The internet constantly collects information about you. By visiting any of your favorite sites, you’ve given a lot of information about your online activity. This might seem scary at first, but it’s quite easy to understand once you’re familiar with how information gathering works. This article will help you to understand and deal with intrusive Internet data collection.
Data Collection of Internet Activity
Almost all sites collect information using small files known as cookies. Sites use this collected information to remember previous user actions, like an imputed password, username, or a search. That’s incredibly useful, as no one would want to enter a name and password for every single instance of logging. However, cookies can also be utilized to collect personal data for reasons other than user convenience. The small files contain a lot of information that can personally identify the user and track his movement throughout the Internet, even outside of the sites that created the cookie. Advertisers use this information to better target their ads. It would be useless to advertise a product that a user has no interest in it. Like advertising cosmetics to a car enthusiast or hunting equipment to a vegan. Love it or hate it, Internet advertising is here to stay, and it funds a lot of your favorite “free” content on the web.
The Eternal Web
Information posted on the Internet has a very hard time disappearing. Pretty much everything imputed on the web is stored on a server somewhere. That’s how you can read your Facebook or Skype messages across devices. As you can probably guess by now, personal user data is also a part of this. Once you post something on the web, often it’s there for good. Even information that’s deleted from a site a no longer accessible through it can still linger in the cyberspace. A good example of that comes from the Ashley Madison hack last year. Customers of the adultery dating service had to pay money for the removal of their profiles. In reality, however, the site kept some of the records, and the “deleted” profiles leaked along with the active ones.
Sharing Secrets with Your Search Engine
Search engines like Google, Microsoft’s Bing, Yahoo, and others know a lot about you, even if you’re not registered. Imputed searches can be used to extract a lot of data about the user. Let’s say that you’re googling a lot of questions about your neighborhood – your house’s address, your ZIP code, when will there be a power maintenance check. All this information can be used to triangulate where you live. Most of this information is used for advertising purposes, as we said before. If you’re often searching for games or gaming equipment, then the advertisers will display ads for that. Advertisers pay to search engines for this, the Internet’s biggest money making method.
Specific Details the Internet Knows About You
First of all, just by using the Internet with a regular browser, the internet knows your IP address. Your IP address can be used to locate the country and city in which your device is located.
Information that you’ve given on the internet is likely stored in a database somewhere. This includes:
- Your name. If you’ve given your first and last name to Facebook, Google+, or any other social network or site.
- Your phone number. A lot of programs offer phone numbers as a way to secure your account. As the 15 million number leaked from Telegram, hack proved, that’s far from secure.
- Your photos. While it’s obvious for everyone that photos uploaded to social networks are stored on the web. However, even private photos that aren’t publically available can be in danger. Everything uploaded to a cloud, is in danger. The hacking case known as “The Fappening” stole personal photos from the digital backup of phones.
These are just the most notable examples. Other data can also be accessed through the web, like your gender, where you went to school or university, where you work, even miscellaneous information like your taste in film, music, YouTube videos or video games.
Personal Information and mobile devices
The apps that are uploaded to the Google Play store often include a massive amount of permissions that can compromise privacy. If you give these permissions, even simple keyboard apps or games can know your:
- Phone number and contacts
- GPS location
- IP address
- Email address
- Wi-Fi connection information
There apps have no business knowing that, but users often install applications without reading what they’re letting into their phone. A lot of user install junk like the ValerySoftware apps that contain not only a massive amount of unwarranted permissions, but also malware. Our guide to Android security covers the matter more thoroughly.
Protection from theft of personal information
There’s no sure way to protect fully information that’s available to the whole of the Internet. Anti-virus and anti-malware tools can help to a lot. Encryption can also protect you against lots of cyber-threats. But that’s not always enough. Once it’s online, it’s hackable. Prevention is not just the medicine; it may be the only medicine. Avoid posting personal data, even if it’s not easily available to the public, it’s still in danger. While using a mobile device, avoid downloading app requiring excessive permissions. Total privacy is very hard to achieve on the Internet, but the Tor Project can help you with hiding your browsing activity. Users should protect their privacy because giant corporations or software developers certainly will not.