Online Privacy: What information are you sharing?

Source: January 25, 2013

Every day you share information about yourself with businesses. You do this when you take advantage of all kinds of services, including Internet searches, social networking, mobile and more. When you use these services, you're sharing information about yourself with friends, businesses, and their affiliates. That information is often shared and sold between businesses and advertising networks.

If you use a loyalty card at one of your favorite stores, for example, or fill a prescription, or bookmark an online news article, the information you provide may be shared or sold. You might login to a social network and see that your friends are filling out an "All About Me" quiz.  You get the quiz app and share your answers, but your quiz responses and profile information may be shared or sold.

On a regular day, you've taken care of business, used some free services, gotten some good deals and revealed all kinds of information about yourself. The question is, "What does your digital footprint reveal about you?" Your digital footprint is a permanent record of where you have been and what you have done on the Internet.

The gratification of making online purchases and interacting on social sharing sites tends to outweigh the perceived threats to privacy; however, the sites you visit are recorded; and the information, comments and photos you post on the Internet are permanent and anyone can find them and read them. Only you can control your digital footprint and protect your personal information. You do this by controlling how much information you disclose online, especially on social sharing websites. Anyone who uses the Internet needs to realize that they must play a role in protecting their own privacy. 

Here are a few tips to help you protect your personal information online:

  1. Examine the seals and privacy policies that Internet companies post on their websites before using their product. As internet companies become more established, their policies may change, but their clients will be less likely to inform themselves of the change.
  2. Before making a purchase from an online retailer, first ensure that the company or individual is legitimate and that you are not dealing with hackers posing as an online store. Do they ensure that the transaction is secure and encrypted? Does the site provide offline contact information, including a postal address?
  3. Beware sites that offer some sort of reward or prize in exchange for your contact information or other personal details.
  4. Refrain from giving out your full name, address, birth date, or any other personal information that could be used to impersonate you (identity theft) or gain access to your accounts.
  5. Periodically review the privacy and security settings on your Internet accounts and adjust them to your personal comfort level. Do not rely on "recommended" settings or default settings; and ensure they haven’t been reset through an automatic update. 
  6. Periodically review and delete apps and games you no longer use that have access to your accounts and devices.
  7. Log out of websites and browsers when you are done. Never leave your online accounts open.
  8. The best offense is a good defense: Safety and security starts with protecting your computer. Install a security suite (antivirus, antispyware, and firewall) that is set to update automatically.  Make sure that you are regularly applying updates for your operating system.  Be sure that you are running the most up to date version of your Web browser. Keeping these critical components up to date ensures that you are protected from commonly exploited attacks.
  9. Make sure that your password is long, complex and combines letters, numbers, and symbols (if allowed). Ideally, you should use a different password for every online account you have.
  10. Know what action to take if you suspect unusual activity or a breach.    

Knowing how to navigate the Internet safely is essential to maintaining your privacy online. Remember that YOU decide what information about yourself to reveal, when, why, and to whom.

These helpful tips are provided by, a computer security company working to help ensure the privacy and security of your corporate, personal and financial information.