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Internet Privacy and You

(by Lenandlar Singh)

Privacy and the protection of personal information is one of the most debated and discussed topics online. Privacy, at its core, is the right of individuals to decide what personal and private information to share, with whom, and for what purposes. However, on the internet, there is no guarantee that information shared privately with service providers or other internet users will remain private.

Tensions between the need to share private information in return for services and one’s personal privacy values oftentimes arise. For example, signing up for an email address may mean supplying a mobile phone number for verification; internet banking service may ask for a date of birth and age; a medical service may ask for medical history.

Inevitably, some amount of personal information must be shared in return for services. In cases where offline services are moved online, users have limited choice but to adopt online services. Users are invariably left to trust service providers with the role of protecting their private information from illegitimate access and use.

Internet users are partially responsible for protecting their privacy on the internet. The first steps toward privacy protection online are about knowing what risks exist and what steps to take to minimise these risks. The following are good practices to follow in order to protect your privacy online.

Do not share information that you wish to keep private. Any information shared online, privately or otherwise remains online and can be accessed and shared by others either maliciously or legitimately. Minimise personal information sharing.

Do not save personal and private information such as credit card numbers online.

Anticipate possible ways in which your personal information can be used and decide whether sharing your personal information is worth the risk. Think before you post any information online.

Read privacy statements and policies of all online service providers used. This can be a tedious as privacy policies are often lengthy and technical.

Learn about and use privacy features provided by online tools such as web browsers and web sites. For example, social networking sites such as Facebook have features that allow users to share information with selected users.

Do not share information about others. You are responsible for the privacy of others that are accessible to you.

Develop good email habits. Use a separate email for private and for public communication. Use email providers that support strong privacy and security measures. Exercise care when opening suspicious emails.

Practise good password habits. Password protect all tools (mobile, computers) and services (email, social networks). Use strong passwords and remember to sign out of all services when you are finished. Do not use one password for all of your online services. If one is compromised, the chances of others being compromised are greater.

Use online validated online services. Check for trademarks to verify the authenticity of websites.

Use Antivirus programs to protect against malicious software that could steal personal information.

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