Anyone that spends time online, meaning practically everyone, leaves a footprint behind when they use apps, visit websites or do virtually anything else on the internet. Comparatively, few people understand that this data is precious and not just in the context of hacks and scams.
Platforms like Facebook are free to use because they effectively monetize data. In 2020, 98% of the company’s revenue was earned through advertising. What makes their advertising proposition so valuable is not just the sheer number of daily visitors but the wealth of information they hold on those visitors – meaning your personal information. Accurate targeting means more relevant ads and monetizes what many might consider as being theirs and no one else’s.
That is far from the only reason to hide your browsing data and history, and we have pulled together five considerations for anyone that does not take security and privacy seriously.
1. Avoid Being Monetized Beyond Facebook
While Facebook was used as an example in the introduction, it is far from the only company that utilizes user data to raise revenue. Crucially, it is vital to consider the companies that do it now and those that might do so in the future. Among the hottest topics in the conversation are ISPs. Few go as far as to make additional money from customers through their browsing data, but there is theoretically nothing to stop them. If this changes, making practical adjustments to your browsing behavior today may reap future benefits.
2. Maintain Privacy from Prying Eyes
Some individuals might be surprised by who can see their browsing data when they do anything online. Much depends on the connection used – ISPs can view more than you might expect, as outlined above, while network administrators can also view much of what takes place. Taking steps to prevent this information from being seen by third parties, such as using a VPN, helps to ensure that the sites you visit and the activities you undertake remain your concern alone. Another benefit of using a VPN would be the ability to avoid being throttled by your ISP. In order to accomplish this, the VPN you choose will have to be as close as possible to your location in order to maintain a strong connection.
3. Cut Down Aggressive Advertising
For the most part, owners of one website cannot tell specifically which other sites a user has visited. However, targeted advertising is ubiquitous and relies on cookies to leave a trail for advertisers to use. This involves techniques such as retargeting, which sees products being advertised repeatedly long after a browser has left the website in question. By taking control of your browsing data and history, this trail becomes much shorter.
4. Avoid Simple Social Engineering
Malicious online operators are constantly becoming more sophisticated in their attempts to access and potentially steal data. The sites you visit and what you do online is almost certainly wholly innocent, but it contains information that attackers can use to their advantage. With a complete view of your browsing history, someone seeking to steal data can work out which email service someone uses, their bank and credit card providers, the social networks they use, and dozens of other habits and actions. The accuracy of this information alone can be enough to convince someone to share more than they should with anyone seeking to access further information.
5. Get Into Good Habits to Future Proof Your Privacy
Your browsing habits can potentially say a lot about you today, as outlined above. However, the internet as we know it remains in its relative infancy. Computers, phones, and game consoles all boast connectivity, as do many televisions, lighting systems, and even kettles. It is not unfair to assume that the number of connected devices and the Internet of Things will continue to grow. The companies that utilize that data today and all the new market entrants that seek to capitalize on information will have access to every part of daily life. Those that do not protect their privacy will share everything from which day they do their laundry to how often they need to purchase milk for the fridge.
Those who are prepared, such as anyone that already understands VPNs, proxy servers, and everything else that can make your private data private, will have a head start on securing their online identity long into the future.
Anyone who has not taken the necessary precautions will find that it is never too late to start. However, as the saying goes, once something is on the internet, it is on there forever, so it makes sense to focus on protecting your personal browsing date sooner rather than later.
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