Have you ever Googled yourself? If not, go ahead and do it. Its slightly scary if you’ve never done it or if you haven’t done it in a while. When I Google my own name, the whole first page of results is filled with my social media information. Even though all my accounts are private, there are links to access my pages right there for the general public to use. As I keep going through my Google results, it starts turning into normal things like newspaper articles that I am linked to, both of my grandfather’s obituaries, online articles I’ve been involved with in college, and other things. I would consider a Google search of myself as “normal”. However, for some people, a simple Google search can lead to all kinds of privacy issues. Anyone can Google things and all the information that Google puts out there is open to public domain. You can’t hide from Google, so what can you do to stay “safe” while having an online presence?
There are countless ways and measures that you can take to improve your Internet privacy in today’s world. While doing some research on the topic, I found an informative article by The Huffington Post discussing how to improve your privacy in 15 minutes. They only suggest three things: start using DuckDuckGo a your web browser instead of Google, download the Tor browser, and use a password manager. The first two, using DuckDuckGo and the Tor browser, just make sure that you can access the Internet in a more incognito fashion. DuckDuckGo doesn’t save your searches and give away that information like Google does and the Tor browser doesn’t track your cookies like most browsers do. The article suggests that you should use a different password for every online account that you create, which is why you should use a password manager. What if that password manager gets hacked though? What if you forget your password to your password manager? What if DuckDuckGo doesn’t provide as much or as accurate information as Google does? How anonymous is Tor anyway? There are always questions and pitfalls with Internet privacy and security.
So what about social media privacy? As I mentioned before, a simple Google search can bring up links to your social media profiles. Even the image results of searching my name brings up a few images I’ve posted on social media websites. When signing up for social media accounts, we all say we agree to the Terms and Conditions (even though we probably didn’t bother reading them) but what are we agreeing to? For example, your Facebook activity is never private. You may have a “private” account where people who aren’t your friends can’t see your profile information and contents, but your activity is never a private matter. When signing up for Facebook, you are agreeing to let Facebook use information about yourself like what you add to your account or timeline, things you share, things you like, keywords from your stories, and things inferred from your use of Facebook. What is this information used for? Facebook claims that it is used to tailor more relevant ads to individuals while using the social media website.
Internet privacy and security is something that is always talked about and fretted over. You constantly hear stories in the news about so and so who got their pictures or information leaked and it turned out badly for them. While you can go through lengthy measures to have an “anonymous” presence while browsing online or to have the most secure social media profiles, there can always be a way to access your information. I think the most effective way to stay private online is to just be careful of what you put out there. My parents have always told me that whatever you put out on the Internet never truly goes away, even when you do press the delete button. So, my advice to all Internet users is to have some common sense about what you post because it can follow you for life.