This is a post in our Behind the Screens series, which explores issues related to digital abuse.
Online privacy is a bit of an oxymoron. According to Ed Gibson, former head of cybersecurity at Microsoft and director of security at PWC Global, data that is posted on the internet should be regarded as permanent after 20 minutes, even if the originator has deleted the file. Nevertheless, 86% of internet users have tried to use the internet in ways to minimize the visibility of their digital footprints.
Despite a majority of internet users’ attempts at maintaining some privacy, social networking companies like Facebook are regularly tweaking their privacy policies, slowly making themselves (and as a result, their users) more public. Location-based apps can glean information from your mobile phone, and advertisers can use swaths of search history and site cookies to better target potential customers.
It’s all a little scary, right?
If you’re in an abusive relationship, or if you’ve left one, you are likely even more concerned than the average person about maintaining privacy online. For most of us it may not be possible to opt out of using the internet altogether, but there are a few things you can do to maximize your online privacy:
- Check your privacy settings regularly on all social media sites that you use, and update them as needed. Lifehacker maintains an up-to-date article about new Facebook privacy changes.
- Try to create “uncrackable” passwords and change them regularly. Don’t share your passwords with anyone you don’t know or trust completely. Remember, you can exercise your “digital rights.”
- Read the privacy policies of any app or site that you sign up for. Many people do not do this, but it will help you get a lot of clarity into how the company or site is collecting and using your information.
- Avoid oversharing personal information online. Don’t post your address, phone number, email, full birth date, or any other identifying information on any social networking site. Sites like Facebook request a lot of personal information now (including place of work, hometown, etc), but it is absolutely not imperative to post yours.
The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, a nonprofit based in California, provides a wealth of information about protecting your privacy in many areas of your life, including online. They offer some additional tips on staying safe and secure on the net, and be sure to check out a few of their other articles, too:
If you have questions about how you can make online safety part of your overall safety plan, our advocates are here to help you. Give us a call at 1-800-799-7233, 24/7, or chat with us here on the website from 7am-2am CST. Our support services are always free, anonymous, and confidential.