Some sites may use the information to custom the type of adverts they send to you. The information that these websites get from you is not encrypted, and other individuals can also access it without your consent.

Unfortunately, some sites even share your personal information with other companies that use it for marketing purposes. Whenever you give your account details to sites that use cookies, you are exposing yourself to identity theft.

Mishandling of information is a common problem with web-based businesses that do not have clear customer privacy policies. You must always read the privacy policy on a website before you can transact with the company. Every online business must assure you that your personal information is safe before you can buy their service and pay online.

Hacking

You are probably familiar with the word hacking. It can refer to access by a third-party computer to your personal information without your consent or the act by an online thief to collect and use your personal information. If a hacker succeeds in collecting your personal information, you are likely to receive random phone calls from unknown people asking for more information about your details. The phone calls will normally sound genuine, but they are just scams.

When you begin receiving calls from people you suspect, you should not hesitate to find out their true identity. You can seek more information from the company the person claims to be working for by using some online applications that can unravel and disclose their identities.

Privacy and security on the internet

The internet and computers have become our modern way of life. Despite that, many people still don’t realize the risks that technology is exposing them to. Security and privacy should be a primary concern for every internet user, especially those in countries with chronic cybercrime.

Every internet user must understand all the risks they are exposing themselves to whenever they are online. What a virus can do to your computer is more than damaging the device itself. A malware entity you download from a social media platform can quickly get access to your personal information and provide a link for trackers to damage your reputation.

When your device has a virus in it, you should take all the measures to get rid of the threat. While some viruses may not expose your computer to any risk, hackers can use them to install programs that can damage your computer or send your personal information like login details to another computer. Once your data lands in the wrong hands, you become more exposed to online reputation damage.

With many viruses on your computer, it is likely to behave abnormally. For example, some files may end up missing in the device, or the computer’s processing speed might slow down. Installing an anti-virus on your computer can help you escape the risks of cybercrime brought by the virus.

Most countries have come up with strict internet privacy laws that seek to protect all internet users from breach of personal information by ISPs and websites. The enactment of laws such as the California Consumer Privacy Act in the USA and the GDPR Act in the UK, are an indication that most governments are out to regulate access to personal information.

Governments have set up institutions that ensure the internet is safe for every citizen. In the US, the FTC is committed to ensuring that identity theft, data breaching, and hacking cases are reduced significantly.

Internet privacy protection laws

Everyone cares about their internet privacy because personal information is sensitive. Internet privacy protection is becoming a major concern in most of the developing countries. But thanks to the many internet privacy laws and institutions that most governments are establishing to regulate access to personal information, internet privacy is now being given attention to.

In some countries, such as the UK and China, it is illegal for any ISP or company to access individuals’ personal information without their consent. Websites and companies are prohibited from accessing, collecting, and sharing personal information from their customers without their permission. It means that a consumer can ask an ISP company to delete any information about them on their database when they opt-out of their services.

There are different laws and acts that governments have come up with to regulate access to personal information. The following are some of the internet privacy laws that every internet user in the USA should be aware of:

  • The Federal Trade Commission Act (FTC) of 1914- regulates unfair commercial practices by companies in the USA.
  • The Electronic Communication Privacy Act (ECPA) of 1986 protects individuals’ electronic communications from any form of interception by third parties.
  • The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) of 1998 regulates how certain websites can gain or disclose personal information from children.
  • The Fair and Accurate Credit Transaction Act (FACTA) of 2003 requires that all creditors and financial institutions have online theft prevention programs for their customers.

Read also: Internet Privacy Laws in the United States

Online privacy and security

It is always crucial that you are aware of the security measures your ISP has put forward to protect you from a personal information breach. Your personal information privacy and security is very paramount. Therefore, every website and company with access to such information should ensure they protect it from those that may harm your online reputation.

Online security is all about ensuring that your data is safe when you go online. It is the protection of unauthorized access to individual information. We have discussed some of the security measures that you can take to keep your data safe from hackers.

Online privacy includes all steps that you make to ensure your identity remains private online. Most companies, for instance, health facilities, have come up with unique information systems that they use to share confidential information with their clients.

A hospital may find it convenient to share sensitive information with their patients on a private network rather than use a public email platform. This is a typical example of measures that companies can put to safeguard their customers’ information from leaks.

Online privacy and security are two broad areas that should concern all internet users. Note that you can achieve internet security without privacy. However, it is impossible to achieve online privacy without internet security.

