The State of Online Privacy

Rajat Hardy
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How confident are you that data you expect to be private will remain private on Gmail?

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How confident are you that data you expect to be private will remain private on Facebook?

A recent report found that more than half of US users are not confident that the company will protect their data. Although Facebook promises that they will not share private data with advertisers, many users are still concerned that their messages and contact information could be hacked, and their information could be used improperly.

In a poll by Harris Interactive in 2012, 88% of Facebook users said “I’m embarrassed about the things I’ve done online and I want to remove them.” In addition, 91% said they wanted Facebook to offer an option that would allow them to remove everything they’d posted on the site.

Another poll, conducted by Pew Research Center in October 2012, found that 84% of adult users believe that “people take online security for granted,” and that “most people don’t put much effort into protecting themselves online.” According to the study, people were likely to believe that cybercriminals were mostly out there to “spy on, steal from, or damage computers and the networks they are connected to.”

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How confident are you that data you expect to be private will remain private on Snapchat?

Snapchat, the app that allows you to share images for a limited time, is under fire for rumors of using sensitive information, such as location, even after it is deleted.

Snapchat denies these claims, and so does Open Whisper Systems, the company behind the reportedly hacked backdoor.

But what does this mean to you? Snapchat is working to further secure itself against a hack of this kind, which means that it will likely become harder to avoid tracking privacy settings.

The fact that Snapchat uses your location does not make it inherently unsafe. But if you think your location should only be known by you, you will have to be vigilant about your settings and educate yourself about what kind of data it shares.

In the meantime, be smart about what you send. No one would be happy about their nude photo being posted to Facebook. Be careful about who you send pictures to, and protect yourself by knowing what you can do if something were to happen to your phone.

What information does Snapchat collect?


You can create a geofence for your location on Snapchat so that a photo cannot be sent until you reach that location. Snapchat uses a variety of options to collect your location, including your WiF signal.

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How confident are you that data you expect to be private will remain private on Twitter?

Do you have any interesting stories to share? Write to the Editor.

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How confident are you that data you expect to be private will remain private on Instagram?

Do you understand how Instagram records/stores/handles any of your personal information?

How much do you trust that information to stay private and never be used for anything other than the intended purpose?

What are your thoughts about the follow-up question about your intentions for your content?

What are you thoughts about Instagram’s assertion that they don’t track you?

Do you think that is true or that they are tracking you?

Do you believe your data is secure?

Do you believe that it can’t be recovered or accessed?

Do you believe that it can’t be used or shared with third parties?

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Which technology company do you MOST trust to keep your information private?

(Select up to 3)

  • Google
  • Amazon
  • Microsoft
  • AOL
  • Yahoo
  • Apple
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Other answer

Using Technology to Protect Your Privacy

Here are some steps you can take to help to protect your privacy. Keep in mind that the IT landscape today is so complex and multi-faceted, there’s no way to cover every technology.

Beware of Cookies

A cookie is a bit of programming code that is stored either in the browser or on the hard disk of your computer. It can be used to save certain settings, to track information, to determine your preferences and to help a website collect statistical information about how you browse the web. Cookies can be used for legitimate purposes, but they can also be used as a tool for hackers.

If your browser’s privacy mode is turned on, you have a greater level of protection against cookies.

Secure Your Wireless

Every wireless communication signal is essentially public. A hacker with the right equipment can intercept the signal travelling between the wireless access point and your personal computer.

Make sure that you have adequate wireless security and firewalls in place on all of your wireless devices.

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History of Online Privacy

We know, your brain is probably tired already from reading all this information about privacy. It’s okay because we understand your need for fast and easy information. But before you stop reading, we wanted to take a moment to let you know why it’s important to pay attention to this problem.

It’s important to take the time to learn about privacy before it’s gone. Think of this as a form of disaster prep. It’s all well and good to have a disaster kit stored in your closet if it’s never needed, so it’s probably a good idea to have an understanding of privacy as well.

It’s becoming more and more necessary to protect your privacy on the internet. With so many privacy scandals happening lately, and with just the general rise of surveillance society, it’s good to be informed about what’s happening so that you can make informed decisions about how to keep your information safe.

The Biggest Threats to Online Privacy

Is your personal information safe on the Internet? The question is becoming more crucial as people use more Internet-connected devices and share their most private information through social media.

Recent news about hacking or spying might make you begin to wonder. However, the concern over online privacy is nothing new. The digital transformation that gives us such amazing tools for communications and information sharing might make it feel like a new problem, but it’s also brought great challenges.

Historically, spies and hackers have a much easier time than if each of us communicated on paper and by phone. A letter that’s passed from hand to hand and sent through a physical mail system can’t be quickly scanned, analyzed in seconds, and shared globally.

The insidious nature of hackers makes it easy for them to capture your information and use it to steal from you, impersonate you, or exploit you.

You may not have first-hand experience with hackers, but there’s a good chance you’ve been affected by them.

As far back as the 1950s, the KGB spied on Americans when they used a bug to hack into the U.S. Embassy in Moscow.

Two decades later, the NSA had invested in technologies that allowed them to easily watch communications from Cuba and China.


Don’t Be An Amateur Online

What? You want us to go to all that trouble of giving you information about how to stop updating your Facebook and Twitter status and making sure you clear out your cookies and don’t click on bad links and keep your antivirus software up to date and don’t use public wireless and always use HTTPS and set up two-factor authentication for your e-mail, etc., etc., etc., and now you’re expecting me to actually BELIEVE you won’t use your credit card that’s connected to all those accounts to buy something?

Yeah. No.

I read the news. I have no illusions: I know that you’re gonna be an online amateur. That Visa card isn’t gonna stay in the billfold long.

Who Do You Trust? How Consumers Feel About Online Privacy

A new study by Pew Research Center has determined that many consumers show fear or confusion over how online companies use their data.

One of the most common techniques is tracking. When you visit most websites, they will know that you were there, which pages you viewed, and what you have done while on the site. This data is gathered to better target ads and improve the user experience. But when people hear about this concept, many become alarmed.

When people are asked to rank companies based on how well they protect user data, Google, Microsoft, and Yelp rate the highest. Online companies with the lowest scores are Walmart, Capital One, and eBay. It’s interesting to note the trust people have put in technology companies versus offline companies. It’s likely due to the social perception that technology companies are innovative and forward-thinking, while offline companies are notoriously slow to adapt to change.

When asked about how trustworthy companies are, about half of consumers expressed mistrust, and about half expressed trust. There is some study bias that may affect this result, but it’s sadly the current state of affairs.

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