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What is Online Privacy?

Online Privacy and Cybersecurity

2023, gone are the days of, "it won’t happen to me." We live in a sophisticated digital world with sophisticated digital bad actors. With the proliferation of the internet and the amount of personal information we share online, it's important to understand what online privacy is and why it matters.

First, let's define online privacy. Simply put, online privacy is the right to keep your personal information private when using the internet. This includes things like your name, address, phone number, financial information, and SSN - Personally Identifiable Information (PII). It also includes your browsing history and the websites you visit, among other things.

Personally Identifiable Information (PII) can come from various sources, such as:

  • Government Agencies: PII (name, Social Security number, and driver's license number) is collected and stored by government agencies, such as the Social Security Administration or the Department of Motor Vehicles.

  • Financial Institutions: Banks, credit card companies, and other financial institutions collect and store PII, including financial account information.

  • Healthcare Providers: Doctors, hospitals, and other healthcare providers collect and store PII, to include medical history.

  • Employers: Your employer may collect and store PII, including employment history.

  • Educational Institutions: Schools and universities collect and store PII, including your academic record.

  • Online Activities: Your PII can be collected and stored by websites and apps when you create an account or enter personal information.

Privacy and Cyber Security combine to support a full information security program.

Data Sources

You should be aware of the sources of PII and take steps to protect your personal information, like reviewing privacy policies and limiting the amount of personal information you share online. There are companies that specialize in the data market that buy and sell your data for "marketing," "lead generation," and "background information." We will go deeper into these “Data Brokers” in a future post.

Data Brokers obtain Personally Identifiable Information (PII) from various sources, including:

  • Public Records: Data brokers may obtain PII from public records, such as voter registration databases or property records.

  • Online Activities: When you browse the internet, use social media, or make online purchases, your data is collected and can be sold to data brokers by the companies that operate these websites.

  • Retailers and Loyalty Programs: When you make purchases at a store or sign up for a loyalty program, your information can be collected and sold to data brokers.

  • Financial Institutions: Banks and credit card companies may share your PII with data brokers as part of their business operations.

  • Healthcare Providers: Medical providers may share your PII with data brokers as part of their business operations.

  • Other Third-Party Sources: Data brokers may obtain PII from other third-party sources, such as insurance companies or marketing firms.

Data brokers operate independently and are not subject to the same regulations as the companies that originally collected your data. This can result in your PII being sold and shared without your knowledge or consent.

Why is online privacy important? Protecting your personal information is vital for your security. If your personal information gets into the wrong hands, it could be used for identity theft or other types of fraud.

  • Identity Theft: An identity thief can use your PII, such as your name, Social Security number, and date of birth, to open credit accounts in your name or access your existing accounts. This can result in financial loss and damage to your credit history.

  • Phishing Scams: Scammers may use your PII to send you phishing emails or texts that appear to be from legitimate companies. They may try to trick you into clicking on links or downloading attachments that contain malware or attempt to get you to reveal more sensitive information.

  • Fraudulent Activities: Criminals can use your PII to commit fraudulent activities like tax fraud, healthcare fraud, or insurance fraud. This can result in legal troubles and financial loss.

  • Stalking or Harassment: If your PII (your address or phone number) falls into the hands of someone who wants to harm you, they can use it to stalk or harass you.

Online privacy is also important for your freedom. The internet allows us to connect with others, express our opinions, and access information. If our online activities are constantly being monitored, we may feel like we can't speak freely or access certain information. This can have a chilling effect on our freedom of expression. There is a fine balance of having a protected system in place and being so restricted that you lose the very thing you were trying to protect.

360 Steps to Success in Online Privacy

So, how can you protect your online privacy and still maintain that freedom?

  • Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) when browsing open internet. A VPN encrypts your internet connection, making it more difficult for third parties to track your online activities.

  • Use a Data Blocker for charging your device from an unknown source.

  • Use Strong, Unique Passwords for each of your online accounts or a password manager.

  • Enable Two-Factor Authentication whenever possible.

  • Be Cautious when sharing personal information online. Think twice before sharing things like your address or phone number on social media or online forms.

    • Don’t use your real name on food delivery services.

  • Use a Privacy-Focused Browser. There are several browsers available that prioritize user privacy, such as Firefox, Brave, LiberWolf, or Talon. Find one that works for you!

  • Use Privacy-focused Search Engines.

  • Be Aware of the Permissions you Grant to Apps on your devices. Only grant permissions to apps that you trust and that truly need access to certain information or features on your device.Constantly monitor the apps and privileges on your devices.

  • Keep Your Software and Devices up to Date. Software updates often include security patches that can help protect your personal information.

  • Know That if it Feels Weird or "Off, " it Likely Is.

It's also important to be aware of the data privacy laws in your country. These laws establish rules for how companies can collect, use, and share personal information. In the European Union, the main law governing data privacy is the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). In the United States, there is no federal law that comprehensively protects personal data, but there are several sector-specific laws that offer some protection, such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), and the California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018 (CCPA/CPRA).

In conclusion, online privacy is important for protecting your security and freedom.

It's up to each of us to take steps to protect our own online privacy and to advocate for privacy on a larger scale. By being aware of the ways in which our personal information can be collected and used online and taking steps to protect ourselves, we can enjoy the many benefits of the internet while also maintaining our privacy.

Online risk can come in many ways and from a breadth of vectors. 360 Privacy offers a full suite of Digital Executive Protection solutions for a tailored experience to executives and their families.


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