Once servers loaded with information about who we talk to, where we go, what we do, what we buy, which websites we visit, how we behave on them, etc. Edward Snowden got in a huge amount of trouble for hinting us the level of surveillance watching over us.
It can feel pretty creepy and oddly lonely knowing that there are all sorts of unseen entities out there just keeping tabs on our comings and goings and knowing that the only way to keep something truly private is to keep it completely inside our own heads–and never ever share it. For some, this is reason enough to leave the grid entirely and homestead somewhere far outside the boundaries of the nearest town or city.
For others, it’s incredibly useful. As much as we hate the idea of some unknown entity knowing everything about us, you have to admit that it has made some things easier. For example, thanks to SEO and all of the micro data that sites and search engines record, finding the stuff we want and need online has gotten a lot easier. In fact, often we don’t even have to search it out. It is presented to us in the form of an ad on our favorite social media site or in the sidebar of a beloved news outlet.
It’s also helpful for marketers and companies who want to make sure they offer their products and services to the people who need them the most, which is why cookies were invented. Of course, there are some companies that are taking this too far. For example, some retailers have started sending text messages and push notifications to smart phones that they detect within their store walls–a few even going so far as to target the deals to the area of the store in which the phone’s owner is standing. Talk about creepy!
And, of course, you also have to think about just how often that information gets intercepted or otherwise compromised. Target wasn’t the only problematic data breach. Even government level offices have had their employees’ information compromised. This does not mean, though, that you shouldn’t do everything you can to protect yourself or your business.
Make sure that you have your privacy settings turned all the way up on all of your devices. This means turning OFF location services on your mobile devices, installing pop up and cookie blockers on your laptops and desktop machines and making sure that you have malware and threat detection download and enabled upon a time, a long long time ago, people could be completely and totally anonymous. Those days are so over. Today every single thing we do produces data. More importantly (to many), every single thing we do produces data that gets recorded. Somewhere there are on everything. You want something that will be able to sense threats in real time and thwart them before they have a chance to install anything on any of your systems.
If you are using the cloud, and who isn’t these days, make sure the cloud you’re using has a secure server solution. According to Trend Micro, this means ensuring it has a host-based firewall (meaning that the company hosting the cloud has its own firewall as well as a firewall around its cloud services), that is encrypted, etc. Most cloud providers will tell you that they are secure, but don’t be afraid to dig into specifics to see if these companies are really telling the truth.
This is also important for websites on which you want to shop or to which you are going to volunteer your information. They should be secure both at the company level and at the site server level. Look for the locked padlock and other important details before allowing a site to know anything about you and especially before order something from it.
Turn off the Wi-Fi search on your mobile devices. This will save their batteries lives and keep your information protected. The Wi-Fi scanners in your mobile devices are programmed to join any unsecured network. This means that everybody else using that network can potentially get into your device and steal your information or even brick it!
Protecting your information is important, especially as we become a more and more surveilled society. While it is true that most entities out there want your information because they genuinely want to help you and keep you safe, there are some who want to exploit you. Protect yourself!