Privacy Breaches and Data Integrity
By Heshy Friedman
Last month, I wrote about the Facebook scandal with Cambridge Analytica and how much information Facebook has been sharing about their users. I want to continue along that topic and focus on data integrity.
The extent of the Facebook privacy issue is troubling, with a staggering amount of information being shared about each user’s profile, especially private data. Many people are upset and feel they have been violated. However, although Facebook’s actions are unjustified and reprehensible, the world is becoming progressively connected, and it is only natural for our actions, interests, and habits to be increasingly tracked.
There are many steps one can take to ensure personal online privacy. I think the key is to have a frame of mind of only leaving a positive trail. One’s mindset should always be that all activities are constantly being monitored and logged. This includes website visits, social media posts and comments, text messages sent and received, WhatsApp chats, photos snapped, and purchases made. Therefore, before doing any online or mobile activities, keep this in mind and make sure you don’t leave any damning trail that may come to haunt you in the future.
Here are some good suggestions to follow:
- Be careful about the websites you visit. Even with private browsing, your history is likely being stored somewhere. All your activities on the site are probably being tracked, including the specific pages you visited and how long you spent on each page.
- Exercise caution when making posts or writing messages. Be careful what you write online, including social media posts, comments, and pictures, as well as posting reviews and to Q&A forums. This information will always be out there (perhaps even if deleted), and many people have been burned by something they wrote in the past that was found online. Facebook posts are particularly susceptible to this, and even deleted posts may have been scraped prior to the deletion and keep living on. (Many people have lost their job or ruined their prospect for attaining a job from condemning Facebook posts found online.) In general, make sure to only post items that will leave a positive reflection of you if it were to be searched online or had been breached and publicized.
- Be careful with your photos and videos. We all remember how many celebrities were horrified to find personal and often compromising photos and videos leaked online. If they wouldn’t have had these photos or videos taken in the first place, there would be nothing to be leaked. This doesn’t only happen to celebrities though. Photos and videos taken on a phone are usually connected online and the data may be placed somewhere online automatically such as cloud storage.
- Don’t download any software from sites based on a Google search. Only download files and software from reputable sites or known software providers, as this is a common cause of malware infections.
- Be safe when buying online. Only make online purchases from reputable dealers, so that your financial data stays safe. Although even reputable dealers may have their financial details hacked, you won’t be alone in that case and there will often be resources to help you if that happens (as opposed to an isolated incident from a non-safe site, where you’ll be going it alone.)
- Avoid posting personal information whenever possible. For example, make your birthday a day or two off on Facebook, and don’t put in your own address in Waze or your Google Maps profile – give a nearby address. (If someone stole your phone, you probably wouldn’t want them to have your address.)
- Only connect to known people on LinkedIn. Although much of your LinkedIn profile is public, only share connections with known members or your circle and connections of your connections. Don’t connect with unknown connection requests that are outside your circle of connections.
- Don’t click any links or open attachments in an email unless you are certain it’s a safe email. This even includes emails from friends, as their computer or email account can be spoofed and send a damaging email to their contacts. If there is anything suspicious in an email from a known and trusted recipient, its best to double check with them first to make sure they sent it and its contents are safe.