Online privacy doesn’t mean you have to stay offline

Now a days, privacy is on everyone’s mind.  We want an online presence, but don’t necessarily want our information found automatically by everyone we’ve ever known.  And yet we are more and more giving out more and more information, linking in more social networks, and sharing more data on ourselves.  Our email addresses, usernames, even our locations are creating a long trail for anyone to just follow.  So how do you stay connected and share what you want without risking your information being shared to those you don’t want getting it?  How do you keep you from being found online without having to stay offline?  Here are some tips.

Alternative email addresses – Most website you join are going to require you to enter an email address.  This serves multiple purposes.  The first is to verify you indeed exist, and the second to be able to reach you for website news and advertisements.  But a third is typically to allow others on the service to find you too.  To keep from being found, use an alternative email address. This will allow you to control who can see your information.  Only those you share your social network info with will be able to find it, not everyone who you’ve given your email address over the years, or have it from another social network.  Added bonus, you’ll find out if that social network is sharing out your email address to third-party advertisements.

GPS information – Don’t want your every movement to be tracked?  Stop sharing your gps information.  You might be shocked to know how much information about your location is out there.  Photos, social check ins, even gps tracking programs are quite common these days.  And anyone that has access to these services can look it up.  Turn off apps on your phone that supply gps coordinates. Don’t activate programs and services like google latitude that share your location.  Sharing gps data is easy, simple, and many times useful. But don’t be surprised when people you’ve known from years past can just find you randomly at your favorite check in coffee shop.

Privacy in social groups – Your settings in social chats is something most people over look.  Chances are you’ve had your IM user name for a while and have collected a long history of people.  Some you might not want to talk to any more. Block them! Or perhaps it’s a weekend and you want to chat with a couple of people but don’t want to tell the world you are online…  Set your setting to invisible.  Most services offer these functions.  Want to only share certain info on Facebook?  Set up groups and control who can see what.  Most people never change the default privacy settings in social media groups.  Play with them and see what options are available to you.

Don’t use standard names – If you don’t want to be found online, don’t use the same using the same IM handle from high school.  If you’ve been using the same handle for names chances are your estranged high school BFF, mom, or boss is going to look for that first to track you down.  And using your real name for social networks? Might be paranoid, but most programs will let you be looked up by that too.  Useful for those you want to find you,but just as useful for those that you don’t.

Nothing online is private – this might sound strange in a post about keeping stuff private online, but it’s true.  Companies change their privacy policies, people who you’ve shared things with may not be as good with their privacy settings, and sometimes you just goof up.  Anything you put online eventually will make it into the public stream.  Simple rule: don’t email or post things if it’s a secret or you would be devastated it getting out.

 

TLDR –  Anything online is public… treat it as such.

Got your own tips on keeping your information private online?  From paranoid to just simple rules, everyone has their own tricks.  Post them below in the comments.

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About Tasel

Sometimes writer on things technology, Disney, MineCraft, and food.
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