Everything we do online leaves a digital trace. What’s that? A record of your online activities. And since everything that happens in the modern world is influenced by the internet, and technology on a broader term, we are talking about a lot of digital traces. Let’s just say it’s enough to make your life miserable if it falls into unauthorised, unwarranted hands.
But not every data collection instance is illegal. Sometimes it just results in annoying spams and unintended access by telemarketing companies and online businesses accessing your personal information and online data. The irony is you gave them permission for it. You ask how; that is what this article will explore.
What is Data?
Data are the bits and pieces of information that make up your identity, more or less. It describes your records, activities, past history, and the like.
Your personal online data is made up of your email accounts, social media handles, browsing history, search history, your specific activities on websites you have visited, present location, live location, previously visited locations, online shopping history, public records, E-copies of your ID cards, etc.
Who collects your Data?
The most apparent and obvious entity that has access to your online records — in fact, not just access, they are the source of it — is your ISP, Internet Service Provider.
Every nook and cranny of your online activities are recorded by them. Data is much more precious than one can imagine. The Tik Tok video you watched to kill time at 3 AM at night? It’s precious. Searching for Minecraft tips and tricks? So precious. Looking up a new dining table for your living space? More precious than gold.
But why is this the case? One word: Advertising.
The data collected by the ISPs, or any other entity for that matter, is sold in bulk to advertising companies and large corporations so that they can send you personalised ads on your webpages. The more ads you get based on your preferences, the more tempted you are to buy their products or use their services.
How is Data collected?
Cookies are packets of information that a website sends to your computer, which are stored by your web browser. Cookies have their own useful functions. The main purpose of cookies, of course, is to track and record your online activity and send it back to the website provider.
Note, this is not unwarranted access to your data, and the more versatile and well-known companies don’t use your information for illegal or unpleasant purposes. They use it to personalise your experience on their website and give you an overall pleasant service.
Where can we even begin with this? Our world is so heavily reliant on smartphones that we cannot even get by in our day without touching them, even when we want to. Even financial transactions, which were more dependent on paper money, are now conducted through phones.
Your mobile web browser activity, phone number submission on different outlets, social media apps, games, literally everything that has something to do with using the internet, it’s going to collect data.
The major factor of data collection through mobile phones is location access. Giving every other app access to your location might not be the wisest choice. Most apps use live location access. You give them the ability to know exactly where you are, where you have been, and where you will possibly be. Imagine the potential of that information.
Online and offline public records exist that give anyone the ability to look up information on an individual. Your name, phone number, current or past address, and other public information are stored in these archives. Many online companies use these records to their advantage.
The upside to this is that you have access to these records as well. Nuwber gives you access to US-based public records. Use it to find out what information of yours is publicly available.
How to prevent Data Collection
1. Cleanup Tools
There are many efficient and free-to-use cleanup software available that take care of the cookies stored on your web browser. They delete the cookies once your website use has ended. Additional features like automated browsing history clear, search history clear, virus detection are also present in most cleanup software. CCleaner is an excellent option.
2. Restricting Location Services
Give Location access to only the most trustworthy and verified apps. Turn off your location when you don’t need it. Keep a lookout for third-party apps that ask for location services.
VPN stands for Virtual Private Network. VPNs are awesome for many reasons. They mask your IP Address, provide ad blockers that prevent cookies from functioning in the background, and they allow you access to websites that may be banned in your country. Using VPN is a sure-fire way of preventing unintended data collection.
4. Alternative search engine/web browser
It’s not a secret anymore. Tech giants like Google and Apple have colossal archives of personal data from millions across the world, and not always is it kept private. Data mining is common, and many corporations sell this data to companies to make a quick buck. Fortunately, there are search engines and web browsers that do not collect and store private data, nor do they sell it. DuckDuckGo is one such alternative.
Online data has become much more valuable now than in the past decade. Following these practices will help you protect your data and prevent online companies from accessing your personal information.