When surfing the internet or posting on social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Google+…) protecting your privacy should be a MAJOR concern. How many times have you heard about unauthorized texts, photos or videos, exposing individuals, broadcasted over the internet: in some cases resulting in suicides? Worse, account break-ins by hackers that steal and use personal information to take advantage of unsuspecting or naïve young and elderly people. Then, there are the threats of social network web sites exploiting your private information for profit, such as your buying and surfing habits. Even though, many of these apps, such as Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, Google+…, offer a lot of enjoyment to a large group of people, they may also expose more of your private information than you suspect or would like to. This article will help you recognized these threats and take steps that should improve your privacy protection. You should also read a complementary article on computer and mobile devices security at: 15.1 – Implementing computer and mobile device security-2014-10-02
The need for protecting your privacy
Computers and mobile devices are powerful tools that offer great possibilities. The internet is most probably the greatest invention of the 21st century, offering impressive openings to the world. For some, participating on social Medias has become indispensable and an integral part of their daily activities. All of this is great if you can avoid the pitfalls that are inherent to social Medias and the Internet.
Everyone should know that noting is FREE in this world, even though companies and governments present special offers, products and/or services that appear FREE. Companies like Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, Google…, all offer FREE products and services, yet their revenues and profits are in the billions. Where and how do they earn this money if they give away their products and services? They earn their money by exploiting the information they gather on each and every one of us and advertising.
When you sing up for such FREE products and services, you provide basic personal identification information. Then, each time you use these FREE products and services, these companies monitor every action you take to derive your profile: what web sites you visit, what products you research, what products you buy, which companies you visit or buy from, and the list goes on and on… We would all be surprised to see the complete list. In itself, providing this type of information without your knowledge is the price to pay to benefit from their so called FREE products and services. Remember, nothing is FREE in this world!
Most people don’t mind when it does not go too far. One problem is that you don’t know how far it goes. The Edward Snowden revelations on the data collected by the USA National Security Agency (NSA), should have provided you with enough information to raise your suspicions.
In addition to the information collected by companies and governments, the next most dangerous thing is the information that people post on social Medias. Some people post a lot: like when and where they are going on vacation or that they have bought an expensive very large screen TV. Then, when they come back from vacations, they are astonished that thieves have broken into their house. Some other people, in need of affection and recognition, will post or reveal their most private information over the internet. Others will even post their private body parts. To impress others, some will try to connect to as many “FRIENDS” as they can, even though they don’t know anything about most of the people they post as their “FRIENDS”. It becomes just a question of gathering a BIG number to impress other or so they think. I could go on, and on, and on…
Unsuspecting young people are the most vulnerable. Their guilelessness and strong desire for acceptance and recognition, plus their ability for quickly learning new technologies, plus their need for occupying every minute of their free or idle time, makes them prays of choice for unscrupulous individuals.
The next vulnerable category is the elderlies. Many are or feel lonely. They don’t work anymore and have lots of free time. They are often naïve and unsuspecting by nature, because they have lived in an era when honor, honesty, kindness and truthfulness were paramount. They therefore expect these values from others, even though the world has changed. Once introduced to the BASIC use of computers and the internet, they have no technical skills to understand how to configure their computers for privacy and security. All of this makes them the second prays of choice for those who want exploit them.
Another vulnerable category is parents with kids. Many know little about computers but are introduced by their unsuspecting kids and/or friends, and feel a need to be in the game. This covers a large number of people. This is a group this blog could help a lot. But because they are afraid of technical stuff and/or have no interest to learn more than the basics, they leave themselves vulnerable.
Finally the young adults who have computer knowledge but don’t want to impose restrictions upon themselves for multiple reasons are also vulnerable. Since these people know a fair bit about computers they can exploit a lot of features offered to them. Many times, the use of these more advanced features will entice them to put more personal information online making them more vulnerable.
The need for security and privacy
If none of the above has convinced you about the potential dangers of social Medias and the internet, consider the following: went someone wants to go hunting for the first time; he or she is required to follow a course and pass a test on safely handling fire arms and other important considerations about the sport. People should treat personal computing in the same manner. A fire arm or any other arm, which is a dangerous required device if you want to go hunting, can be handled safely if you know what to do. The same applies to the use of computing devices. They may not kill you, but they have the potential to hurt you morally and financially, if not handled properly. Just as you need to learn about fire arm safety, you also need to learn about computer safety. LEARN, LEARN, LEARN should be your motto.
