Top 5 Ways Your Internet Privacy is Being Compromised
Is there such a thing as privacy in the virtual world? How much information are we sharing every time we log in? Despite firewalls and other forms of protection, we’ve never been so exposed as we are today.
Data Logging. There are a number of ways in which a website can record visitors’ data. One is through the use of HTTP and flash cookies. Cookies track costumer data, perform web profiling, profile users (so they can provide tailored advertising) and follow patterns of activity. Although cookies in your own computer are usually safe and store information just for your personal use (for example, they remember your passwords), cookies can also be modified to carry spyware. Cookies in public computers can record private data that can be then made accessible to others (unless you delete all cookies before logging out).
Whois Lookup. If you have your own website, your private details are recorded in the WhoIs domain name registration database. Unless you pay a domain privacy fee to the hosting company, your information (including full name, address and even phone number) is accessible to anybody doing a quick Google search. There’s truly no way to avoid this unless you pay the fee or find a way to pay with something other than your credit card (which is tied to your address), such as a money order, for example.
Facebook Applications. A number of seemingly-innocent applications actually gather data and can end up compromising your profile and personal information. This is true even if your profile is set to private. A March 2012 report by the Wall Street Journal shows that many apps share your private data with third-part advertisers, helping companies track your behavior so they can best understand your interests and offer appropriate ads. Highly popular apps such as FarmVille, Mafia Wars, Phrases and Texas HoldEm all gather data every time you use them.
Photographs. Chances are, somewhere in the internet, there’s a picture of your face. Even if you don’t belong to any social network and have never posted a photo online, there’s always the chance that somebody else took the photo without you realizing it. Photos taken in public spaces fall under the domain of “safe usage,” which means they can be posted without violating your right to privacy or requiring a release form. Even worse, the iPhone comes with metadata ability, which means it automatically attaches latitude and longitude to each picture taken. This makes it possible for somebody in the internet to actually identify your exact location when the photo was taken.
Public Records. Have you ever filed for divorce or bankruptcy? Have you gone through civil court proceedings or are you registered to vote? Tax liens and judgments, motor vehicle records and business licenses can all be found online. Some are freely available (if you know where to look), while others might require some digging or paying a fee.
There’s little you can do about many of these things. Your best option is to Google your name regularly and see what comes up. If any of the information is too private, contact the companies hosting that data and ask for it to be removed from their database or at least remove it from public access.