10 Ways to Protect Your Online Privacy

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Family Tech

Technology for parents & kids: Hints, tips, online safety strategies & more.

We recently read an estimate that every month, Internet users worldwide spend the equivalent of nearly 4 million years online. US users are at the forefront, with the average American spending 32 hours online every month, or more than an hour every day.

And at the top of many of these users concerns about their time line is a worry about a lack of privacy and sharing of personal information.  Many are fearful of companies like Google or Facebook compiling and selling their data.  Concerns like Identity Theft and Reputation Management are legitimate scares that could come from sharing too much or the wrong kind of information online.

So for kids, parents and grandparents looking for tips to help manage their online footprint, here are 10 ways to protect your online privacy.

Take Charge – Don’t assume privacy settings are automatically configured the way you’d like them to be.  In fact, you should assume that default settings are probably wrong for you.  Take the time to configure any social network, e-mail or other accounts to make sure you understand who can see the information you share.

Use The Tools You Are Given – Computers, web browsers and even search engines all have some degree of privacy protection functionality built-in, many under the heading of “Parental Controls.”  Activate SafeSearch on Google, use Private Browing on your cell phone, and regulate site access and cookies on Internet Explorer 9. 

Create a Password Policy – Come up with a system for generating and remembering password, whether it’s through an encrypted service such as offered by Norton, or a real-life document and log of all your site passwords.  Be creative and unique with passwords, such as creating a phrase like “We Spent Our Honeymoon in Hawaii” and turning it into WS0H1H.

Don’t Use Indentifying Information – If you’re trying to stay as anonymous as possible on the Internet, it obviously helps if you don’t provide things like, say, your street address or name of your kids’ school. The only way you can ensure information doesn’t fall into the wrong hands is not to share it at all.

Turn Off Geolocation Services – With GPS’ built into nearly every portable device, it’s easy to unwillingly provide the exact location of a picture or status update.  Turn off geolocation services on your smart phone and within each sharing service to ensure that location information isn’t being shared, even if only in the data of your pictures.

Use Nicknames for Family & Friends – Want to share information about loved ones but maintain a level of privacy?  Come up with nicknames for your kids or spouses, like “The Beastie Boy” or “Buddy.” Your friends will know who you’re talking about, and you won’t be unwittingly giving that info away.

Use Separate E-mail Accounts – When setting up services, don’t use your primary e-mail account for signing up or providing notifications. Often, these can and will be used and sold.  Instead, create a social network e-mail account, or one used for making online purchases, while keeping the one you use to stay in touch with everyone completely out of the equation.

Google Yourself Regularly – You may as well see what’s posted online about you, because other people certainly will.  From prospective employers to potential romantic interests, everyone Googles everyone else these days, and the best way to make sure you’re on top of the information out there is to know what’s there.

Be Leery of Public Wi-Fi – Logging on to the network at the library or McDonald’s may be convenient and save your data plan, but you need to alter your browsing habits when there and make sure you’re not visiting any sites asking with personal or sensitive info.

Respect Others’ Privacy  – As hard as you work to maintain your own low online profile, it can all be undone without the help of others. So don’t be the one that exposes information about your friends that they’re trying to control. Follow the golden rule online and treat their privacy as you’d like to have yours.

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About author

Johner Riehl

Johner Riehl is a freelance writer focusing on families, technology and online safety. As founder and editorial director for FamilyFriendlyApps.com and FamilyFriendlyVideoGames.com, sites that provide reviews and recommendations geared towards families, he examines hundreds of family-friendly games and apps every year. He’s also host of Parent Savers, a podcast aimed at helping parents of newborns, infants and toddlers. TWITTER: @FamilyTechDad

View all posts by Johner Riehl

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