The fact that you are reading this article indicates that you are interested in learning and are doing the effort. Since you know lots of people that should be doing the same, you should introduce them to this blog site. You must also read a complementary article on computer and mobile devices security at: 15.1 – Implementing computer and mobile device security-2014-10-02
How to protect yourself
Trying to find where to control you privacy settings and how to adjust the parameters to suit your needs with products such as Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Google+, YouTube… is far from trivial sometimes, unless you master the ins and outs of these products. You have to understand that it is not in the interests of these products and services suppliers to have you limit the reach of their services. The more you can connect with people and suppliers, the more it is beneficial to them. This is why they try and have you include as many people as possible to your circles. I regularly receive emails from these suppliers inviting me to add people to my circles, most of the times people I don’t know or have no interest in.
Lately, I came across a software product that does a great job at helping us review and adjust the privacy setting of the commonly used social media products and services. It’s called AVG Privacy Fix . Learning about this product has prompted me to write this article.
Here is what AVG says about AVG Privacy Fix :
“Facebook, Google and more than a thousand other companies collect data about you online. Until now there has been no easy way to understand and control data collection. AVG PrivacyFix checks your privacy exposure on Facebook, Google and LinkedIn, and with one click, takes you to settings where you can fix it. Block over 1,200 trackers from following your movements online. See which websites reserve the right to sell your personal data and easily request that they delete what they hold on you. Get alerted to privacy risks as you visit sites and know when policies change. And because we no longer live our digital lives just on a PC, you can download the apps and manage your privacy on your mobile and tablet too.”
AVG Privacy Fix can be installed FREE stand alone or as part of AVG Ultimate . It is a terrific app to help you identify and rectify the privacy controls of the social media apps you use, such as Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Google+, YouTube… After using it, I needed to share this information with my blog readers.
Implementing and using AVG Privacy Fix is not the only thing you should be doing. You must also fix your computer and mobile devices security. Please read a complementary article on computer and mobile devices security at: 15.1 – Implementing computer and mobile device security-2014-10-02
Installing and using AVG Privacy Fix
AVG Privacy Fix can be installed and only works with the following products: Chrome, Firefox, Android and iOS. So for Windows PCs, you must install and use it as an add-on to the Chrome browser, which I highly recommend. For Android products, it’s available on Google Play. For Apple mobiles, it is available on iTunes.
To install AVG Privacy Fix on a PC, using the Chrome browser, go to the following website https://www.privacyfix.com/start/install and click “Get AVG PrivacyFix for free”. AVG Privacy Fix is installed as an extension to Google Chrome so that it can monitor your activities and intervene when appropriate. To start it, click the green bust, top right end corner of the Chrome screen.
To install AVG Privacy Fix on an Android device, go to the Google Play store and install it. Thereafter, you simply start it.
To install AVG Privacy Fix on an Apple mobile device, go to the iTunes store and install it. Thereafter, you simply start it.
Add Crumble to Google Chrome to manage Cookies (2015-07-21 Update)
What is Crumble? Crumble is a Chrome Extension from Innovation Labs by AVG that protects you from third party behavioral tracking via cookies WITHOUT breaking the websites you visit.
Prevents Tracking – Prevents online tracking companies from creating your profile via cookies based on your online browsing.
Seamless Browsing – Does not break the user experience or hide any content on the websites you visit.
Visible Results – Shows instantly who is tracking you via cookies on websites.
How does it work? – Crumble intercepts 3rd party cookies and controls what information is sent back to the web tracking companies, stopping trackers from following and profiling you via cookies based on the sites you visit.
How will I know Crumble is working? – Crumble will show at the top right of the screen (Blue, green & red icon) the domains it blocks from tracking you and the ones it allows.
How to install Crumble? – Go to the Chrome web store / Crumble and click on ADD TO CHROME. A blue, green and red icon will appear at the top of the right of the screen. Use it to monitor Crumble’s activity.
I hope I have succeeded in raising your awareness about the need to protect your private information and securing your computers and mobile devices. Please help others, by informing them about privacy and security risks while using computers and mobile devices, and where to find the information to address these issues, namely this web site.