Everyone wants to make sure that their homes are private and are not viewable by outside eyes, but do you personally spend as much time worrying about your online presence?
Online privacy concerns take many forms and range from general hang-ups about being able to keep your personal information safe so that the government or criminals cannot access it, to concerns about companies selling off your personal data. There are ways to protect your online privacy at every level, and all types of people deal with this issue differently.
Why do people worry about online privacy?
People worry about online privacy for the same reason they worry about offline privacy: an invasion of privacy is not nice and can cause very serious problems for people.
Some online privacy safety risks are more serious than others, of course. If someone finds out your credit card information, they can use it to do lots of damage. This is why it is so important to keep that information safe.
Conversely, if someone finds out where you hang out on a website or what your most looked at pages are, you might feel like they are invading your personal space without good reason.
Here are seven reasons why being more cautious about online privacy is important, now more than ever.
A Privacy Invasion Can Destroy Your Reputation
The word “cyberstalking” might bring images of online predators to mind, but it is also important to remember that online privacy can be invaded by someone with good intentions who does not understand how their actions will affect another person. More and more people worry about their online privacy for this reason.
If you have a job in the public eye, you may want to consider investing in a professional company to handle your online reputation. Celebrity reputation management is big business, and for good reason. A career can be cut short very quickly if your reputation is damaged.
Privacy and Children
While it is rare, online predators have been known to use information gained from public social media pages to target children and their families.
While you cannot lock down your social media pages to make them completely inaccessible, there are ways to limit the amount of information that is public. These days there are even ways to have your social media pages private so that other people have to be approved before they can see your updates and images.
Even if someone does not want to keep their profiles completely private, it is worth considering limiting their visibility as much as possible.
At the very least setup filters so that a stranger cannot just see your photos without being on your approved list. If you have children, however, you might want to consider not sharing images with anyone who is not a close family friend and give the people with whom you do share photos and updates strict instructions that they should not be posted anywhere publicly such as on their own Facebook feed or Instagram.
The term safeguarding is well known with any organization that works with children and vulnerable adults, but the wider population might not know exactly what it means or why it may affect them.
Safeguarding is a term for making sure that everyone involved in helping people live their lives is trained to do so with the right processes and knows how to avoid harming the people they are helping.
A safeguarding concern could come up when a company is reckless with online privacy and shares information about customers improperly.
A safeguarding concern may also come up on a personal level too.
Consider someone who may be trying to avoid a violent ex-partner. If you share a photo of them at an event publicly, there is a chance the ex-partner may find it and use the information in the photo (location, the time it was taken, the person’s new look, etc.) to find them, putting them and their family in danger.
If you share a photo publicly, you could be doing something that could jeopardize other people’s personal safety, even as an innocent mistake.
Protecting Homes and Possessions
Have you ever shared a holiday snap online while you are away? Congratulations, you have just told potential burglars that you are not at your property.
That one quick holiday snap could result in your home being targeted by thieves. A quick Google Image Search of your property could also give thieves an accurate idea of how many people live there. This could also be information that is helpful to potential burglars.
As well as sharing photos, you might have mentioned what you did yesterday, or where you were going today or told people when you went on holiday and when you will be back.
All this information can help an intruder to plan a burglary with minimum risk.
You Are The Product
There is a great saying that goes: “if the product or service you are using is free, you are the product“. In the case of your online activity, this saying has never been more true.
Companies use consumers’ online presence to market and communicate with them. If they can understand consumers better, they can make more informed decisions with their products and services. This increases sales and helps businesses grow. It is the same way that non-profits use online marketing as a tool to fundraise for their cause.
While this is great for companies and charities, it does mean that you and your data are what is being traded for ad revenue.
This does not mean that the companies and non-profits are using your data to market you, but they can use your online presence to work out what marketing is “most effective” for them. This is why it is important to be careful about who sees your online activity.
Your Online Decisions Affecting Your Job
Everyone likes to have a good time and let their hair down from time to time, but if you are constantly posting about it online without any kind of privacy settings, you could be setting yourself up for difficult questions at work.
Employers may not care that you like to drop the F-bombs on Facebook or share your experience on your recent bender on Snapchat, but if it involves a picture of you passed out in an alley, it could be a different story, especially if you were supposed to be “off sick” at the time and your employer is paying you sick leave!
Your Posts Could Point To Illegal Behavior
Public posts about illegal behavior could also be used in court against you if you are arrested for that behavior or something similar. Even posts that are legal could be damaging to your career, as they can portray you as irresponsible and immature to potential employers.
Seemingly innocent photos or status updates have been known to cause all kinds of issues for everyday people, from job losses to investigations by the FBI due to a perceived threat to national security.
Online safety and online privacy are big topics that are only going to get more and more important as time goes on. By sharing photos of you, your friends, or your family online, you could be putting someone else in danger. This is just one reason why it is so important to be careful about what you share online and to think before you post.
When it comes to sharing private data, the things that may seem safe can actually end up harming yourself or others.