We have become more dependent on advancing technology, and specifically the internet. Today, most businesses cannot survive a day without a stable and secure internet connection. This means that internet security and privacy should be a top priority for everyone.

But wait, why is internet security and privacy that important? Online-based companies have fallen prey to cybercrime for having inadequate security measures in place. Every day, companies’ websites are hacked by individuals that want access to personal information from their customers. Business information systems store a lot of personal information from customers. When such systems are down, there is a risk of identity theft and email hacking.

In 2016, over 100 million Americans lost their medical records to trackers because companies that held the information did not secure their systems. Cybercrime is becoming a significant drawback to most businesses as identity theft cases are on the rise in most developed countries.

While every internet user is looking for a better way to browse the internet and protect their personal information, all website admins must assure their visitors some security. When individuals visit your website to look for information on sensitive topics like HIV/AIDs, their browsing history must remain discrete and confidential.

Ultimately, personal privacy and online security is a collective responsibility. All stakeholders in internet usage such as ISPs, website admins, and the individuals that browse the internet must play an active role. That involves employing the most effective tools that will ensure the information systems and devices are always protected from all online privacy risks like phishing and spying. If we all participate in making the internet secure, then we can make it more reliable and comfortable for us.

How to protect internet privacy

If you have a PC, then you are aware of the online risks you could expose your device to. Nearly every internet user is exposed to cybercrime when they leave their digital footprints behind. The big question is, how do you protect your online privacy and ensure all your personal information remains intact?

Internet privacy risk education is one of the best ways to avoid online privacy issues. Therefore, it is upon every website owner or internet user to be aware of the potential risks on the internet. Ultimately, to ensure you are safe when visiting websites or using the internet, you should not hesitate to do the following:

  • Before you visit any website or provide your information on the site, you must ensure that it is secure. Most web browsers will normally inform you if the website is secure or not, to ensure you are safe to access their services. A simple trick is to find out if there is an “S” in HTTPS.
  • Ensure you have set a strong password for all your online accounts. You must avoid using repeated passwords for your accounts. Also, remember to mix letters, special characters, and numbers in the password to make it difficult to hack your account.
  • If you have an account on social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram, you should avoid posting your personal information names, place of residence, and date of birth. Avoid posting a lot of information about yourself that others can use to profile you and get into your accounts.
  • Always ensure your browser history is clean. When you stop browsing, you must clear all your browsing history. This way, hackers cannot track your browsing activity and find out your device location. Only accept cookies from websites that you trust.
  • Online shopping can be a bit tricky. You want to ensure the website is secure before you pay for anything you buy on the site with your debit card.
  • Install a firewall, antivirus, or anti-malware on your device to protect it from any internet risk.
  • Some attachments to emails may contain suspicious malware. Therefore, you must ensure the attachments are safe before you download them to your device.
  • When browsing the internet, use the incognito or private mode on your browser.
  • Always ensure you have installed a VPN on your device. A VPN is software that encrypts your information and stops third-parties from finding your device IP address and browsing activity.
  • Use anonymous search engines when visiting sites with security issues.
  • Be aware of phishing emails from hackers. You must not click on any links from unknown emails or respond to random or anonymous calls.
  • Clear all cookies on your device to ensure that no website is using them to track your browsing behavior
  • Every time you go online, it is vital that you turn off your GPS. This way, all the applications in your device or computer cannot read your location and share this information on a network. It is possible to track your movements if you have your GPS on whenever you go.

Privacy and online safety settings

If you are using your desktop computer to access the internet, then you must set it to keep it secure from online threats. The online privacy and safety settings change with the type of operating system (OS) that you have on your device.

Those having computers with Windows 10 can change their online safety setting and regulate the information they share with Microsoft. They can achieve this in three simple steps. Go to the windows start menu, select Settings, and then go to Privacy.

You can also use Xbox 360 to set your online privacy and ensure your computer is always safe. With Xbox 360, you can limit your children’s access to your computer or simply stop them from accessing adult sites whenever they use your device to go online. Here are some steps to change the privacy settings on your device:

  • Log in to your computer and Microsoft account.
  • Go to Xbox settings the click on privacy and online safety.
  • Pick the account (S) you want to update its security.
  • Select Xbox 360 Online Safety
  • Review the current and the new changes you have made on the accounts.
  • Save the changes.
  • Click on Submit.

Final thought

Internet security and privacy may be a losing game today if all stakeholders do not play their roles. Security and privacy begin with you. With the information we have shared here, you should be ready to take action and protect your personal information from third parties.

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