Stop paying for convenience with your personal information.

5 simple steps we should all take for personal privacy.

Maybe we don’t care that companies are buying and selling our personal information. Maybe we feel like we have nothing to hide, so it is okay for big tech and the government to have access to our data. Maybe we are okay trading convenience for our personal data. The ugly truth is that the government and businesses are working to build a profile on each of us. In this age of surveillance, “roughly six-in-ten U.S. adults say they do not think it is possible to go through daily life without having data collected about them by companies or the government.” It might feel daunting to know where to start but we can take ownership of our data.

Take these five steps toward protecting your privacy in 2020 if you aren’t comfortable with your location being tracked during the Coronavirus stay-at-home order, or if it doesn’t make you feel safe knowing that there are hidden app trackers that are leaching your information while you sleep.

1. Rethink Social Media Settings

We all knew social media was tracking us but now the Netflix documentary The Social Dilemma (2020) revealed an darker reality than imagined by even conspiracy theorists. Here are four quick social media checks:

2. Find an Alternate Search Engine

Searching Google in private mode simply means that the computer isn’t keeping a history of our movements, but our browsing is still being tracked. Google, Yahoo!, and Bing are just a few of the search engines that are collecting our data under the guise of making life easier with search prompts and browser history. DuckDuckGo, Startpage, Search Encrypt , and Swisscows are a few of the search engines that aren’t collecting our data.

3. Stop Taking Login Shortcuts

When we sign in with Facebook or Google integration to other website or app we aren’t just giving over our passwords but allowing that site to access our data from these platforms. The cyber world is connecting the dots of who we are, where we go, and what we like, with each link we make by signing in with another account’s password. Turn off website integration with Facebook and remove other accounts that have already been integrated.

4. Is Your Texting, Emailing, and Video-Conferencing Secure?

We have all been relying on email, text, and video-conferencing to stay connected and work during the pandemic, but are those platforms exposing our information as well? Not all messaging apps are created equal, so we need to make sure we are using encrypted texting platforms. Learn how to know if emails are encrypted and what to do about it. Always check the privacy policy of the video conferencing software you are using to make sure that your conversations are private, and your data is not being mined.

5. Our Phones Could Be Betraying Us

Our phones are compromising our privacy and sharing it with third-party companies. Here are four ways to tighten up the privacy on your phone.

  • Turn off location. On your iPhone, go to Settings > Privacy > Location Services.
  • Turn off your microphone. To make sure that you aren’t being listened to on the iPhone head to Settings > Privacy > Microphone.
  • Rethink Siri and Ok Google. Disable Siri on iPhones by going to Settings > Siri & Search. On the Android turn off Ok Google by heading to Settings > Google > Search > Services.
  • Check Advertisement Settings. On the iPhone, go to Settings > Privacy > Advertising.
  • Once we start noticing how we are being tracked and our data mined it can be overwhelming to know where to begin. Most of us don’t take action because we believe that the benefits of free apps, the conveniences of easy logins, and our phone being able to find a good restaurant close to our location outweighs the risks of our personal privacy being exposed. Don’t take the easier way out when it comes to protecting personal privacy — take action today.