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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Column: Many of us are giving away our privacy without even realizing it

We live in an age of endless connections to social media via our electronic devices and it’s become relatively easy for us to give up our privacy without even realizing it. There are ways we give away our privacy on a daily basis and there are many steps you can take to protect your information.

Geolocation data is one such example of how we sacrifice our privacy online. With spring break fast approaching, we all want our friends to not only see what we’re doing, but where we’re doing it. As a result, we share photos with a location tag included in the post. The use of geolocation data isn’t always so plain to see, however. Many people don’t know that when you post an image online or even save it on your computer, within the file itself is hidden location data. Thankfully, many social media sites now remove this data and it’s possible to turn off location embedding on smartphone cameras.

Rewards and loyalty programs are another seemingly innocuous system that areactually stripping us of our privacy. That Fry’s or Safeway card you use to get points and discounts on groceries? I hate to break it to you, but it has a slightly more sinister purpose: tracking you. In order to provide you with coupons and other mail-delivered ads that keep you coming back and spending money, these programs track your spending habits and your grocery preferences every time you go shopping. This is essentially data mining—worthless to consumers, but extremely valuable to vendors.

You know when you download a new program and it requires you to scroll through a wall of text before asking if you agree to the terms? Well, how many times have you quickly scrolled to the very end to click agree, without reading a single line of the terms of agreement? Who actually has the time and the patience necessary to read all of that jargon? Unfortunately, this is just another way that we give up our privacy.

Samsung has recently began to warn users that its “SmartTV” devices were recording users’ conversations and sending them to a third-party. Pretty disconcerning, no?

How can you better protect our privacy?

First, better utilize the various privacy functions that many social media platforms already offer. Setting accounts to private and using two-factor authentication are two quick and easy ways to start protecting your personal information.

Instead of posting those spring break pictures while you’re out of the country and advertising that your home is empty and ready to be broken into, why not just wait until you’re back at home to share them?

When applying for rewards programs, create a “junk” email address and only use that one when you sign up for those types of programs.

Finally, use private browsing—especially if you’re using a device that isn’t yours or connected to unsecured networks like UA Public Wi-Fi. If you want to take it a step further, you can use a VPN, or virtual private network, which acts as a sort of secure tunnel for all the data that you send and receive.

Our privacy is compromised on a daily basis, but not all is lost. There are many preventive measures you can take in order to ensure that your information is secure. The digital world can be a scary place, but it’s a safe place if you know your way around and understand its limitations.

Your privacy is yours to safeguard and for many of us, it’s time to reevaluate whether we’re doing enough to protect ourselves. There are plenty of resources to help you get on track and I assure you it’s in your best interest to begin doing so.

Follow Michael Cortez on Twitter

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