Let us be honest: the only way for you to protect all of your personal or professional data is to get completely off the grid and that is not realistic.
While Facebook has been in the news time and again about their abuses of how they handle their user’s private data, the real culprits are the ubiquitous Google and the plethora of advertising companies which follow you wherever you go. The implications can be absolutely terrifying.
You can find out how much Facebook and Google know about you by requesting a report from each of them.
For Facebook, in the general section of the settings is an option “download a copy of your Facebook data”. Click on it and Facebook will email you when it’s ready to download.
For Google, go read this excellent how-to article on the CNBC website. Google knows much, much more about you than you would believe is possible.
There are some simple steps you can take if you want to try and stop unwillingly sharing your medical problems with advertisers and your coming and goings to confidential meetings with Google and their clients, however. None of them are fool-proof, but they will help:
- Get blockers on your web browsers. There are many add-ons you can get, both on your computer and on your phone, which will prevent tracking data from being installed and shared with the outside world. Disconnect is one of them and works quite well. Installation is quick and simple.
- Turn off GPS on your phone when you don’t use it. Many, many apps make use of your current location and communicate it back to some server somewhere. You precise location could be tracked up to thousands of time a day thanks to the GPS functionality of your smartphone. Turning off the GPS on your phone when you don’t need it will help a lot.
- Android or iPhone? I’ve always been a big Android fan, mostly because I object to Apple’s business model of locking you into their services. But Apple in the past months has shown a commitment to protecting their client’s privacy against app developers which is making me a convert. If you’re getting a new phone and you’re hesitating: get an iPhone.