Ensuring privacy online

Combating Threats to Online Privacy in the 21st Century

It is very difficult to guarantee one’s privacy on the Internet, due to the fact that the World Wide Web is a space which is very difficult to regulate. There are no universal laws which are in existence to protect the online privacy of individuals. There are also numerous threats that are out there which make it extremely hard for “netizens” to keep their sensitive personal information and browsing histories from falling into the wrong hands. The following are some the measures that can be employed by individuals to ensure that these precious nuggets of information are kept private:

  • Secure your computer against external attacks

There are numerous pieces of security software which can be installed on a computer to fortify it against attacks from people who are desirous of invading the privacy of an individual. These programs can also protect against the negative effects of the spyware that many illegal “data miners” try to covertly install on the computers of unsuspecting computer owners to discretely extract their sensitive information and communicate it back to them when the person uses the device to connect to the World Wide Web. These programs, which often boast antivirus capabilities as well, can also provide the user with excellent protection against worms, viruses, Trojan horses, etc. Security software packages such as these are crucial to the maintenance of Internet safety.

  • Ensure that your browser is capable of monitoring cookies

It is standard practice for many websites to install a small program known as a cookie on the computing devices of individuals who visit their domains. The cookie generally serves as a tracking mechanism. Theoretically, it can enable the company which originally deployed it to monitor all the online activities that the person who owns the “cookied” device engages in while on the World Wide Web. To combat the possible invasion of privacy that can occur, there are numerous browsers which make it possible for their users to exercise much greater control over the cookies which are installed on their system. Once the notification feature is activated on these browsers, they inform the user of every attempt to install a cookie on their device. Additionally, these browsers empower the user to determine whether or not they want to allow the cookies to be installed or not.

The abovementioned capabilities are very significant due to the fact that there are many third party online banner advertising companies which embed cookies on the computers of users to facilitate the capturing of information relating to their browsing habits. Many of these entities then subsequently sell this information to other companies which use the personalized data generated to target their advertising campaigns to the individuals under their surveillance.

  • Do not reveal personal and sensitive information to strangers

This is a precaution that should be taken at all times by an individual when they are interacting with people with whom they are not overly familiar. Designating a complete stranger a “friend” and granting them access to your social media world is something that is definitely not advisable. However, it is a mistake that is frequently made by people. Even if the person comes across as the most sincerely nice person in the world, caution is advisable and required. This is due to the fact that often what one sees online is only a façade. Many people hide their true nature and intentions under a veneer that is often very difficult to see through. Granting them access to the information detailed on a social media page can subsequently lead to more serious violations of the individual’s online privacy.

  • Be careful what you do over the Internet connection at work

There are many people who make the mistake of transmitting highly sensitive information using the computer and Internet connection that is provided at their workplace. A significant percentage of these individuals are probably oblivious to the fact that all such communication can be monitored by people within the organization. This situation can be particularly troublesome if the sensitive information being transmitted has the potential to harm the prospects of the company. A scenario involving a “whistleblower” is one which readily springs to mind. Generally, it is not advisable to send any sensitive information over a connection that is not private and secure.

  • Do not archive e-mails containing sensitive information

Electronic mailboxes are being hacked into at an alarming rate throughout the United States. There is no owner of an e-mail account who should consider himself exempt from being subjected to such a violation – irrespective of how resolute the electronic defenses which they have erected are. As such, it is highly advisable that information which is of the most sensitive nature is not left in one’s mailbox indefinitely. These types of information include bank statements and other financial documents which potentially can be used to victimize the individual if they were to fall into criminal hands. If they do, serious privacy and Internet security breaches may result.

Ensuring privacy online is something that ultimately proves elusive for many individuals. This is largely due to the fact that the Internet is such a vast and difficult resource to police. It harbors a variety of threats that can violate the privacy of the Web user in a twinkling. It is largely dependent on the individual to ensure that their privacy is protected. They have to employ a number of measures and strategies to keep their sensitive personal details out of the public domain.

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