|It’s the final week of Cybersecurity Awareness Month. Over the past few weeks, we’ve offered you tips on how to talk to your kids about cybersecurity, told you what to do when your personal information shows up in a breach, and even given you ways to disappear from the internet altogether. So this week, I want to show you who stands to gain from knowing the most about you.
No, it’s not that nosy high school acquaintance who always Likes your saddest-sounding posts on social media. It’s not even the shadowy figure snooping around your accounts for money or clout. Instead, the entities who get the most from your lax cybersecurity habits are the most prominent players in the field—the major tech companies.
Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Twitter collect tons of data about their users. Website Security Baron put together a visual representation of the types of information each company admits to collecting in their privacy policies. Not surprisingly, Facebook is the most aggressive in collecting and storing user information: It gathers information about your work, income level, race, religion, political views, and the ads you click.
Why do big tech companies do this? As my colleague Senior Security Analyst Max Eddy writes, it’s because our personal information is a form of currency online. It pays the bills for many of the free services and apps we use every day. If that makes you a little uncomfortable, there’s help online. Plenty of services can help you lock down your presence and take control of your most valuable property: your personal information.
Start cleaning up your online presence with a data deletion service like Abine’s DeleteMe. It scrubs your information from the data broker websites that are in the business of buying and selling your info. Next, delete your accounts for services you don’t use.
Your following actions should be preventative. First, use a password manager to check for breached accounts and create strong, unique passwords for every site in the future. Second, use multi-factor authentication on all your accounts.
You can also explore alternative ways of browsing online by using apps and sites whose business models don’t rely on farming your user profiles for valuable information. For example, instead of Google, try DuckDuckGo. Likewise, instead of Apple Maps or Google Maps, use OpenStreetMap.
There are many ways to reduce your digital footprint and strengthen your cybersecurity, from using masked email addresses to limiting the use of your phone number online. Have you tried anything to reduce your online presence and foil the big data collectors? Let us know in the comments.
PCMag Security Analyst