Reading the terms and conditions of an app is a confusing, not to mention a time consuming, task that almost no one does. The majority of us scroll to the bottom, click “accept”, and move on with our lives. But what does this mean for our privacy?
By accepting these terms, you are essentially allowing the app to collect data on you. With access to your basic information, email, photos, microphone, camera, passwords, and the trail of cookies you leave behind with every new website you visit, nothing is private anymore.
The information collected by apps and websites is used by companies to develop marketing strategies, so next time an ad pops up from a store you have previously visited online, know it is no mistake. This data is also used to create profiles based on users’ searches. Both Google and Facebook attempt to categorize their users by age, race/ethnicity, interests, etc., all for the purpose of showing material that would interest the consumer.
Apps, websites, and advertisers are not the only ones looking to collect data. Hackers are always aiming to steal Internet users personal information. In 2018, an attack on Facebook’s network exposed the information of 50 million users. Apps like Uber, search engines such as Google, and companies like Apple all experience cyber attacks daily.
So is there any way to keep our information from being collected and distributed?
Unless you want to live completely off-the-grid or swear off all technology, it is unavoidable.
While there is no one way to protect your all of your information, many experts suggest using different, original passwords for each of your accounts. This would decrease the chance of your accounts getting hacked into then if you used the same password or simple personal information.
Sharing less information online is also an extremely simple, yet at times difficult, protective measure in our media centered lives. The more information you put out means the more information these companies have. It is always important to watch out for what you are posting. Make sure you are not oversharing or putting personal information you would feel uncomfortable with others having on social media. It can be hard not to overshare, however, if you are concerned about privacy, you might want to dial down on posting every detail of your life.
For more tech savvy individuals, there are encrypted tools you could use to make it nearly impossible for others to read your messages without authorization.
Kristin Avenis, a first year at AU in the School of International Service, is always thinking about where her information is going. “Privacy is very important to me as an individual,” said Avenis. “Every time I receive an option to turn off cookies I always do it, and I have tape covering the camera on my laptop. I also turn off the GPS on my phone and on the Uber app so I can’t be tracked.”
Even though the data collection never stops, it is important to be aware of how your information could potentially be used by others. Taking some of these simple steps can help protect your information and you may, if you’re lucky, have a little bit of privacy in this digital, data sharing, age.